777fan From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 2402 posts, RR: 3 Posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 4160 times:
Aloha all! Let's hope I didn't jack this up as it's my first ever TR...
After feeling the effects of "Island Fever" for the better part of the last few months, Mrs. 777fan and I decided to take advantage of the long holiday weekend (Independence Day) and leave the festive chaos of our home rock (Oahu) in favor of a few days on the Big Island of Hawaii. For those that haven't paid a visit to the Islands before, you might reconsider a visit over the Chinese New Year, 4th of July or New Year's Eve when the State unwisely decides to sell fireworks to practically anyone and everyone that will take the four seconds to purchase a "permit" for $25 despite the fact that the city of Honolulu already hosts some of the largest fireworks displays in the country. The end result is an alcohol-fueled night(s) of idiots running around lighting anything and everything with gunpowder and pretty colors. I've seen Einsteins go so far as to launch fireworks from the roof of a parked car. Brilliant. I digress...
At any rate, the plan was to head on over to the Hilo/ITO (eastern) side of the Big Island early on Saturday morning, pay a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and then drive the 2.5 hours around the island to the Kona-side, where our resort was located, and then fly out of Kona-Keahole airport (KOA) on our return to Honolulu. Fortunately for us, Mrs. 777fan is a Hawaiian Air Pualani Gold member and has tons of miles at her disposal which enabled us to book our tickets for free. Interisland one-way tickets can be had for a few as 5,000 miles each way (each interisland segment yields 500 miles) and flights can be redeemed for one-way segments as easily as they are for roundtrips. Bottom line: we were able to book two HNL-ITO and KOA-HNL tickets for a total of 20,000 miles. Depending on fare availability, our flights could've cost as little as $160 or as much as $360.
Departs: 5:25am (on time)
Arrives: 6:16am (on time)
Seats: 19A and B
Mrs. 777fan and I awoke at 3:00am and quickly cleaned up ahead of our short 15 minute drive to HNL. We live in downtown Honolulu but were still surprised to see a decent number of cars on the road at 4:00am, most of whom, as it turned out, were leaving bars in and around nearby Waikiki and were either occupied by, or under the control of drunk idiots. Oh well. Defensive driving and the excitement of leaving Oahu got us to the airport at about 4:30am. Checking in for interisland flights at HNL can be really easy or a pain in the ass, depending on what time of the day it is. Early morning flights are popular as many get out early to golf or surf on the neighboring islands. This morning was no exception but we were again fortunate enough to benefit from Mrs. 777fan's Premier status which enabled us to check-in separately. The whole process, including security, took about five minutes. Before long, we were able to grab a cup of Starbucks and proceed to our gate area. Unbeknownst to me, HA must've begun assigning interisland gates by destination, as evidenced by this photo:
View of tarmac from HNL gate 54 prior to boarding HA102 B717 (HNL-ITO) on 7/1/06
Boarding commenced a couple of minutes late but enabled me to grab a quick pic from my seat of both the cabin and the HA 717 at the adjacent gate:
View of cabin from seat 19A while boarding HA102 B717 (HNL-ITO) on 7/1/06
Pushback from HNL gate 54 taken from HA102 B717 (HNL-ITO) on 7/1/06
Pushback was on time and within three minutes, we found ourselves turning onto 8L ahead of our takeoff roll. Climb out was, not surprisingly, a bit bumpy as the oft-gusty tradewinds were in full effect on this morning. Fortunately, the 717 wasted no time getting up to its cruising level at approximately FL240 (it was never announced), affording those on the left side of the aircraft amazing views of Windward side of Oahu:
Sunrise over east Oahu taken from HA102 B717 (HNL-ITO) on 7/1/06
Molokai and Maui were visable too, complete with a beautiful sunrise:
Sunrise over west Maui taken from HA102 B717 (HNL-ITO) on 7/1/06
Most stunning, however, was the view of Haleakala's crater with the sun rising above it. For those not in the know, Haleakala is the mammoth mountain that comprises most of Maui's east side:
Sunrise over Haleakala (Maui, Hawaii) on July 1st, 2006
Our descent toward Hilo began before too long and took us around the north side of the Big Island. Comparably mammoth Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa loomed in the distance but I wasn't able to grab a pic as they were on the starboard side of the aircraft. Not surprisingly, we found ourselves fighting some gusty winds on the approach but, before too long, were dragging full flaps and gear ahead of a 30-degree turn (at about 800ft!) toward our final on runway 26:
Touchdown at ITO Rwy 26 taken from HA102 B717 (HNL-ITO) on 7/1/06
Touchdown was smooth and immediately followed by an AQ 732 which was visible as we taxied to the gate. We disembarked within minutes and had hit the road, luggage, rental car and all, by about 6:50am, a mere 30 minutes after arrival.
The drive to Volcanoes National Park took about 30 minutes from ITO. I'll avoid veering off on a tangent but would be remiss if I didn't mention that it's one of the coolest (and eeriest) places I've ever been to in my life. For those that are contemplating a trip to the Islands, you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't visit the Big Island, and, more specifically, the park.
