Amateur Hour at Hawaiian Airlines (Tales From the Field)

Hawaiian has been expanding like crazy lately with flights all over the Pacific, and we’ve had several clients fly on them. While Hawaiian has a great reputation, our clients have had a lot of problems in dealing with them. Even though the airline is growing quickly, it seems like its policies and systems might not be up to the same level of sophistication.

Issue #1 – Anti-Travel Agent Policy
The first issue is with flight bookings themselves. Hawaiian charges travel agents who book through their own reservation systems more than those who book on the website. That in itself isn’t a problem, but it means when we book people, we do it on HawaiianAir.com. We put our names in as travel arranger (there’s a spotFrom the Field with Hawaiian for that), and that should let us do what we need to manage a booking.

Unfortunately, that’s not true. Even though we are the travel arranger and have all the credit card information, Hawaiian refuses to allow anyone but the credit card holder to make a change that requires payment. This leave us in the delightful spot of making our clients talk to Hawaiian for something we shouldn’t have to bother them with or paying more for the privilege of having us book in our system. Neither is a customer-friendly option.

Issue #2 – No Special Meals
Last October, a client was flying Hawaiian from Phoenix to Honolulu, spending a night there (since it wasn’t possible to connect the same day), and then going on to Sydney. These clients had paid for First Class the whole way. One of the travelers was vegan and we had entered the request in our system for a vegan meal.

On the flight to Honolulu, the flight attendants told her that Hawaiian didn’t offer special meals at all. She had a piece of fruit. Once she called from Hawai’i, I called Hawaiian to investigate. The call center agent politely informed me that Hawaiian does not offer special meals but my client was welcome to bring her own food onboard. Yes, this is what she told a paying First Class passenger. The next flight to Sydney didn’t even have fruit. With more long distance flights in Hawaiian’s network, it needs to step up.

Issue #3 – Various Tech Problems
I’m not quite sure how Hawaiian’s website works, but it doesn’t generally work very well when it comes to managing travel. On one occasion, a client had different seats showing in the manage reservation area than it showed when they checked in online. The two different systems apparently don’t talk to each other.

On another occasion, seat changes couldn’t be processed and we were told to just try again later. Instead, we called the call center to get it done. After going through several prompts asking and misunderstanding the confirmation number, we were transferred to an agent who asked for the confirmation again. She finally changed the seats for us, so we hoped. The website still showed the old seats.

Issue #4 – Seat Switcheroo
We had two different clients over the holidays who had seats reserved and then came to find that they had been replaced. In both cases, these were families traveling together with their kids put in single seats in random places. The airline refused to help them switch seats to sit with their kids even at the airport. I understand that airlines have the right to switch seats, but there didn’t seem to be any good reason for it here. (There was no aircraft type change and it wasn’t a 767 which has different configurations.) There was no notification either. They just found themselves in trouble when they tried to check in.

Issue #5 – Last Minute Schedule Changes
You would think that holiday travel schedules would be locked in fairly early. People book their Hawai’i holiday flights very early on. But Hawaiian made some schedule changes within a couple months of travel during this time. Even worse, they made the change and didn’t send an email out about it for long after we found out. How do I know? Our client had already had so many problems that they kept checking the reservations on the website religiously.

The schedule changes were caught long before Hawaiian bothered notify anyone and the auto-re-accommodation wasn’t very good. This meant spending a lot of time on the phone with the call center hoping to improve the situation. And when Hawaiian did notify of the changes, they just sent a generic link to the flights without showing the change itself. We had to pull up previous notifications to find out what the changes actually were.

Issue #6 – Not Playing Fair
I saved the best for last. I couldn’t quite believe that any airline would try to play this the way Hawaiian did. One client was booked with a completely legal 55 minute layover in Maui going from Kona to San Jose. Someone who said they were from Hawaiian called us since we were the travel arranger and said that they wanted to do a favor for our client. Since they “only” had 55 minutes, they wanted to move them to an earlier flight from Kona so that they would have more time to connect. Oh, and they were being so kind to offer that without any additional charge.

A quick check of availability showed what was up. The flight they were on was completely full, oversold I’m guessing. The earlier flight had plenty of seats to sell. So Hawaiian was trying to move people to an earlier flight so that nobody had to be bumped. That’s perfectly fine to be proactive like that – in fact, I like it. But if you’re going to do that, don’t pretend you’re doing someone a favor as a way to weasel out of offering compensation.

