Hello everyone! After years of reading through many wonderful reports, I decided it was my turn to contribute. This is my first trip report (so be kind ) and I didn't get to take quite as many photos as I had wanted.
This year we decided to make use of our timeshare in Keauhou, Hawaii (just south of Kona) in early June. You may be wondering why we decided on this rather odd routing. Well, it was a combination of factors. While looking at the more traditional options (SMF-HNL-KOA on HA) or (SMF-LAX-KOA on UA), I discovered Alaska's very reasonable SMF-OGG fare. While looking at connection possibilities I found that Pacific Wings was having a great sale on their newly started OGG-KOA route. Unfortunately, Pacific Wings' sale had ended before I got around to booking the flights, but they were still the lowest of all the carriers on the route and had the best timing on their flight. Flying AS also ensured that I wouldn't have to take the red-eye on my return. Finally, (and most importantly) AS is running a promotion where new members of Mileage Plan residing in Northern California receive 25,000 bonus miles for flying a roundtrip to Hawaii (or 12,500 miles for a roundtrip anywhere else).
With all that in mind, I booked the flights and was very happy to know I would be gaining three new airlines (Alaska, Pacific Wings, and Mokulele (which I flew on the way back due to a preferable schedule and identical price)) as well as a new aircraft type, the Cessna Grand Caravan. The flights were booked as three separate itineraries (SMF-OGG-SMF, OGG-KOA, and KOA-OGG).
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Alaska Airlines 869
Depart SMF 10:00am (On-time)
Arrive OGG 12:05pm (25min early)
Flight Time: 5hrs 5min
Boeing 737-800 (N557AS)
We arrived at SMF about an hour and a half before departure, parked in the remote economy lot, and took the shuttle to good ol' Terminal B. The terminal is scheduled to be replaced early next year by the massive Central Terminal B. As I had checked in online, we proceeded to the bag drop line to check our scuba gear. When I reached the counter, I informed the agent that we'd be connecting to KOA on another carrier. When he asked which one, I responded, "Pacific Wings". He then gave me bewildered look and he said "Never heard of them before". Things improved once I told him their code is LW and handed him my itinerary with e-ticket numbers. He typed away on the computer for a minute or so, then informed me that "Pacific Wings does not accept baggage from Alaska Airlines" and said we'd have to recheck our bags in OGG. I told him it would not be a problem as we had a 2 hour connection anyway. With that, he took our bags and we proceeded up to security which was friendly and we cleared in no more than 2 minutes.
My newly purchased Travelocity Roaming Gnome in the terminal
At around 9:20 boarding was called and as we were in row 10 we were among the last to board. TSA was conducting random carry-on searches as we boarded but I wasn't selected. We pushed back right on time, made a quick taxi and took off to the north. Within 20 minutes we were over open ocean and the very friendly cabin crew began handing out digi-players. There was a hot Teriyaki chicken dish offered for $6 but I went with a Northwest Deli picnic pack for the same amount along with a ginger ale (of course), both of which I enjoyed.
"The Gnome" looking out the window at 36,000ft
AS has started a new "game" on their Hawaii flights. After the agriculture forms were collected, the flight attendants selected one of the forms and that lucky passenger was the winner of the Golden Coconut! It was a real coconut that contained a 2,500 mile certificate and some other goodies/chocolates/treats. Unfortunately, I guess it wasn't my lucky day.
The rest of the flight was pretty uneventful. We touched down at OGG about 25 minutes early. We were informed that our gate was occupied and we would have to wait a few minutes for that aircraft to depart. About 10 minutes later, the captain informed us that the aircraft occupying our gate was experiencing a mechanical problem and they could not get us into another gate because of construction. As we sat blocking the taxiway, I saw two landing aircraft (a HA 717 and a Aloha Air Cargo 732) have to backtrack on the runway to get around us. After about 25 minutes of sitting, the cabin had become quite hot, but we soon began moving and taxied into our gate. The aircraft with the mechanical problem had been pushed back and off to the side, but I'm not sure whether the problem was fixed or they just needed it out of the way. Due to our early arrival we were still right on time.