A few amazing days passed before it was time (booo) to head back home to Oahu. Again, without digressing, the Big Island is an amazing place that contains virtually every type of climate and ecosystem known to man. Most of the Kona side (leeward or western) resembles pictures of the moon; black lava rock, remnants of flows from long and not so long ago, dominate the landscape and is punctuated by pockets of long grass or the occasional cluster of palm trees which are most likely reliant upon irrigation for survival.
An uneventful drive from our resort (props to the Fairmont Orchid on the Kohala Coast) to Kona took about 25 minutes and afforded us an opportunity to grab a quick lunch (and beer - go with the Lilikoi Wheat Ale) at the Kona Brewing Company. It's worth a quick stop and is only 10 minutes from KOA.
Departs: 4:08pm (actually pushed back 5 min early)
Arrives: 4:48pm (on time)
Seats: 10A and B
Check-in and security were a breeze, in part because we arrived early; I would anticipate a headache in the event it was actually busy. After passing security, Mrs. 777fan and I strolled around the tiny waiting area that housed little more than a few gates, a shop, and a bar, all of which were accessed from an uncovered courtyard that felt like a prison yard. On the bright side, I was able to grab some pics of the nearby tarmac and runway. The smell of jet fuel was unmistakable!
View of tarmac at KOA prior to boarding HA189 B717 (HNL-ITO) on 7/4/06
View of pax waiting area at KOA prior to boarding HA189 B717 (HNL-ITO) on 7/4/06
View of gate area at KOA prior to boarding HA189 B717 (HNL-ITO) on 7/4/06
View of gate area at KOA prior to boarding HA189 B717 (HNL-ITO) on 7/4/06
go! goes to Kona, HI
A cool rainshower rolled in, prompting us to head to the rather spartan Hawaiian Airlines "Premier Lounge" which housed a soda machine and a few seats in an air conditioned rooms. Given the fact that the rest of the gate seating offered little protection from the elements, we considered it to be a "step up":
View of HA Premier Lounge at KOA prior to boarding HA189 B717 (HNL-ITO) on 7/4/06
View of HA Premier Lounge at KOA prior to boarding HA189 B717 (HNL-ITO) on 7/4/06
Before long, however, boarding commenced and, within a few minutes, we found ourselves pushing back (about 7 min early). As is the apparent procedure at KOA, we turned onto the runway at taxiway "golf" (with about 6,000 ft. to spare) but didn't need more than about 4,500 ft. before we were airborne (note that this has been mentioned in other TRs). A quick right turn to the west and a quick climb put us above the cloud deck as we began our quick 25 minute cruise to HNL:
Approach into HNL was gorgeous as the weather was "spot-on" for picture taking:
View of western (Ewa) Oahu from HA189 B717 (HNL-ITO) on 7/4/06
View of entrance to Pearl Harbor from HA189 B717 (HNL-ITO) on 7/4/06
After a couple of sharp turns to the right, we were lined up with 4L. I couldn't resist snapping a pic of HNL's famous "reef runway" (8R) which we passed just before touchdown:
Flyover HNL's 8R while approaching 4L from HA189 B717 (HNL-ITO) on 7/4/06
Taxi into the gate was quick and afforded me another opportunity to snap a pic of Aloha's new acquisitions, courtesy of the demise of Hooters/Pace Airlines. I'm guessing it won't be too long before the old livery is completely removed and replaced with Aloha's new digs:
View of AQ's "new" Hooters/Pace 732s at HNL from HA189 B717 (HNL-ITO) on 7/4/06
All in all, Hawaiian once again proved itself to be the jewel of the Islands. Both flights were on time, comfortable, and well served with friendly FAs and gate agents. Their B717s are hands down the most comfortable way to travel within the Islands and will continue to our preferred mode of interisland travel for as long as we reside in Hawaii. Hope you enjoyed! I'll do my best to answer any questions or comments...
Yeah, they're definitely "retro"! What I failed to do was properly depict how inadequate KOA's gate areas are, particularly when it comes to handling widebody aircraft (UA flies a 777 in there daily, JAL a 763 IIRC).
Each "concourse" at KOA is shaped like a diamond of roughly the same size and layout as the one pictured but you're more or less confined to the diamond that serves your airline.
I would guess that the gate areas aren't that big of a deal for interisland flights where people tend to carry on less, but would also steer clear of any gate served by anything larger than a 717 or 732.
HNL is stuck in the 1970s, while OGG, LIH and ITO at least have jetways. KOA is the last of the "major" Hawaii airports (you can't really count Lanai, Molokai or Kapalua) to use outdoor gates. Sensing an update is overdue, the Governor recently proposed a $3 billion overhaul of all of the state's airports.
Ha763 From United States of America, joined Jan 2003, 3492 posts, RR: 6 Reply 4, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 3935 times:
Quoting 777fan (Thread starter): Unbeknownst to me, HA must've begun assigning interisland gates by destination, as evidenced by this photo:
They have been assigning gates by destination for a long time. It's just that they didn't have signs over the podiums. I was actually surprised to see those signs since the State has always restricted the signs the airlines could use.