I honestly thought it was a joke call at first after listening to the message. The person on the phone had a conversation with someone else in the background asking which number we should call back on because they didn’t know. Eventually they gave us a local 808 phone number and asked us to call back and ask for a specific person. We did call back and the agent told us that it was ok if they stayed on their original flights. Gee, thanks. (And yes, they made their connection without any trouble.)


Have any of you flown Hawaiian lately? Had any of these kinds of problems?


60 Responses to Amateur Hour at Hawaiian Airlines (Tales From the Field)

  1. I’m shocked. It seems a little PeopleExpress’ish where they have begun to outgrow there suit. My only time with Hawaiian was interisland last summer HNL-KOA-HNL and that was booked via united.com with miles. It was a simple enough booking and routing so not alot of opportunity for discombobulation I suppose.

  2. David says:

    The biggest problem most FTers report is they aren’t playing fair with the baggage fees, violating their own stated policies and not following the latest DOT regulations. See the thread on FT.

    They are violating DOT rules and their own rules every day, and getting away with it.

    Why do you accept any business for booking on Hawaiian Airlines given all the problems you stated? To be honest, I just don’t understand that at all. Besides, their international product is sub-standard. It’s no different (or worse as you noted) than domestic F.

    -David

    • Mark says:

      David:

      Can you specify the FT thread? I’m very interested in this subject.

    • David M says:

      Hawaiian’s F product is a domestic product, but you have to consider their market. Their long haul flights are primarily geared towards vacation/VFR traffic, not so much the globe-trotting business traveller. I’m not sure about now, but I remember when they launched the Sydney flights, they marketed it as “business class” because they knew it wasn’t up to International First Class standards. And priced it accordingly.

    • CF says:

      David – We aren’t in the business of turning people away because of who they fly. While I’d certainly rather work with an airline that treats us well like Delta, a lot of people come to us precisely because they’re using airlines that are more difficult. We will help people with any airline they prefer.

  3. Is this a case of an airline who just flew quick simple trips around Hawaii decades and has never caught on on how to offer service on flights over a hour or that involves international travel?

    Is their system and workers still stuck in the DC9 intra-island era of the past?

    • Oliver says:

      When they were flying the DC-9s around the islands, didn’t they also fly L-1011s and then DC-10s the the mainland? In other words, they have been doing long-haul for quite a while.

      They do have grown (especially internationally) quite a bit since those days, of course.

  4. Mark says:

    Hawaiian continues to disappoint me. They have gutted their FF program, and hit you hard on fees especially bag fees. The one thing that REALLY sticks in my grass skirt is the “stand by” fees on interisland flights. I remember when, if you landed early from the mainland, HA and AQ would put you on the first available flight to your destination. No change fee, no hassle, just ALOHA! Welcome to Hawaii! Now they hit you with the all of the typical fees. They are one of the first contacts our tourists have with the Hawaiian islands and they are a pain. Nice that they are making such a great impression. “Welcome to Hawaii, now gives us your money”.

  5. Neil says:

    I did JFK-HNL-KOA in November. I had no issues on the ground or in the air. Baggage got there in one piece, and on the right flights.

    They also waived the baggage fee – or just didn’t charge me – though I believe the JFK check-in is done by B6 employees. I flew coach out and first back.

    The only things I’ll say – though I knew beforehand – were the first class seats on the A330 aren’t awesome for a redeye, and the HA lounge at HNL is a tiny, unstocked shambles.

    • CF says:

      Neil – That’s correct. JFK check in is done by JetBlue for Hawaiian. That was another problem we had that I didn’t even list here. A client checked in at JFK and was told that he couldn’t check his bags through to Kona. Turns out that was someone at JetBlue not knowing Hawaiian’s policy. (They eventually got it done.)

  6. AirBoss says:

    Hey, but at least they claim to be “on-time”…

    • CF says:

      AirBoss – Ah yes, the on time fallacy. If you fly interisland, you are highly likely to be on time. Mainland is a different story, though it does appear that the A330s have helped improve reliability.

  7. JayB says:

    It seems to me, in this industry, one so many of us care about, it’s just one issue after another. Problems that affect someone or the other; problems that may not be earth-changing, but problems for so many of us nonetheless.

    Is it that: (1) the airlines don’t know that these issues exist, (2) the airlines don’t have enough experienced or qualified people to fix the problems, (3) the airlines are so consumed, so overwhelmed by day-to-day operations, there simply isn’t the time to fix these things, or (4) they simply don’t care?

