Eight First Class Tickets on Delta to Maui for the Price of One (Trip Report)

Delta, Trip Reports

For the third year in a row, we had decided to take a late Summer/early Fall vacation to Maui. Two years ago, we flew Alaska. Last year we flew United. And this year it was time to fly Delta. This, however, was the best deal yet.

Mai Tai on Delta

While I do like flying Delta, the choice was more good luck than anything. Last December, Delta filed a whole bunch of mistake fares. We caught it and ended up with 8 of us paying a mere $161.60 each roundtrip from LA… in First Class.

Delta’s frequent schedule changes meant my parents, my brother, and his wife weren’t willing to risk the early morning connection from Phoenix to LA. So instead, they flew Southwest in the day before. The morning of the flight, I dropped my wife and daughter at the curb to meet up with them, and I took my son to park the car (at QuikPark, of course) before making my way to the gate.

Delta saves its least impressive aircraft for the Hawai’i runs. This one was nearly 30 years old with the last 18 spent with Delta. It was originally delivered to Singapore but then picked up by ATA. We boarded early and took our seats. The aircraft looked old on the inside, but the seats were pretty comfy with leg rests that extended out from the seat.

September 20, 2014
Delta 1197 Lv Los Angeles 825a Arr Kahului (Maui) 1104a
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 55A, Runway 24L, Depart On Time
Kahului (OGG): Gate 35, Runway 2, Arrive 22m Early
N752AT, Boeing 757-212, Standard Delta colors, ~95% Full
Seat 2B, First
Flight Time 4h57m

There is nothing quite as great as boarding a flight to Hawai’i, because all of the excitement from everyone onboard. Despite the early hour, I was more than happy to take a mai tai and get the party started.

We were ready to go right on time, and we moseyed on over to the south north runway complex for departure. As usual, we took off and kept going straight until we ran into an island.

Nancy was taking care of us for the most part, and she did an excellent job. Drinks came out quickly and frequently, and breakfast was started right away. We had ordered toddler meals (a Delta thing, apparently) for the kids, and Nancy was kind enough to bring those both out first so they wouldn’t have to wait. The pancakes were a huge hit.

Delta First Class Breakfast

I, on the other hand, had the eggs. (The cereal was all taken by the time she got to me.) They were kind of runny and not very tasty, though that could have been personal preference. My dad thought his were good.

We had all of rows 2 and 3, with the seatbelt sign off, we milled around a bit. It was my dad’s birthday so we all brought cards for him on the flight. Everyone was talking, laughing, and just having a good time… too good, apparently. Nancy came back and politely told us that some people were sleeping so we should keep it down. I’m amazed she was as nice as she was about it – we probably were getting too wound up but we toned it down quickly.

We hit a little chop and the seatbelt sign went on. The pilots must have forgotten about it because it never went off again despite smooth air most of the way. Every passenger pretty much ignored it, and that is so dangerous. If the sign is on, it should be for good reason. If people get too complacent, then they may not be belted when it really matters.

This airplane just had an overhead screen for entertainment. I was tempted to watch the movie simply for the throwback – these seats still had the place for the old pneumatic headsets to plug in in addition to the not-as-old-school two prong ones – but I resisted. Instead, we all just talked and relaxed, with Nancy feeding us just the right amount of drinks as we darted across the ocean.

There was a snack basket (not a “hearty” one, I don’t believe) with the usual pretzels, peanuts, and Biscoff cookies, which are quickly teaching my son to read (or at least spell Delta). Then it was time to start our descent. We came into a nice and breezy Kahului a few minutes early.


Normally I don’t talk about the ground experience, but I absolutely have to talk about what a horrendous operation Budget was running when we arrived. In the small, cramped office (you have to take the shuttle over there), it was hot and people were scattered everywhere. We were told we had to check in with someone first and give them our name. Then we had to wait 30 to 45 minutes before they’d call us and allow us to get in the long, snaking line.

It took well over an hour to get our cars (we had two), and they even had trouble finding our reservations. I gave the confirmation numbers and they magically appeared. The place was an absolute mess. I felt sorry for the people who worked there on the front line and had to deal with this. Of course, why did we pick Budget? Because it was the cheapest. You get what you pay for, I suppose, but we rented from Budget last year as well and it was fine then.

After a very relaxing week, we hopped in the cars and began the worst part of the trip – the drive to the airport to come home.

Dropping the car off at Budget was far easier than picking it up, though they did ask if we had had an “incident” pointing at some chipped paint. This location makes you do a walk-around before hand, however, so we had marked it. I’m still waiting to see some unauthorized charge show up.

The Pre-Check line was short, and we found ourselves behind a couple of United pilots. My son was really taking a hard look at their flight bags, and the captain opened up a pocket and pulled out a set of wings for him. My son was very excited, though I joked that he shouldn’t tell them who we were flying home.

Captain Hogg at OGG

We walked by gate 19, where Hawaiian just set up a display talking about how OGG got its airport code. (It’s from Captain Hogg.) Then we just kept walking. Delta uses gate 35, waaaay down at the end. The airport also seems to have turned off all moving walkways so it’s definitely a hike when dragging kids with you.

