As part of my trip to Hawaii last month, my friend and I decided to jump from Oahu over to Maui, where my grandparents (and several aunts and uncles) all live. She searched for quite awhile for decently-priced interisland fares, although we eventually had to settle on some $175 tickets on Hawaiian Airlines.
I was excited because it’d give me a chance to check out Hawaiian’s new 717s… my last trip on HA was in 1999, on one of their ancient DC9s (en route HNL
). The airline seems to have undergone a sort of rebirth since then, and I was eager to see what they’d changed.
I’ve had some issues with the bandwidth on my direct-linking service, so the pictures may not appear. If that happens, I’ll delete the report and re-post it later, when the direct linking is available again.
Honolulu International Airport
April 18, 2004
We pulled up to Honolulu’s Interisland Terminal at about 8am, after a long drive from Kapolei on the traffic-choked H1 Freeway (that’s right, there are interstate freeways in Hawaii… your guess is as good as mine).
’s Interisland Terminal is about ten years old, and it’s not the most architecturally imaginative airport terminal in the world. It’s topped by a pretty brutal parking garage, which means it doesn’t have any of the open-air lobbies and breezy gate areas that make the overseas terminal so great. Instead, it’s a slick, air-conditioned, terrazzo-floored people-processor. Still, it’s a huge improvement over its predecessor, a low-rise cluster of bunker-like buildings that was always packed to the gills with passengers. The old interisland terminals are long gone, demolished to make way for the new complex.
Hawaiian and Aloha occupy twin ticket lobbies at each end of the building. Interisland and overseas flights check in here, although Hawaiian’s mainland-bound 767s depart from the Ewa Concourse at the overseas terminal. The overhead departure boards are pretty boring, since most flights are leaving for one of only four destinations (Lihue, Kona, Hilo or Kahului):
We checked in with no problem at all and headed for the main concourse. Hawaiian has six jetway gates on the south side of the terminal, while Aloha uses the six gates at the north end. Here’s a shot of the south end of the main concourse, near the escalators to baggage claim:
Our Kahului flight was leaving from Gate 59. Hawaiian and Aloha have two giant departure lounges seating about 300 people each, with ramps leading down to the gate doors. Most people skip the departure lounge and head straight for the gates:
We joined the crowd sitting near the Gate 59 doorway. Hawaiian has an ‘open seating’ policy (similar to Southwest on the mainland) so getting a good seat means getting a good spot in line. The terminal’s floor-to-ceiling windows afforded a nice view of Hawaiian’s ramp. 717s were coming and going – all of the gates were full, and there were two more 717s on the hardstands across the taxiway. Here’s a shot of our 717, Anape’pe
, preparing to take on passengers:
Hawaiian Airlines Flight 133
Honolulu (HNL) – Kahului (OGG)
Boeing 717, seat 8F
Departs HNL 9:10am, arrives OGG 9:40am
Flying time: 28 minutes
Boarding began at about 8:50am – Hawaiian likes to cut things pretty close – and everyone rushed towards the jetway. We filed onto the 717 and took seats toward the front of the aircraft. Hawaiian’s 717s are still nice and new looking, with purple seat fabrics and carpeting – they looked much nicer inside than AirTran’s 717s. There was only one problem…
… the windows. They were filthy. Hawaiian’s old DC9s and Aloha’s 737s have the same problem – lots of flights back and forth through the briny ocean air leave a fine crust of salt over all the windows. The interisland schedules are grueling, which leaves little time for maintenance crews to clean the windows. You’ll notice that the inflight pictures are a little cloudy – that’s a result of the salt on the windows.
My friend had never been to Maui before, so I made what for me is the ultimate sacrifice – I let her take the window seat. She was kind enough to snap a few photos during the flight (not as many as I would have taken, but I still appreciated it).
Here we are preparing to push back from Gate 59, with a fellow 717 about to leave Gate 58 for Kona:
We pushed back and the departure check/engine startup was run in just a minute or two. All the announcements were pre-recorded (not by the flight attendants, but on a tape loop that also played on our return flight). The cabin crew – two men in back and a woman up front, all of them about my age (23) – went through the safety briefing motions in sync with the recording, and we headed out towards the airfield.
Like my previous interisland flights, the captain taxied the 717 at breakneck speed… we sped down the taxiway and were turning onto Runway 8L
only about a minute after leaving our stand. Most interisland departures use 8L
, since the lengthy taxi out to 8R (the offshore runway) would be longer than the flight itself. The engines were brought up to full power as we turned onto the runway, and away we went.