    Unfairly though it may seem to the airlines, many of us think it’s reason number 4. This isn’t good.

    • Noah Kimmel says:

      Jay, having loved the airline business for most of my life, I would guess it is a combination of factors. I think most people would agree with your number 4, even if it is likely the least accurate statement. My initial hypotheses:

      First, like any business that has a lot of low-wage people, its tough to make a consistently positive human interaction experience (are you delighted everytime you go to Best Buy?, and made worse by poor relations, pay stagnation, etc.). I would just leave a caveat that there are fantastic people in many airlines who love the business, work hard, and have deep empathy for customers, likely more than we realize since we tend to hear of the bad far more often than the good.

      Second, its a money problem. Airlines make, on average, less than $5 per passenger. Many airlines/quarters its under $1! It is very hard to innovate, remove fees, or any of these things people want because ultimately they either directly cost money, or don’t earn money. Sadly, the average airline consumer generally picks the cheapest ticket regardless of value (hence why AA more room through coach failed, and Spirit is thriving). Airlines dont have the cash to invest in the business, and without a financial return, it makes it harder to adjust the policies. You could argue benefits of a long-term relationship vs. the more common short-term transactional view of a customer, but, for better or worse, executives must report to shareholders and wall st! Also, like any business, it takes awhile for changes to be made, and in airline biz, lots of customers are affected before the changes are carried out, even when airlines are aware.

      Third, its a messaging and customer issue. Airlines have a lot of infrequent customers. they dont fly often, book a UA flight of orbitz, flown by a regional, checked-in by an outsourced company, etc. It’s very confusing! And worse, sometimes an agent making a nice gesture such as waiving a bag fee, leads to frustration when the customer has to pay on the return flight. Expectations are out of line likely because the price of tickets is high (even with low profit), and the stress of an airport makes everything worse. Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of DOT complaints against Spirit come from people who book through 3rd parties. (another reason WN “controls” the booking process–they can set expectations and messaging clearly).

      I like that WN, B6, (and VX?) are doing well–they are the most customer friendly. But let the failures of countless other airlines since deregulation be a warning–its a tough business!

      • JayB says:

        Noah, Thanks for your comments. Everytime Cranky sees a post with more than 2 paragraphs, I’ll bet he gets a little nervous. But, the posts seem uniformly great, of course, starting with his topic selection.

        First, low-wage people. I’m pretty sure this is one of those industries where people go to work not primarily for the money. Flight crews, gate personnel, admin., you name it. Typically, very passionate people who would love to show more of a customer-friendly attitude, but who have just been beaten down, so to speak. It’s a shame this has happened and I blame airline management.

        Second, the money problem. The cheapest ticket vs. service. When you can’t differentiate service, or you don’t get any, what else do you expect customers to do. And, that pricing system remains far too complex. I submit that this is in the transportation person’s genes. They (we) love details, rules, regulations, exceptions. Please! Just set a price that will give a return. Change it as often as you may wish, but quit trying to revenue-manage us to death and always try “sell us up” to the point we feel we are always being taken advantage of.

        Of course, many of us fly Southwest, even when it isn’t the cheapest, because we know the level of service we will get, on a consistent basis.

        Third, the customer issue. Of course, this industry has lot of infrequent customers. Southwest, does too, but it knows how to treat its customers well, even its infrequent ones. One issue, though is the fact that there is so little integration between Southwest and everyone else. They might as well be in separate terminals and this not in the country’s best interest in trying to have a great air travel system.

    • CF says:

      JayB – Oh no, I like long comments. You guys are welcome to chime in with as much as you want to say. Going back to your original comment, I don’t think it’s fair to lump all airlines together.

      There are some airlines that clearly do want to fix problems, but maybe not every single person at that airline cares to fix it. (You never know who you’ll be dealing with each time.) Then there are the airlines that really don’t seem to care as much in general. It’s just a different philosophy.

  8. colpuck says:

    I booked a refundable ticket HA that when I went to refund it they told me wasn’t refundable.

  9. Bradorsomething says:

    I had the same problem with vegetarian meals when I flew my family to Hawaii last year. A real shame, since I called twice in advance to confirm my family could have vegetarian meals during the flight; they got to eat rolls.

    Hearing a case of this in First as well turns me completely off this airline.

