Made a quick trip to Hilo over the weekend to attend my brother's high school graduation. Airline I've never flown before and another I haven't flown in a few years, so get comfortable, this is a long one!
LAX = Los Angeles, California
LIH = Lihue, Hawaii
HNL = Honolulu, Hawaii
ITO = Hilo, Hawaii
OAE = Omni Air International
AQ = Aloha Airlines
-- 1 June OAE115 LAX-LIH DC-10-10 N450AX --
This time because it was cheaper, I elected to fly on a SunTrips charter to Hawaii, and use United MileagePlus miles to get the interisland round-trip tickets on Aloha. Also, as much as I like Hawaiian, a little variety is nice.
I knew that the plane had a 3-4-3 interior seating configuration, rather than the typical 2-5-2, so I knew I should get to the airport early in order to secure a good seat assignment. As I was walking towards the check-in desk, I saw a long line of people and thought to myself that this wasn't good. As I got closer, I realized that the long line was for American Trans Air; the SunTrips line next to it was nice and short. I checked in and secured seat 31K, a window seat. Afterwards I went through security and grabbed some breakfast. Since there was a long time until departure, I went to the end of terminal 2 to watch the action. The weather was LAX's typical morning clouds, but after a while I got bored so I starting shooting pics anyway -- after I realized that that Alaska I saw was a 737-900. Highlights that I shot were a Canada 3000 A320 and Air Canada 737-200.
As we were getting close to the scheduled boarding time, I headed back to the gate, 22A. For those that know LAX, this is the gate that Northwest uses for the shuttle bus that takes passengers to the American Eagle terminal for Eagle flights (Northwest signed a codeshare agreement with Eagle after Trans States shut down their LAX operation, which had operated on behalf of US Airways, Northwest, and Alaska). So I knew that our aircraft was parked at the remote stands at the west end of LAX. Helping to confirm this was the lack of any Omni aircraft parked at Terminal 2.
Pretty soon they started preboarding those who would need extra time to board, for example those with small children under 5 (they emphasized the under 5 part). Once all of those passengers had made their way down, they started boarding rows 30 and higher, which included me. I went downstairs, and got on the same bus that the preboarders were on. I guess they wanted to make sure that they got on the first bus. Once the bus was full the doors closed and we headed out across the ramp. It was really neat riding around on the ramp that low, rather than from inside another aircraft. We made our way to stand 212, where our DC-10 was waiting for us. Exiting the bus, we went inside a small building that held just an elevator and a ramp that went back and forth up to the level of the jetway, and from there a jetway to the aircraft. I had seen these buildings several times before, so it was nice to finally know what was inside.
Settling into my seat, I felt that the legroom wasn't bad at all. Being pretty small I usually don't have a problem, and this time was no exception. The seat was a bit narrow, but this wasn't a problem for me either. The plane continued to board. Ultimately there was another passenger sitting in the aisle seat (31H) but nobody in the middle. Looking around, there were several empty seats scattered about the aircraft. The aircraft colors were decent, the seats seemed similar to the colors one might find on United, but the pattern on the fabric was different.
Scheduled departure was 9:00am, at 9:10 we pushed back from the gate. The flight attendants (as they would on all the flights) did the safety demonstration, there was no safety video. However we didn't get very far, as we sat perpendicular to the stand for several minutes. Then a flight attendant came on and said that the pilots had been doing the weight and balance calculations, and they needed twenty passengers to move to the front of the aircraft. Several jumped up and raced forward; since I already had a window seat I was content to stay put. I guess this is a side effect of a charter; they probably weren't carrying any freight, only passengers and baggage, so to get the load balance right they moved the passengers. After a few minutes everything was straightened out, and we headed for runway 24L for takeoff.
Shortly after takeoff the service schedule for the flight was announced: Two movies would be shown, Miss Congeniality and What Women Want. I decided I didn't really want to watch either, so I didn't pay the $4 for the headsets (which I would have been able to keep). During the first movie lunch would be served, and during the second movie a beverage and pretzels service. I pulled out the June issue of Airways I had brought along; I'd already read it but reread it again. There was no inflight magazine, though I noticed they did have some copies of various regular magazines available.
The meal consisted of the hot bar-be-que chicken entree, with potatoes and vegetables, and a small square apple pastry. No salad or bread, like Hawaiian and Delta coach meals usually have. The food wasn't bad, it wasn't particularly good either. "Edible" I think is about the best word to describe it. When I went to use the lavatory, I noticed that the "blue juice" was yellow. Never seen that before...
Eventually we were on approach to Lihue, and we touched down on runway 35 right around our scheduled arrival at 11:30am (I forgot to note the exact time). Touchdown was very rough; my window shade slid partly down. We rolled out to the end of the runway, and taxied to gate 3.
Those of us continuing on to Honolulu had the option of staying on board or getting off for a bit; I chose to stay on board. I wandered over to where a couple of the flight attendants were talking to some other passengers, and learned a few things. In the f/a's opinion, the bar-be-que chicken we had was the best of the SunTrips meals. Also, Omni flight attendants stay together; they always work with the same people. In addition, I got a better understanding of how the charter system worked. SunTrips contracts everything out, as passengers we don't encounter anything Omni provides until we step aboard the airplane. And that was why they needed passengers to move; the people doing seat assignments were separately contracted and apparently don't know anything about load planning.
Also while we were waiting, some greeters came on board and gave floral leis to the passengers who were going on to Honolulu, since they wouldn't be giving out the leis in HNL. One of the advantages of flying with a vacation package company like SunTrips. One of the flight attendants commented that this was new; last summer they weren't giving out the leis.