The captain made a hard right turn almost immediately after we lifted off to avoid downtown Honolulu – we were well off the runway heading before we even crossed Lagoon Drive. I was surprised by how much of a ‘hot-rod’ feel the 717 had on this flight… on my AirTran flights, the plane seemed to climb sluggishly. Nice to see what Boeing’s baby can do!
As Oahu fell astern the cabin crew rushed down the aisles with Hawaiian’s interisland ‘inflight service’ – hot Lion Coffee or a small container of Pass-O-Guava juice. These were distributed from a pallet; on a short interisland hop there’s no time to bring out the beverage cart! When they got to the rear of the plane, they wheeled around and started picking up the empties.
A shot (courtesy of my friend) of our meager but delicious inflight ‘meal’ on Hawaiian:
Our flight path took us southeast from Oahu, down the length of the channel between Molokai and Lanai. We passed over the eastern tip of Lanai, where I could see that most of the pineapple fields were gone. Lanai was once covered in pineapple fields – its plantation was one of the largest in the world. It’s been closed, and the island’s economy centers on the two lavish resort hotels that were built in the early 1990s.
Crossing Lanai, looking west. The short runway at LNY was visible:
The engines spooled down as we crossed Lanai and headed back out over the water. The pre-recorded descent announcement played overhead, and we started down towards Maui, which was already visible up ahead.
Our descent was very, very steep and very fast – the 717 seemed like a fighter jet. The cabin crew rushed down the aisles, still picking up service items even as the final approach chimes were sounding. Here we are skirting the shoreline of west Maui, with the broad sweep of the island stretching out in the distance:
Turning onto the runway heading over Ma’alaea:
Final approach was made in a serious nose-down attitude, following the Mokulele Highway from Kihei towards the airport. The wind coming off the mountains was strong – we rocked back and forth quite a few times – and I could see the sugarcane fields below waving in the breeze. We glided right over the top of the massive Pu’unene sugar mill and skimmed over the Hana Highway:
Finally we roared in over more sugarcane and touched down smartly on OGG
’s runway 2 about a thousand feet down the strip. The captain used a LOT of reverse thrust to slow us down – imagine what landing in a full 777 must be like! – and we turned off the runway at the very end, with only a thin strip of sand separating us from the ocean.
Our 717 then made the long taxi back down towards the terminal. Kahului opened its new terminal in stages between 1990 and 1992, and it’s pretty enormous given the amount of traffic that passes through it. During the afternoon rush, when all the mainland flights go out, all the gates are occupied, but at 9:30 in the morning on a Sunday, the ramp was deserted except for a lone Aloha 737.
We deplaned via the jetbridge (although Hawaiian deplanes through the front and rear doors at Lihue and Kona, it’s not usually done at OGG
) and made our way through the very quiet terminal to baggage claim.
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
We showed up for our return flight several hours early on the advice of my grandfather, who said that traffic near the airport was “terrible” in the mornings. Ironically, we made it from his house to OGG
in about twenty minutes, and found ourselves with about two hours to kill in a very
sleepy airport terminal.
Kahului’s terminal is set up around a central building with shops and restaurants, flanked by large ticketing and baggage claim structures. The ticket lobby was very quiet – all of the overseas counters were closed – so checking in wasn’t a problem.
, most of the OGG
terminal is open-air, and since the airport is right on the ocean it’s very breezy and pleasant, especially in the morning. There’s a nice little statue of Maui (the Hawaiian god of the sun for whom the island is named) in the courtyard between the main terminal and the curbside:
Once you clear security, you go up the escalators (the new airport terminal had Maui’s first escalators when it opened in 1990) to the central terminal. There’s a vast open-air lobby, with lots of seats, shops and restaurants, and (of course) a Starbucks Coffee. This picture gives you an idea of how quiet the airport was this time of day:
The red-roofed boarding concourses stretch out from either side of the central building. The eight-gate west concourse was the first to open, in 1990, and is used by Aloha, Delta, Continental and Northwest:
The east concourse has twelve gates, used by Hawaiian, United, American, ATA, Air Canada and a bunch of charter operators. Also visible in this picture is the baggage claim hall (at left) which was OGG
’s main terminal from the mid-1960s until 1992:
Hawaiian uses Gates 17, 19 and 21 for its interisland flights. The east concourse is completely enclosed and air conditoned (the west concourse is open on the side facing away from the runways) and features a lot of exposed wood and concrete – sort of a tropical modern style:
The windows in the gate areas look towards Haleakala and offer a great view of the mountain. Here’s a 717 to Honolulu sitting at the gate with Haleakala in the background:
Hawaiian Airlines Flight 129
) – Honolulu (HNL
9:00am, arrives HNL
Boeing 717, seat 19A
Flying time: 30 minutes
Our flight wasn’t due to leave for HNL
for another hour, but there was another Honolulu flight leaving as we arrived (the early morning flight to Lihue was boarding next door). We tried to jump onto the earlier flight but didn’t have any luck; we had to wait another 30 minutes before our aircraft arrived.