777fan From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 2402 posts, RR: 3 Reply 5, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 3801 times:
Quoting Ha763 (Reply 4): They have been assigning gates by destination for a long time. It's just that they didn't have signs over the podiums. I was actually surprised to see those signs since the State has always restricted the signs the airlines could use.
Interesting to note. I suppose I simply hadn't noticed the gate assignment on previous flights. IIRC, Maui flights depart from 64-66 (the far Mauka end of the Interisland Terminal)...
Ha763 From United States of America, joined Jan 2003, 3492 posts, RR: 6 Reply 6, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 3697 times:
Quoting 777fan (Reply 5): Interesting to note. I suppose I simply hadn't noticed the gate assignment on previous flights. IIRC, Maui flights depart from 64-66 (the far Mauka end of the Interisland Terminal)...
The preferred gate assignments have changed from when I was working there. 56-57 used be ITO/KOA, 58-59 LIH, 60-61 OGG. MKK and LNY tended to use 59. Now the preferred assignments are 56-57 for OGG, 58-59 for KOA/ITO, and 60-61 for LIH. BTW, did you really depart from Gate 54? Gates 49-55 are used by AQ, 56-61 by HA. Gates 62-66 are actually overflow gates that HA used to use before the addition of the makai pier. They are actually part of the Commuter Terminal to the left of the baggage claim.
777fan From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 2402 posts, RR: 3 Reply 8, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 13 hours ago) and read 3573 times:
Quoting WA727 (Reply 7): Good report and nice pictures. Enjoyed seeing the HP 752 at KOA.
Thanks, I'll do my best to get an older one (from June) up and running as quickly as I can. It's kinda funny to see miscellaneous aircraft from all airlines sitting on a tarmac like that. Most "major" airports have scores and scores of similar airframes and airline livery aligned in rows; KOA's set up requires ramp control to be creative!
Quoting Ha763 (Reply 6): BTW, did you really depart from Gate 54?
I swore it was but I may be mistaken. I shredded my boarding pass once I got home.
HALFA From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 1324 posts, RR: 17 Reply 9, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 13 hours ago) and read 3563 times:
Nice report, I enjoyed reading it. It's always nice to read positive comments about my employer!
I was surprised to read that our Premier lounge in Kona had a "soda machine" which at first I thought you actually had to pay for a soda, until I saw your picture and realized it was more like a fast food type soda dispenser. (I'm assuming you don't pay for soda in there, hope not!)
Quoting 777fan (Reply 8): I shredded my boarding pass once I got home.
Why? I thought you took this trip with Mrs. 777fan??
HNL-AKL Starts March 2013, HNL-SDJ starts June 2013, HNL-TPE Starts July 2013
Kjet12 From United States of America, joined Mar 2001, 975 posts, RR: 8 Reply 10, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 13 hours ago) and read 3562 times:
Excellent trip report. I never get bored of seeing airliner photos in Hawai'i. Seeing those photos makes me realize how much I miss Hawai'i and how much I want to head back, which will hopefully be soon.
For the state's largest carrier, I'm suprised to see how bland their lounge is. I've been to NW's WorldClub in HNL which is pretty dull, but undersandable for a non-hub location. I would think HA would want to make their Premier Lounges more Hawaiian. How does it compare to HNL's, LAX's or any of their other club locaitons?
777fan From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 2402 posts, RR: 3 Reply 11, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 3517 times:
Quoting HALFA (Reply 9): Why? I thought you took this trip with Mrs. 777fan??
Hehe, of course I did! She's the premier member; I would've been standing in a rainshower at KOA if it weren't for her and the "comfort" of the lounge!
Quoting Kjet12 (Reply 10): How does it compare to HNL's, LAX's or any of their other club locaitons?
We've only used the lounges at OGG, LIH, and now KOA. OGG and LIH are a bit nicer only because the concourse is indoors; they're a room with comparable amenities. We haven't used the HNL lounge because we generally fly out early in the morning, cut it close time-wise, and like to grab a cup of Starbucks before boarding. We also don't fly HA outside of the Islands as we're both longtime Premier members on UA and use the RCC when we have time. FWIW, I freakin' hate LAX and make every effort to use SFO when connecting on the West Coast.
Ua2162 From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 480 posts, RR: 3 Reply 12, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 8 hours ago) and read 3501 times:
Great report. I was working that HP 752 on the day you were there.
Quoting 777fan (Thread starter): afforded us an opportunity to grab a quick lunch (and beer - go with the Lilikoi Wheat Ale) at the Kona Brewing Company. It's worth a quick stop and is only 10 minutes from KOA.
Ah, my home away from home! Tell any bartender that Jim sent you in.
Quoting 777fan (Reply 3): Yeah, they're definitely "retro"! What I failed to do was properly depict how inadequate KOA's gate areas are, particularly when it comes to handling widebody aircraft (UA flies a 777 in there daily, JAL a 763 IIRC).
Yes! Try peak times. There are times when we have our HP 752, an AC 763, a UA 757 trying to share two small waiting areas. I just flew today and it was packed due to a UA 777 and DL 764 sharing the same area (see a theme here?)