We proceeded down to baggage claim and within minutes had our luggage. We then began the trek out to the remote commuter terminal. This building (really more like a shelter from the wind and rain) is home to Pacific Wings, Mokulele Express, Maui Air, and Paragon. It had some very retro seating. I began thinking of the very wide array of aircraft that operate the OGG-KOA route. UA has a 777 on the route (as part of ORD-OGG-KOA-ORD), HA has 717s, WP has Dash 8s and LW and Mokulele have C208s.
"The Gnome" in the Commuter Terminal
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Pacific Wings 730
Depart OGG 2:20pm (On-time)
Arrive KOA 3:05pm (5min late)
Flight Time: 45min
Cessna 208B Grand Caravan (N302PW)
There was no one at the Pacific Wings counter, but a sign informed passengers to pick up the telephone on the counter in order to check in. I picked up the (very dirty) telephone and was connected to someone who, judging by their accent, was located at LW's Dallas headquarters. I told him my flight number and name and he informed me I was checked in and that my "Pilot will arrive about 20 minutes before departure to check luggage." The aircraft arrived at around 1:10pm, a full hour and ten minutes before our flight was scheduled to depart.
Passengers on that flight deplaned and eventually the pilot appeared behind the counter and began checking in luggage, verifying IDs, and asking passengers for their weight. LW seems to be doing well with their load factors. The incoming flight had a 100% load factor of 9 as did ours. They allows one free checked bag per person (but you cant really carry on anything larger than a laptop bag), so we were fine, but one passenger had about five bags to check in. The pilots at LW do just about everything; load bags, check people in, chock the wheels, and of course fly the plane. It almost seems as if LW has no ground staff at all (at least not in OGG or KOA).
Pacific Wings' simple baggage tag
At about 2:15 the pilot called for boarding and everyone lined up at the chain link fence leading to the ramp. The pilot told everyone their seat assignment, based on weight, then opened the gate and we all proceeded to the aircraft.
Once onboard, the pilot did the safety demonstration and informed us that due to the high winds we may experience some turbulence. Our cruise altitude would be 9,000ft.
We took off on runway 5 and climbed out over the ocean. I had expected we would fly east along the Road to Hana then turn south and head to ward the Big Island because that was the path I had seen other flights taking on FlightAware. Instead, we turned south and flew parallel to the airport (just barely missed what could have been a great overview shot of the airport) and continued toward Kihei. There were amazing views throughout the flight.
Looking west from Keihi
Makena area of Maui
Tug and Barge
It was not long before we began our decent into KOA. Our pilot had the autopilot on for the entire flight up until about a minute before touchdown. It was a quick taxi over to KOA's commuter terminal, which is really just two office trailers. From there we called our car rental company and their shuttle arrived shortly thereafter.
Unfortunately, I was unable to take any pictures on the return. Our Mokulele KOA-OGG flight was much the same as our LW flight except they charged $10 per bag. This flight also had a full load. This time we did fly along the Road to Hana and had some stunning views of waterfalls and hidden pools. We had a 3:15 layover which became even larger because of a very early arrival which we spent rechecking our bags, eating, and spotting from the terminal. The return on AS was just as pleasant as the outbound and we arrived in SMF right on time.
I was very satisfied with my flight choices in this trip. Aside from the ground delay, I was very impressed by the service on AS and can't wait to fly them again (using the 32,000 miles I netted from this trip) . I discovered that Hawaii's commuter airlines are a very convenient and inexpensive way to get around the islands, even more so if I weren't connecting. They provide a very unique way of traveling, nearly as good as the air tours, but for a fraction of the cost.
Thank you for reading! I had a lot of fun writing this so I hope you enjoyed it. I appreciate all of your feedback!