September 27, 2014
Delta 1196 Lv Kahului (Maui) 1236p Arr Los Angeles 839p
Kahului (OGG): Gate 35, Runway 2, Depart 7m Early
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 68A, Runway 24R, Arrive 9m Early
N547US, Boeing 757-251, Standard Delta colors, ~99% Full
Seat 2B, First
Flight Time 4h50m

If I thought our airplane out left anything to be desired, it was only because I hadn’t been on this airplane yet. I believe Delta has about 342 different 757 configurations (though the airline is working on standardizing), and this one was an ex-Northwest airplane in rough shape on the inside. The seats had the same blue leather on them, but they were definitely different. These had drop down Greyhound-style footrests on them with the flimsy tray table coming out of the seatback instead of the arm.

Condensation on Delta

It was a hot, humid day and the air conditioning was creating crazy condensation in the cabin. The seat in front of us was a little wet, but row 4 was just a mess. The flight attendants could only assure the occupants of those seats that this would stop once we were on our way.

We closed up early and followed a United 737 all the way to LA. It was a cloudy, rainy kind of day on Maui, but that was mostly over the island. Ahead were nothing but blue skies.

Unfortunately we our takeoff roll began, it became clear that the condensation was having quite the effect on the flight attendant call system. Row 4 was flashing on and off and the chime was sounding erratically every few seconds. People seemed very concerned. After all, the last thing you want is an electrical short over the middle of the Pacific. But the flight attendants didn’t seem to think it was an issue. I assumed it was fine, but does anyone know?

Flimsy Tray Table

My son, who had been incredibly good on the way over, was back to his more challenging ways on this ride. He didn’t want to buckle his seatbelt or sit still. We got him to do it, but not without a fight. Once in the air, the entertainment began with a fabulous milk fountain spectacular. Yeah, I thought I had unscrewed the sippy cup, but… rookie mistake. That got my son’s pants wet, and he wasn’t happy.

I did calm him down, but then shortly after, my hand struck the still half full and now unscrewed sippy cup. It was a deluge. My son was now soaked and screaming at the top of his lungs. First things first, we changed him and calmed him down. Then I grabbed a bunch of tissues and wipes and got to work. One of the flight attendants was sympathetic (clearly having kids of her own) but the other didn’t look too happy. She should have been since I cleaned it on my own.

With everything looking good, it was time for food. The tray tables had seen better days. They didn’t come out and stay in position, so our trays kept sliding off. My son had another toddler meal of chicken nuggets and tater tots which he liked. I had this big ravioli, but I only had a couple of bites before deciding it wasn’t for me.

Delta First Class Ravioli

The flight went on, and my son was not happy about it. We finally got him to hang out with my wife so that was a welcome break. I was going to kick back and watch the movie, but they had the wrong one on the overhead screen. It was supposed to be X-Men, and I hadn’t seen that. Instead, they put Captain America on, one we had actually seen one night on this very trip. So much for that. I just pulled out my computer and started typing.

Snack baskets came through again and we grabbed a few Biscoffs to bribe my son if needed. As the sun set, we hit a few bumps and that meant more protests from my son needing to buckle up. But he settled down and the lights of Santa Barbara began to twinkle ahead.

Landing was uneventful but they did park us at the dreaded Terminal 6. There’s nothing wrong with Terminal 6 but it’s a long walk to baggage claim. At least LAX has finally allowed Delta to put some color in the long corridor between T6 and T5 now. It looks much better with photos and captions of cities along the way.

I grabbed the car and then it was time to head home.

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44 comments on “Eight First Class Tickets on Delta to Maui for the Price of One (Trip Report)

  1. I fly American from L.A. to/from Kauai quite often and have noticed they also seem to assign antique aircraft to that route. However flights from mainland cities to Honolulu seem to be on newer, or at least better maintained equipment. Is it an outer-island thing?

    1. Bill – I think it’s all the islands, really. Sometimes Honolulu does get upgraded equipment, like Delta’s one daily international 767, but the rest are on 757s. Of course. Hawaiian has a great product out of Honolulu, so that skews things too.

      I think Hawai’i flights sometimes get treated this way because you can’t get wifi if you’re using Gogo. So the airlines that do that can put the airplanes they haven’t upgraded yet and not degrade the experience as much. Plus, yeah, it’s not the business traveler very often so they think they can just get away with it.

      1. Don’t tell that to UAL Brett. My S.O. just got back SFO-KOA and they put one of their newer-ish 737-800s on it…the ones with DirecTV and Wi-Fi. Yup, 10 minutes in to the flight…the in flight entertainment was DOA. I used to gripe about UAL putting its bastard stepchild planes on the island legs…but they at least had working in flight entertainment. 5 hours with no IFE…you’d have to go back decades to aircraft that flew legs that long without even a movie.

  2. thanks for posting the trip report. sounds as if you had trouble with your kid’s tantrums, though understandably started by the wetting of the pants. sounds as if you’ve spoiled your kid. I sort of speak from experience. one time we flew to LAX to go to disney. on the way back i had to find a place that could warm-up my daughter’s milk. I found one way away from where our flight was departing. Once back to the gate my daughter took a sip and out came out ‘hot bottle’ which meant it was not warm enough. so, there i went back to the nice lady that allowed me to heat up milk in their microwave. oh the pleasures of traveling with kids.

