I had been looking forward to this vacation for a long time. My family headed out to Maui to celebrate my dad’s 65th birthday and we decided to fly Alaska over there. The airline was fantastic, and the crews were both stellar. Unfortunately, the Cranky Baby was, um, pretty Cranky on the flight home but it all worked out.
So how did we fly Alaska to Hawai’i when we live in the LA area? We drove to San Diego. My parents were coming out of San Diego and we decided to fly with them. So we took the later of the two Maui flights operating that day and planned to just drive down that morning. Flights cost $590.40 per ticket.
We were on the road by 430a with a sleepy baby in the back. Roads were empty until we got to San Diego and after parking, we were at the terminal by 645a. This was my first chance to use self bag-tagging for our two checked bags, and I was underwhelmed. Checking in at the kiosk was easy, as was putting the tag on the bag. We turned around and went to the counter to drop the bags, but she needed to check all our IDs, our bag tag stubs, and our boarding passes. It took just as long if not longer to get those all scanned and into the system. For those who use this system, check as many bags under 1 name as you can so you only need to pull out one ID.
Once it was done, we headed through security to an old rotunda-style terminal that is barely able to hold up with the heavy passenger loads on Alaska and United. The one Starbucks in there had a line around the block and seats were scarce. The bathrooms had long lines (even the mens room) and were definitely undersized. With Alaska adding a lot of flights in San Diego, I imagine something is going to have to give.
Soon enough, it was time to board.
September 14, 2012
Alaska 819 Lv San Diego 815a Arr Kahului 1057a
San Diego (SAN): Gate 17, Runway 27, Depart 4m Early
Kahului (OGG): Gate 6, Runway 2, Arrive 7m Early
N534AS, Boeing 737-890, Lei Tail, 91% Full
Flight Time 5h24m
My wife and I preboarded so that we could get our son’s car seat secured in the seat. We had to put it in the window because it was big enough that it would have blocked egress for the window seat if it were in the middle. Once we got it set up, flight attendant Karin came up with some bad news. We were in the row behind the exit and Karin said car seats couldn’t be in that row because the seats in front need to come down in an emergency. So Karin quickly had us move to the row behind and stood there to ask those in that row to move forward once they got onboard. It wasn’t a problem for anyone – a very smooth operation.
In our seat, there was a thick paper outline of what we could expect on the flight. It told us about the services and when they would occur. That along with the Hawaiian boarding music and the hibiscus flower in each flight attendant’s hair made the flight seem just a little more Hawaiian right off the bat.
We took off on time and headed northwest. Once over Catalina Island, we hung a left and went straight toward Maui. The seats on this year-old aircraft were very comfortable and the legroom actually seemed to be better than I usually expect to find in coach these days. We got a DigEPlayer for $10 to pass the time and my mom promptly took the little guy to play with him.
The flight attendants earned their wage on this flight – they were constantly up and down the aisles doing three full services and multiple smaller passes. On the first, I had the Hawaiian breakfast skillet which was Portuguese sausage, egg, rice, pineapple, and coconut. It was really, really good.
I was really glad we bought a seat for the little guy this time instead of doing the lap child thing. When the seat belt sign came on, we strapped in him and I didn’t have to worry about hitting turbulence that could hurt him. We won’t be traveling with him as a lap child again.
The flight was very baby friendly. One of the lavs had a changing table and that made life much easier. Also, when my wife was feeding, Karin came by and gave her extra bottles of water to make sure she stayed hydrated. She kept a running conversation with us throughout the flight. I noticed all the flight attendants doing similar things with passengers throughout the cabin. The service was certainly appreciated by those all around us.
I knew we were getting close when Alaska broke out the free mai tais – a standard service for flights to Hawai’i. They were really, really sweet, but it was still a nice gesture. After 5 hours, I could see the Big Island in the distance and that meant it was time to start descending. We made our way into a windy Kahului (as usual) and parked at the gate a few minutes early. By the time we got down, our bags were already on the carousel and we were off for a week of island fun. (With a baby, that meant early mornings and bed by 9p.)
On the way back, we checked in at an empty ticket counter, gave them our bags, and headed toward security. Security was a complete mess, and my experience with the TSA was so awful that I’ll be writing this up in a separate post. This downright stupid implementation of “security theater” meant that by the time I got to the gate over 30 minutes later, boarding was starting.
September 21, 2012
Alaska 854 Lv Kahului 140p Arr San Diego 1010p
Kahului (OGG): Gate 5, Runway 2, Depart 7m Early
San Diego (SAN): Gate 18, Runway 9, Arrive 25m Early
N516AS, Boeing 737-890, Lei Tail, ~95% Full
Flight Time 4h45m
There really wasn’t a ton to say about the flight home. The flight attendants were again excellent on this flight. One of them even took the Cranky Baby for a walk into the First Class cabin because he had been fussing so much. They all wanted to help out despite doing constant services up and down the aisle.
The flight home was quick thanks to a nice tailwind and the fact that we landed to the east, a San Diego rarity. After we got off, I made a beeline to the shuttle to get the car, and ran into the crew. I asked the captain how it was we were able to land to the east when we saw airplanes departing to the west as usual after we landed. He said air traffic control was feeling friendly and let us land straight in.
We got the car and then hit the road for the long drive north. It was even longer since the 405 was closed just south of Long Beach for construction. I finally hit the sack after 1a, never wanting to do that drive again. That being said, it was great to fly Alaska.