  10. JUDY NAGY says:

    OMG, I will never complain about UA again! I’ve never flown Hawaiian and please God, never will. What a bunch of idots. No excuse for running any business like this, especially a business that puts people on airplanes.

  11. Erik Nordheim says:

    I flew Hawaiian Airlines to Maui from Seattle last year. Flight was smooth and on time. It was also a couple of hundred dollars cheaper than Alaska Airlines. I would have liked to fly Alaska Airlines to get my miles, but it wasn’t worth the extra cash.

  12. DavidT says:

    Thanks for the very informative post. Thankfully I just changed a reservation I had with them to fly LAX-BNE with AA Award miles to the direct QF flight. I had thought that a day in HNL would be nice, but then decided I couldnt bother with the hassle of transfers, hotels etc and swapped! Thanks Brett!

  13. Gary says:

    They also have a frequent flyer glitch with airlines who have joint arrangements. If you book a HA interisland flight, there is no place to enter a Delta FF number. You must book on line, the call the toll free number and have it added to you reservation. This is a waste of time that can easily be fixed.

  14. haolenate says:

    Every time I’ve flown Hawaiian transpac we were late. Then again, the common denominator is HA 36 – HNL to PHX. This flight is constantly delayed because its the last afternoon flight to the west coast, so the plane gets “taken” and used on other routes frequently. The agents were not very good at handling it or being honest with passengers on ANY of the times it was late. The airline should simply say “the plane that does your trip is now coming from Portland, Oregon and hasn’t even taken off yet.. may as well go to the beach or L & L for a few hours..” instead of doing fake rolling delays.

  15. Itan2Much says:

    Living on Maui, we have flown exclusively on Alaska Airlines the past two years because of the inept customer service of Hawaiian Airlines. Their customer service is handled in Manila and most of the agents you interact sound as if they don’t even know where Hawaii is . . . let alone know that Maui is a separate island from Oahu.

    We flew Hawaiian to the Big Island at Thanksgiving. Hawaiian not only switched our planes (which was originally a nonstop), but changed our seats. . . and, we’re FF’s. . . without as much as an email or phone call. I have my account set up for notification to my email, home phone, and mobile . . . none of which were notified. When I called the day before check-in to find out what had happened, the customer service agent tried to put the blame on me, stating they sent out an email. When I asked when, they couldn’t tell me, but said it was sent. After talking to two different agents, I was finally able to get our original seat assignments reinstated and put back on the nonstop to Maui on our return flight.

    This is not the first time we’ve had problems with their customer service. I understand outsourcing and trying to cut costs, but not to the point of pushing customers away. Even though Alaska Airlines has a lousy First Class experience to the mainland, we fly them instead of Hawaiian because of their excellent customer service. We’ve flown enough with them that we’re MVPs and they certainly treat you that way. I have 120,000 miles on Hawaiian to use. Once we use them, we’re totally done with Hawaiian unless they get their act together.

  16. Kate says:

    Once again (or more!), expectations are far greater than what is delivered. Look at the profit margins, look at the ticket price and remember it it for TRANSPORTATION for a person ONLY. Everything else, including “special meals” or a bread roll should not be expected. Be grateful that you arrived safely.

    • CF says:

      Kate – Your comment is appropriate for a coach ticket, but the example I gave was for a First Class ticket. The expectation to have at least some kind of special meal in First Class hardly seems out of line.

  17. I was on HA 466 a few days ago. My cousin, his wife & child and I were on our way from Pago Pago, American Samoa to Honolulu. This Red Eye flight was full so I just fell asleep before takeoff. I wake up at 1:30 AM to see the plane still on the ground. The captain on the controls of that stuffy-aired Boeing 767-300 ran into mechanical problems involving rudders or Door Paddings. Once I heard his problems as a FF, I knew we had to get off the plane and so I did with a lot of angry passengers. Hawaiian Air gave out hotel vouchers while the locals in the island were told to go back to their homes and “listen to the radio for further information.” I like the fact the PPG staff told us to listen to the radio and not tell us which Radio Station to follow for information about our flight. You’d have to understand, Pago Pago doesn’t have a lot of hotels beyond Tradewinds and the Rainmaker hotel leaving passengers to sleep on the open air of the PPG airport. Despite the chaotic problems to anger the skygods, I was pleased how professional & calm the Flight Attendants were on HA 466. They were patient and helpful in this Federal Government-subsidized flight from hell. If hell had different levels in the skies, I had it all HA 466: Mechanical problems, Broken Luggage, patient yet-don’t-mess with passengers, aisle seats with some underseat contraption blocking my foot space, my Gluten-intolerance nightmare come true with sandwiches & Sun Chips served in-flight, and with the centralized ventilation of their Air Conditioning unit instead of having it on each seat, you can imagine the flight from hell had a unique smell. It’s my first time flying Hawaiian, It could be my last just for the absence of Gluten-Free food options alone.