Interestingly, our 717 landed on runway 20, coming in over the ocean instead of over the isthmus on runway 20. As soon as the passengers – all from Honolulu – filed off, the gate agent began boarding for our flight. Hawaiian’s ground crew don’t waste any time!
We took seats towards the rear of the plane, and this time I was lucky enough to get the window. In no time at all the doors were closed and the pre-recorded departure announcements began. Here we are pushing back from the gate, with the Lihue-bound company 717 and an Aloha 737 parked on the apron:
As with our outbound flight, the captain made the quick taxi to the runway 2 threshold at lightning speed; in fact, we had to hold short of the runway until the safety demo was finished before we could depart.
Turning onto runway 2:
Takeoff, with the largely empty terminal building rushing by:
Our captain took his time getting us off the ground – we rotated with only about five hundred feet of runway left. See how close we are to the blast pad at the end of the runway in this photo!
Climbing out very low over the ocean, with west Maui visible in the distance:
We made a long, sweeping turn over the water, then turned west. Our flight would have to backtrack around the top of west Maui, which makes the OGG
leg just a few minutes longer than the outbound flight. Here we are rounding the corner of the island…
… and finally reaching our cruising altitude. Below is the west Maui shoreline and the pricey Kapalua resort area (home to the Ritz-Carlton Maui):
From there our flight path was more or less the same – up the channel between Molokai and Lanai and straight ahead towards Oahu. Here’s the west shore of Lanai, with a broad stretch of beach visible:
Inflight service was no different – a container of juice that we were expected to drink as fast as we could before our descent began. My friend and I labored in a mad dash to try and finish the entire crossword puzzle in the Hana Hou!
inflight magazine… we got the last answers filled in as we swooped into HNL
on final approach.
Here’s a shot of the passenger cabin as we winged our way towards Honolulu. Hawaiian’s 717s are decorated in a pretty attractive purple and white scheme. I’ve always felt like the 717 cabin feels a little cramped, however:
In no time the nose was angling sharply down and we were dropping like a stone toward Honolulu International Airport. We made some quick turns as Oahu appeared up ahead, and I realized that we’d be landing on the lesser-used runway 4R instead of 8L
Sure enough, as the flaps dropped down and we got lower I could see a heavy aircraft (it looked like a 747) descending towards 8L
. You can’t see it in this picture, but that explained why we’d been routed onto 4R:
Short final to runway 4R, coming in low over the offshore 8R-26L ‘reef runway’ and the brackish lagoon separating it from the rest of the airport:
Touching down on 4R:
We had to hold short at 8L
as the large aircraft I had seen – it was a Japan Airlines 747-400 in the Reso’cha special color scheme – landed and rolled out beyond us. From there we burned rubber (in typical interisland fashion) back towards the Interisland Terminal.
Passing by Aloha’s maintenance hangar across the taxiway from the Interisland Terminal. In the background is one of Oahu’s prisons – I don’t think an aviation enthusiast could ask to be confined in a cell with a better view!
Pulling into Gate 58:
We deplaned into the almost comically busy Interisland Terminal, which was full of passengers connecting to mainland-bound flights from the neighbor islands. We made our way down to baggage claim, which is located on the dark, cave-like lower level…
… and then took the elevator back up to the car in the parking garage. The parking deck has a nice view over the interisland ramp – here’s a cluster of Aloha 737-200s all getting ready for their flights:
Finally, here’s HNL
’s commuter terminal, used by Island Air and Pacific Wings for their shuttles to smaller Hawaii airports. This terminal was used by Hawaiian Airlines between 1987 and 1994, when they moved into the new terminal – their DC9s used to be parked two and three deep on the ramp!
That concludes the interisland trip report. I hadn’t anticipated it being so long, but it was a lot of fun… it’s not often that one gets to take a quick 25-minute hop on a fully-loaded jet aircraft! Hawaiian Airlines offers a good product – comfortable seats, quiet aircraft, and delicious juice.
Hope you enjoyed this report on a not-often-covered segment of the aviation world!