One of my best friends in the world lives on the big island of Hawai'i, and recently I had the opportunity to go visit him again, thanks to the good people at Hawaiian Airlines. I have been to the big island twice before, but even in a short weekend trip (left on Friday, came back on Monday), I still managed to see things I hadn't seen before!
Here is a link to my travel pictures on Flickr:
Most of the tourism heads to the Kona side of the island, and while there is some interesting stuff there, the east side is a gem that should have a LOT more people coming to visit!! Not that I want it overrun, but it is absolutely incredible!!
Anyway, for the trip report...While I have been on a 767-300 before, I have never been on a wide-body flight that departed or arrived from SAN!! Also, my previous inter-island trips had been on the sadly now-defunct Aloha Airlines, this trip would have me on two 717's between Hilo and Honolulu, so I got two new experiences in this trip!!
Hawaiian Airlines Flight #15
N580HA "Kolea" Seat 20G
Load Factor: 100% (Volunteers were being called for to take Saturday's flight!)
Photo © Matthew C. Lyons
Photo © Philippe Bleus
When I purchased my ticket, seat selection for this flight was not available. However, 24 hours beforehand, I called Hawaiian and was able to secure an aisle seat.
|The Departure Board At SAN T2 On February 13, 2009|
I arrived at SAN a bit before two hours ahead of time. I had planned this just in case I had to beg and plead not to be put into a middle seat, but this wasn't an issue. The flight was right on time, and the check-in line was...well, non-existent!
|The Almost Empty Check-In Counter For Hawaiian Airlines at SAN T2|
Security at T2 was quick and efficient, with a TSA agent directing people manually between the lines to ensure that the lines stayed about the same length.
I do have an interesting story at this point: I did not have SSSS on my boarding pass, but a TSA officer directed me over for extra security. All he did, however, was brush both of my hands with something that left no residue - I am assuming they were checking for explosives residue. He was quick, efficient, and VERY polite. Once I was done, I got a "thank you very much", put my shoes back on, and proceeded to look for breakfast.
|A Busy Morning With Both Wings Of SAN's T2 Visible.|
There's a bakery at the end end of T2 West that makes a great breakfast panini - ask nicely, and they'll give you both bacon AND sausage for just an extra fifty cents...yum!!
My plane for the morning was N580HA, which you can see here all by its lonesome self getting prepped for its departure for Honolulu.
|Temporarily Lonely N580HA Getting Prepped For Its Trans-Pacific Flight!!|
Boarding was called, and as usual, several people not in wheelchairs or with children (or in first class either) decided they could board early, "just because". Fortunately, Hawaiian personnel were polite but firm, and boarding went very efficiently.
N580HA was immaculately clean but has the old-style overhead bins - I was afraid there wouldn't be enough room, but my carry-on bag ended up being the only thing in the bin!! Just when you thought every plane from now on would have every square millimeter of space taken by stuff, you get surprised!!
We taxiied out right on time and lifted off right about T1 (you'd have thought this was an empty 757!!)...and after a gentle left turn, good-bye to North America!!
Almost immediately, the first carts with snacks-for-purchase and DVD-players-for-rent came by...and then almost an hour with nothing! Mind you, I was DYING for coffee, but I didn't buy it in the airport because on a fairly empty stomach I'd have been doing "the dance" for a long time. I took a nap, and when I finally heard the beverage carts coming by, it was almost exactly one hour after take-off. There had been no turbulence, so I don't know why there was a delay.
Other than that minor annoyance (I am SO cranky when I am caffeine-deprived!!), the flight was outstanding!! I probably consumed half of the coffee on the plane - thankfully airlines are stingy with their coffee and they make it weaker than normal, which is just how I like it! I went back several times and chatted with the flight attendants during the flight when I was in need of more coffee.
Also to recommend on Hawaiian besides Lion's Coffee (the brand) is the Passion Fruit - Guava - Orange juice they serve. WOW!! This is incredible - very light, but not too sweet, I guzzled down two cans of this stuff!!
When the carts came by for the meal, all I saw was pre-wrapped sandwiches and bags of chips, so I was steeling myself for disappointment...after Hawaiian claims to still serve "hot meals", and while I would be grateful for anything, I was once again pleasantly surprised that a Pesto Pasta dish was offered:
|A Very Endangered Species - A Hot Meal In Coach!! Pesto Pasta|
Sorry it's blurry...