    • Kate says:

      Bring your own food. If you know you have a problem, or any food intolerance, etc. DO NOT RELY on anyone but yourself to provide what you think you need.

      • Ben Mead says:

        Hey Kate, are you a shill for the airline or what? HA treats even us frequent fliers like shit. I travel 3X weekly inter-island, and recently even being able to go on-line early and reserve an empty seat up front was taken away. I spend in excess of $34,000 a year to fly inter island, and they want to make an additional $50 on my seat? HA reported $51 million in profit for 2013. $51,000,000. That is $51 MILLION. What do they think is reasonable? Don’t give me that shit that they are making $1-10 per customer per flight. Every inter-island flight is full. And the price per seat goes up the closer you near a deadline. That’s OK for people who have a choice, but here in Hawaii air travel is our only recourse in an emergency. These are the folks HA is preying on. Tell me, would you accept your physician taking bids on appointments? It’s Wednesday and you have a back so bad you can’t get out of bed. If you want to see the doc before next week, hey, pay a premium of $100 to move your date forward. They are holding extra times open for you emergency folks provided you pay the extra fee. In fact, how about you bid on the slot with several other patients? How about they only tell you on the day before your appointment that you have the slot so they can ratchet it up to the highest possible fee? I mean, just how bad is your pain? And how about if they overbook you, anticipating that somebody won’t show up? It’s cool, they will just make you wait for a less busy time….. No worries, we are a monopoly. Get real, they have a state-allowed monopoly in Hawaii and use it to every degree they can. Airlines: Capitalism Gone Wild. Hawaiian is NOT Aloha!

  18. Yikes, I wonder why they haven’t been bought out yet..

    Sure the interisland thing is a drag, but my Grandmother could run a better operation than this..

  19. Jim says:

    According to the most recent DOT report, Hawaiian Airlines has the lowest number of complaints per 100,000 enplanements of any US airline.

    Perhaps it’s because they mostly have leisure travelers who are less likely to complain?

    • CF says:

      Jim – There might be a few things going on here. First, for the big chunk of people just flying interisland, things don’t usually go wrong. And all those people form the base of people when it looks at complaint percentage. Second, a lot of the network is catering to foreign travelers, so they aren’t going to complain to the DOT either. It could have something to do with the passenger mix as well.

  20. Wow! Thanks for the heads-up. Was thinking these guys might offer a good flight experience. Will now avoid.

  21. malbarda says:

    If I am not mistaking, DL, BA, KLM do not offer special meal service in Domestic First Class (DL in the US, BA in the UK) or on shorter international flights within flights (BA, KLM). It usually a meat and vegetarian option.

    • malbarda says:

      “….on shorter international flights within flights…” meant to read: on shorter international flights within Europe.

    • CF says:

      malbarda – We’re not talking 1 or 2 hour flights. Honolulu to Sydney is a more than 10 hour flight. Phoenix is over 6.

  22. Thanks very much for this CrankyFlyer. I was seriously considering trying their AKL-HNL service when they start in March 2013, but I’m not so sure now. Having said that, Air NZ AKL-HNL isn’t much better. Unless you pay for “The Works” product, there’s no free meals on a 9-10 hour flight on Air NZ.

  23. JUDY NAGY says:

    I’m with Kate on the food thing – why would anyone rely on a stranger to cater to their food challenges? As for expecting “free food” in coach, that’s all over now, guys. Everyone wants low fares, so we have low fares and no extras are included. Take responsibility for yourself, whether it be bringing a meal, paying for food on the plane or getting a credit card that allows you to check your bag free.

  24. Renard says:

    I was scheduled to fly ogg-hnl on Hawaiian recently. (the only segment) I received a call asking if I wanted to change flights to a later flight on the same route. After speaking briefly with with HA agent, the flight was oversold. I asked what the compensation was to take the later flight. I was told that there was no compensation to take another flight. I laughed and wished the lady a nice day. I assumed they found their sucker…I mean volunteer.