Eventually the passengers started boarding, so I headed back to my seat. Even though the interisland leg was open seating, I chose simply to remain in the same seat I was in before.
-- 1 June OAE115 LIH-HNL DC-10-10 N450AX --
Scheduled departure was 12:30pm, we left a little bit after that though. About 12:50 I think. The aircraft had been parked diagonally at the gate, so rather than having a pushback tug, the aircraft simply powered itself out with a very sharp right turn. Gate 3 was at the end of the terminal, and if we had gone too far we could have gone into the grass, but we didn't and headed to runway 3. Nobody else was in line to takeoff, and power was applied to the engines as we turned onto the runway.
Short interisland flight. As before when I had flown a Delta L1011 from Kahului to HNL, there was no inflight service. Landed in HNL on runway 8L (the usual arrival runway), this time touchdown was smoother. Parked at gate 11 at about 1:30pm, scheduled arrival was 1:15.
Because I was using MileagePlus miles for my interisland flight, I had long layover times (notice I say "long" and not "bad", hehe) in HNL. I managed to shoot all four Hawaiian 717s currently in the state (N475HA, N476HA, N477HA, and N478HA) within the space of about 10 minutes. Also photographed ANA and JALways 747-200s and a few others. Weather in Honolulu was overcast, but again I had nothing better to do. Print film is cheap.
-- 1 June AQ68 HNL-ITO 737-2Q9 N809AL --
As is not unheard of on Fridays, interisland flights were running late. Several flights had their gates changed, though mine did not. Something new I noticed, Aloha had a couple of employees that were providing entertainment in the gate area, one with a ukulele and another with a bass. They would sing a few Hawaiian songs by one gate, then move on to another. A nice diversion.
Eventually it came to board, and I plopped down it 15A. Just behind the wing with a nice view of the 727-200's clamshell thrust reversers. I like the clamshells, but on the DC-9 you can't see them from the cabin. Scheduled departure was 4:20pm; actual pushback was at 4:33pm. The aircraft made its way out to runway 8R, the reef runway and soon we were airborne and en-route to Hilo. The usual interisland beverage service was provided. They had some pre-recorded announcements that talked about some of the islands as we passed.
Approach to Hilo was the usual one, though it seemed like we ended the 90 degree left turn on final a bit late. Landed on runway 8, and rolled right past the mid-runway turnoff that the pilots generally like to make. Since we missed it we kept moving pretty fast since the next turnoff was all the way at the end of the runway. Taxied back to the terminal what seemed rather fast--perhaps the pilot was ex-Southwest?
. Parked at gate 8 and disembarked, finally in Hilo.
-- 3 June AQ43 ITO-HNL 737-230 N818AL --
After my brother received his diploma cover (they don't actually give you the diploma's at the graduation ceremonies) I had to head back to Southern California. Since I had no luggage to check, I went to the waiting room (Hilo has a single large waiting room where everyone waits until the flight boards) and checked in there. Aloha has offered check in here for some time, but I noticed that Hawaiian now offers it as well. Again a typical interisland flight; since it was a morning flight coffee was offered in place of Coca Cola. I sat in seat 12F, again where I could get a nice view of the thrust reverser. Departed Hilo on runway 8 and arrived on 8L in HNL. I noticed that the speech that goes along with the safety demonstration was pre-recorded, and the flight also had more pre-recorded information about some of the islands.
Had a long layover in HNL, again due to limited interisland flight availability from booking on frequent flyer miles. Weather was the better than Friday for photography, there were some clouds but also blue sky. Highlights included a Ryan DC-10 in SunTrips/Airtours colors, Gemini MD-11F, and American 767-300ER which replaced the DC-10s to Hawaii.
-- 3 June OAE102 HNL-LAX DC-10-10 N360AX --
On the way to the gate, I recognized leaving the aircraft one of the flight attendants from my Friday flights. The return flight back to LAX had a different group of flight attendants though, so I guess one day they work a flight to Hawaii, and then the next day they work a return.
When I bought my tickets, the flight was #106 departing at 2:45pm. However when I checked in, I saw it had been changed to #102 departing at 2:30pm. Not a problem for me.
Flight left from gate 10. Initially I was assigned an aisle seat, 3D (this time I asked for one near the front). After takeoff though, the people in the seats in front of me said they had a friend but due to problems where they originated in Kona they had been separated. Since there were lots of open seats, I moved over to 3K, a window seat, and had no passengers in the middle or aisle seat next to me. I overheard a flight attendant say we only had 260 passengers; the aircraft can hold 380. Departed HNL on runway 8R, the reef runway.
They had discovered a problem with the video system, so there were no inflight movies. Fortunately I had brought along the Aloha and Hawaiian inflight magazines to read, as well as a Northwest one from a few months ago that my brother had picked up. Those kept me busy for the entire flight.
The meal on this flight was a sort of lasagna, with just the cheese, pasta, and tomato sauce. It wasn't bad. Others might not have liked it because it was pretty plain, but I didn't mind. It was accompanied by a little container of peach slices in syrup.
Touched down in LAX on runway 24R at 10:40pm and headed back to the terminal. Aircraft parked at gate 26. The original flight's arrival time had been scheduled to be 11:25pm, so I suspect that with the change of schedule to depart 15 minutes earlier, the scheduled arrival had probably been changed to 11:10pm. In any case, still early. Got off the plane, and headed for the bus to Parking Lot B. Had the shortest wait for the B bus I can remember. No complaints there.
Overall a quick but good trip. Omni had good service, the big disappointment (the small meal) was due to SunTrips' choices. Those who are tall would likely have trouble with the small amount of legroom or the narrow seats, but it was fine for me.
David / SAN