It was quite good!! However, the salad was limp and almost inedible. Not a problem, as I was done with the pasta. The graham crackers were quite good with more Lion's coffee, and after that the flight was routine.
We hit moderate turbulence when we started our initial descent into Honolulu airport - winter weather hits everywhere in the northern hemisphere in February! Picture this: the video screens come on, and the almost medicated-sounding host and hostess brief us on the joys of filling out the paperwork required of all Hawaii visitors. After their blurb, a gentle and relaxing hula is shown (complete with the soothing sounds of Hawaiian music), while the flight attendants non-chalantly start passing out the forms.
Picture this: we were trying to fill out the forms while the plane is being shaken by turbulence...with the hula and gentle Hawaiian music playing...while the flight attendants don't even seem to notice - it was absolutely surreal!! If the make-up lady in "Airplane!" had stumbled out of the lavatory, I wouldn't have been surprised. It was hysterical!
After we landed, we taxied to gate 60 of the "Inter-Island" terminal - well, it can't be called that anymore, because there were quite a few 767-300's docked there! Hawaiian has really concentrated their op's in this wing of the airport. My fellow passengers and I gathered our belongings, and I asked the flight attendant if it would be possible to see the cockpit. She actually seemed quite surprised, as if this was something that nobody had ever asked her before! She asked the cockpit crew, they agreed, and I got to step and meet my flight crew. They were as nice as the cabin crew had been - I told them about a.net, and we talked things like the new Airbus A330's, waypoints, flying characteristics, and so on - for me, it was a.nut heaven!!
|The Army Jeep Colored "Dashboard" In The Cockpit Of 767-33A N580HA|
A word to Honolulu airport management: your men's bathrooms are in desperate need of re-model!! They are positively disgusting and stink like years of urine that have never been cleaned up. Worst of all are your automatic sinks - they start too quickly, spray too much water, stay running too long, make a mess of everything and everyone, and waste water which is an especially precious resource in Hawaii! Put those at the top of your remodeling list!!
I am convinced that the reason that there are long layovers at HNL is because of the complexity of sorting arriving luggage from the mainland (from Hawaiian as well as legacy carriers) to Hawaiian's inter-island flights. In my 2 hours at HNL, I snapped a few pictures of the comings and goings of some planes:
|An Outdoor Garden At HNL Behind Security - Great Place To Unwind If You Don't Want To Planespot!|
|At The End Of The Inter-Island Terminal Are The Gates For Mokulele Airlines|
|View Of HNL Op's|
|Colorful Tail Of IslandAir DH8 Taxiing Out|
|For A Laid Back Culture, These Hawai'i-Based Pilots Taxi FAST!!!|
|A PacificWings Cessna|
The crews of the commuter planes drive these things like they were in a NASCAR race!! Blink and you'll miss them - I know, I missed quite a few!!
Hawaiian Airlines Flight #260
N488HA "Puai'Ohi" Seat 14A
Load Factor: 100%
There are no pictures of this beautiful bird in the airliners.net database, but thanks to a fellow a.netter, here is a link to a picture of Puai'Ohi:
Again, I know this was a completely full flight as several stand-by passengers were turned away.
We were just a few minutes late departing due to the late arrival of the aircraft, but made a quick departure from the inner runway, and away we went!! Those of us on the left side of the plane got a spectacular view of Honolulu as well as of Molokai and Maui. Please see the flickr link for those pictures.
A small passion fruit - orange drink is served, and that's really all there is time for - when you've got everyone served and picked up the trash, you're approaching Hilo - and that's the longest flight of the fleet!!
As we turned south (skirting around Mauna Kea), the left side of the plane got some spectacular views of the Hilo area. A quick left turn, and we were down on the ground. This must have been what Kai Tak was like, because the turn comes quick, and then your landing. We taxied to our gate and departed quickly.
Hilo has to be the most laid back airport in the U.S. - the small jetbridge passageway, the short distances, and the arriving at baggage claim before you even can process that you're outdoors! My bag was there quick, and my buddy Rick picked me up. We went immediately to Ken's pancake house near the airport, a restaurant specializing in American and Hawaiian food. I got what I was craving - spam loco-moco: a tempting treat of steamed rice, fried spam, covered in brown gravy, and topped with a fried egg. If you want to blend in as a Hilo native, order it with extra brown gravy! YUM!!