  25. yo says:

    A 55 minute connection time in OGG is an ETERNITY. Any gate can be accessed by any gate in under 10 minutes, unless you are Abe Vigoda, then it would be 15 minutes. I hate the shuck and jive and it sounds like HA has gotten pretty complacent in their intra-island monopoly.

  26. PF says:

    I question the special meal expectation as being totally the airlines problem. The website states there are no special meals offered. You entered the request into your system (assume a GDS) – what was the status of the service request?

    • CF says:

      PF (and Jim) – I’m not trying to assign blame one way or the other on why she didn’t get a special meal, but if you want to blame me, I’ll take it. They wanted a daylight flight down to Australia that had a decent one way fare, so there was no other option anyway. The meal request was secondary.

      My point here is that Hawaiian is trying to expand and that it should be offering special meals as it does more and more long haul flying to a variety of different cultural destinations. It acts like a much smaller airline than it has become. The issue is not in why this one client didn’t get a special meal but the fact that Hawaiian really should be offering them.

      • DavidT says:

        I agree with you Brett. If Hawaiian wants to sell business class and act as if its a full service airline, they at least need a variety of special menus available. One of the things that made me change my reservation to QF before reading your post was the menu in coach that I checked out online. It appeared extremely unappetizing. Hawaiian is appearing a lot like Air Pacific, which isn’t nice. If they want to go cheap and nasty and appeal to the budget traveler thats fine, but please be upfront about it and don’t try and market a premium travel class! On a transpacific flight, bringing your own food on board is a limited option at very best and the least one should be able to expect, in coach or business is a normal meal with special options available.

  27. Jim says:

    Not to offend anyone, but the special meal issue sounds like the failure of the travel agent. If I pay an agent to book me a flight and tell him I am vegan, I expect him to let me know if such a meal isn’t going to be available so I can bring my own. That is why busy people use agents to do these things. Putting the request in the system and then shrugging when the airline ignores it isn’t providing good service. Even Orbitz can do that.

    • Jim says:

      Sorry if that sounded harsh, Brett. I realize that you are a flight monitoring service and not a travel agency. But I did enjoy this post, and some of the other criticisms are valid.

  28. That guy says:

    Rather sad, and pathetic, that many hear judge a company just based on hearsay. Have flown Hawaiian for years, to every quadrant of their network. I actually wonder why anyone would fly another airline to the islands… Judging by how consistently full all their flights are, I don’t think thy have to worry much.

    • Full flights doesn’t equal a profit… Although if you have a monopoly on many routes it might…

      • David M says:

        From a financial perspective, they’re doing pretty well. I believe I read a while back they’re actually sitting on a fair amount of cash, such that their stock is pretty badly undervalued. Probably explains how they’re able to pull off a lot of the recent expansion into new markets and the A321NEO order.

        Not having any real competition in the inter-island market certainly helps. They used to split the market nearly 50/50 with Aloha, but now they dominate the market as the small fleet of CRJs and Dash 8s flown by Go and Island Air don’t come close to matching the capacity of Hawaiian’s 717 fleet. So there’s a lot less competitive pressure to keep fares low.

        The west coast market is a bit more rational too, with mergers leading to the disappearance of Continental and Northwest, and the shutdown of ATA and Aloha. Alaska has certainly ramped up capacity, but they don’t seem to be bringing about a lot of pressure to keep fares consistently low. Allegiant doesn’t seem to have had much impact either as they’re flying from oddball markets (aside from Las Vegas).

  29. David M says:

    As someone who has been flying Hawaiian for years (since I was a kid flying L-1011s from LAX with my parents), I can say the service isn’t what it used to be. I haven’t been flying them as much as I used to since I mostly shop on price and it seems like United’s often been coming up cheaper.

    The coach meal stood out as having gone downhill. It’s still free, but it’s a box with a warmed entree and dessert, not the old standard entree/salad/bread/dessert setup they and other airlines used to have. The food itself isn’t as good, though I partially blame the fact that they changed executive chefs from Beverly Gannon to Chai Chaowasaree, and we haven’t been impressed with the food at his restaurant either. Though it’s still more than what you get for free on United (beverages).

    I think they’ve gotten complacent. It doesn’t take much to be better than United/Delta/American these days, so they don’t try too hard to do so. They’re coasting on their reputation for better in flight service, which still seems to be true, but a lot of things are slipping through the cracks, as they do things their own way. And they’re not really up to the standard that many international carriers set.

    Hawaii residents will often tend towards loyalty to a particular brand, especially if they’re perceived as a “local” company. It used to be that there were people that flew Hawaiian and people who flew Aloha. With Aloha gone, Hawaiian has a monopoly on those who want to “fly local”, which provides less incentive for them to really try to offer a superior product.

  30. Okay, I hate this as much as the next guy, but perhaps Hawaiian is being cut so its ready for a sale?

    I can see Delta buying it, putting taking the 717s to the mainland and replacing them with RJs. Or perhaps just keeping the 717sin Hawaii and raising the fares and operating the interisland as a sub-brand. IMHO I’m not a fan of airline within an airline, but it’d work here I’d think..

  31. jonathan reed says:

    I’m sure these are all legitimate complaints, but I love Hawaiian Air: Free, tasty hot meals for flights over the Pacific in economy and the ability to pay extra for seats with a lot of extra legroom in coach. Plus, it doesn’t take that long to call and talk to a knowledgeable person if you need to. Also, flight attendants in coach have a good attitude.

    • Fred says:

      But unless you’re just flying from Hawaii to Asia or Australia, United, Delta, as well as Asia-based airlines offer these as well (and even if you originating in Hawaii, there are still usually other airlines).

  32. Carol says:

    Wow, Hawaiian Airlines is usually one of the better airlines I thought. I’ve only had good experiences when I’ve flown with them.

  33. drybean says:

    I miss Aloha…

  34. Indeed we miss Aloha and why the poor customer service at HA? I sat next to a trainer for Aloha and she was pissed that the cabin crew were yacking their life stories away a common interisland ritual without a clue of our needs. She noted that Aloha spent +$1 mil on customer service training whereas HA, you guessed it $0. She asked!

    Cutbacks on FF awards: Last year my roundtrips KOA – LIH were 4 segments and with Pualani Platinum status 2000 miles. This year I am getting gypped with only half that. Doesn’t the IATA have a definition of a flight segment?

    My AAA agent in SD doesn’t believe what I have to go through especially changing an intinerary. Since she must make the changes through her system the $30 change fee waived for Platinum status is null and I still pay my agent her surcharge with HA’s.

  35. YouThinkHe'sCranky? says:

    I recently experienced several of the issues described in CF’s post. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m the Cranky client in several of his examples. :-) But for me, the biggest issue of all is one that CF didn’t mention:

    On our OGG-SJC flight, Hawaiian Airlines screened the movie ?Taken 2? on the big screen in the main cabin… in front of an audience that included many young children While I?m sure the movie was edited for airline use, it nevertheless retained extensive graphically violent imagery. In the first 15 minutes or so, this included:
    – A man being murdered with a pair of scissors
    – A man having his throat cut with a knife
    – A woman being kidnapped at gunpoint
    – Four men being shot and killed
    – A man being beaten

    This must have been lovely for the family whose 4-year old was seated directly in front of the big screen. This for me was the deal-breaker. Unless I hear from Hawaiian that this was a big mistake not to be repeated, I’ve taken my first and last flight on Hawaiian.

  36. Ted Bier says:

    Having just paid for 14 family members on a total of at least 18 Hawaiian flights, I strongly agree with just about every problem discussed in this article.

    Unannounced schedule changes without notification

    Unbelievably uncomfortable seats on JFK/HNL route (but excellent food)

    Poorly trained gate personnel in NY, passengers with Boarding Passes for the same seat.

    Totally unresponsive management.

    We will NEVER use them again except MAYBE for interisland.

  37. Popokigirl says:

    I’ve flown Hawaiian for many years, but it truly has become a substandard airline. My big beef is the complete unavailability of refundable tickets. One can only apply unused tickets to a new ticket, which is especially fun with the $150 change fees (which cannot be deducted from the old ticket value!). Ripoff city.

  38. don says:

    Hawaiian airlines sucks ass. I will never fly them again – their agents are incompetent, they schedule change every 5 minutes without telling you – their website is always “undergoing maintenance” and you spend hours on the phone AFTER YOU HAVE BOOKED – just making sure there are no undisclosed flight chnages, seat changes or anything else. Their standard response is “that’s not my department – you have to call reservations/web support/customer service” – always pointing the finger. I will never again spend my hard earned money on these *ss*oles!!!! Rot in piece you jerks!!!

Join the Conversation