I packed in a lot of sightseeing and a lot of pictures in two days, but eventually it was time to leave.
Hawaiian Airlines Flight #141
N487HA "Io" Seat 15B
Load Factor: 100%
Photo © Je89 W.
Photo © Snorre - VAP
|An Earlier Departure To HNL At ITO's Gate 6|
|The Departure Area Of Hilo Airport|
Foolishly, out of habit, I booked an aisle seat, when I should have taken a window. Oh well. My seatmate in 15A didn't mind me taking some pictures. The third of three flights with less than two hours was still fully booked! We pushed back right on time and headed back to O'ahu. On this morning flight, both the juice offered inbound AND coffee were offered...I took both.
Our approach brought us into HNL on a very southerly route, as Honolulu appeared off in the distance on the right side of the plane. We made a 90 degree right turn, then another, and we landed on the inner runway. I once again requested a cockpit visit, and it was granted!! Hawaiian crews are VERY happy with their 717's and my flight crew didn't hesitate to tell me how much fun they are to fly!!
|The Cockpit Of Boeing 717-2BD N487HA|
We deplaned at gate 55, and my departing flight, in a little more than two hours, was leaving from gate 61.
I had lunch at Stinger Ray's bar and grill, and I highly recommend the fish and chips - they were VERY tasty!! Airport expensive, but everything is. After lunch, I took a few more pictures:
|Large Mural Of Hawaiian Airlines History At HNL|
|Aloha May Be Gone, But Not Forgotten - Large Mural At HNL|
|A Great Display Of Hawaiian's Fleet, Past & Present|
And away I went to gate 61...Only to find that there was a gate change - well, no one was sure. No Hawaiian Airlines personnel were around, but half the passengers were leaving for another gate. I looked at the monitor - first it said "Gate 61" - then "Gate 57" - then finally "Gate 25", which is where the first movers had said it was. A bit chaotic, but at least there was ample warning.
The original plane planned for flight #16 was N590HA, but apparently it had a mechanical issue, so we were switched to N581HA, at gate 25.
While waiting at gate 25, I took these pictures:
|Japan Airlines Is Still A Major Player At HNL - 3 Tails Visible!|
|A JAL 747-400 Taxiing Out For Take-Off|
The only truly unpleasant part of the trip was the fact that gate 25 at HNL is a completely enclosed "lounge" type area - and today the air conditioning was not working. From a passenger standpoint, an unknown length of delay accompanied by a VERY hot and stuffy environment is a recipe for irritation. However, the Hawaiian Airlines staff was extremely friendly, efficient, and just as anxious to get us to San Diego. Despite the fact that this was a "smaller" airplane (I didn't know there were different seating arrangements for their 767-300 fleet), Hawaiian personnel got every confirmed passenger a seat, and finally we got the boarding call.
Hawaiian Airlines Flight #16
N581HA "Mano O'Ku" Seat 25H
Load Factor: 100%
Again, the plane was immaculately clean, but had the old-style overhead bins. However, loading was very quick, and we got pushed back quickly. The captain announced that we would be second in line for take-off from the reef runway (my one and only time using this runway!!), but it did not seem to take long, and we didn't have to wait at all once we got onto the runway. A quick lift-off after almost exactly an hour delay, and "Aloha" to Hawai'i!!
The schedule of service was the same as the previous trans-Pacific flight - first the snacks-to-buy and DVD-to-rent cart came by, and then almost immediately came the beverage cart (no hour wait this time!), followed by dinner. Cold sandwiches with chips were offered, but I decided on the hot entree, a pasta with red sauce:
|The Return Meal - Past With Red Sauce (And A Better Salad!!)|
Again, my apologies for the blurriness - I don't know why pasta is so camera shy!
After dinner, the flight became routine - most passengers were returning from their vacation, and they were tired. Quite a few people slept, including my seatmate.
Despite our one hour delay in departing, we arrived in San Diego less than 30 minutes behind schedule. We landed, and taxied quickly to gate 41, and just like that, the trip was over.
Thanks to all for reading my report!!