    1. IO – Actually, he’s not picky about the temp of his milk. But he really hates getting wet. If we’re at the pool, he wants to take his wet clothes off as soon as he’s out of there.

    2. Randomly related:

      So have most airlines pulled Milk from the drink choices? I was thinking about this, that at one point it made sense, since it’d have to be refrigerated, but there are shelf stable varieties of milk that don’t need to be refrigerated, and probably would last as long as the sodas..

    1. There are threads on FlyerTalk specifically dedicated to publicizing mistake fares. I don’t personally use them, but they should be pretty easy to find.

    2. Jeremy – Yeah there’s this whole weird culture about not telling people about mistake fares, thinking that if they do, then the airline will find out and squash it. You can find some threads on places like FlyerTalk but it’s a weird thing. This one we just stumbled on and quickly acted before it was pulled. I don’t think I’ve ever benefited from a mistake fare before, so it can just be luck of the draw.

      1. I probably ask this every time mistake fares come up, but why aren’t their technological barriers to this? Airlines could put a floor price in for every route/cabin and require manual intervention to put a price in the market that is lower than that. Seems like it’d be an easy way to prevent these sorts of things.

        1. Nick – I’m not exactly sure what happened here because this was a MASSIVE mistake fare. This wasn’t just a one off but it was in a ton of domestic markets. So something went awry somewhere. Could have been a corrupted file they uploaded or something. I’m not sure.

          1. Wow. If its a corrupt file problem I need to introduce them to the concept of checksums. ;-)

            It’ll be interesting to see when or if any airlines fix the mistake fare problem. Given that Richard Anderson has spoken about making DL into an “Industrial” company you’d think appropriate controls over pricing would be a key thing, with a no-brainer of an ROI.

  3. “Delta saves its least impressive aircraft for the Hawai’i runs.”

    understatement of the year. last year on an OGG->LAX flight, delta had to swap out the 757 we were supposed to take with one of that had one its other 342 configurations. people in F were moved to EC, peple in EC (like me and my wife) were moved to standard economy seats. it was chaos, people were yelling and the whole scene was unpleasant. i never complain when things go awry, but i wrote a short note to delta and was able to reclaim a bit of the skypesos that i spent on the trip.

  4. I gave up on Budget, long lines everytime. I joined Dollar’s renter club and now can get pretty cheap rates, a buck or two more than Budget, and go straight to my car. Now tht Dollar is owned by Hertz, their service has steadily improved over the last year.

    1. I ran into a 1+ hr. Budget line in Vegas too, but here’s a tip. I spent 5 minutes sign up for fastbreak (free) on their website while in line. I had a membership number in seconds. Then I was able to walk to the fastbreak booth, where there was no line, and check-in after giving them my new fastbreak number. I had even booked on priceline and was amazed that it worked!

      1. Steve – Yeah, that would have helped. I did that last year, but this time the cars weren’t in my name, and I just shrugged it off thinking it wouldn’t be an issue. I won’t make that mistake again.

    2. Ditto on Fastbreak. You only need 3 rentals a year to re-qualify, so you don’t even have to be THAT frequent a renter. I walk straight to my car, without having to deal with the hard sell for insurance, GPS, pre-paid fuel, etc. OTOH, on a trip to Orlando recently, I decided to go with Dollar because they were half the price of everyone else. Stood in line for more than 40 minutes, all the while listening to one counter employee lying to customers about I-95 now being a toll road to get them to pay extra for toll transponders. A handful of us laughed that standing in line for 40 minutes was the price we were all paying for being cheap.

  5. “””””….followed a United 737 all the way to LA”””””

    Not thats sad for an airline that used to just fly 747’s to Hawaii, I know it was Maui which wouldn’t get a 747, but looking and seeing 757/737’s from an airline with a big operation in LAX and who has been serving Hawaii for many a decade, it’s hard to believe that later day flights out of LAX are on 737’s. You would think those would be good connecting flights from other cities so could work for a widebody.

    Flights to Hawaii seem to be no better then a short ORD-DTW run then the magic they used to be.

    For me an old looking airplane flying 5 hours over open water would not thrill me. I still don’t like being on two engine airplanes over long spans of open water, let alone a tired looking old two engine plane.

    1. I’d much rather fly a 737 any day over a 757. The majority of the United 737-900s are 2008 and newer with a bunch delivered in 2013 and 2014.

      the last 757 to roll off the factory line was 2006…with most of these US carriers having them delivered in the early 90s….

      I flew the newly UA 777 Hawaiian configuration in May from ORD-OGG (i think they have reconfigured 9 of them now), the wifi is a joke. no IFE for 9 hrs. luckily had done my research on that in advance.

  6. Better watch out, Cranky. Don’t let Chris Elliott find out you booked mistake fares, or he’ll declare you a bottom-feeder and a thief on his blog…

  7. Your comment about the seat belt light is spot on. On too many flights lately I’ve seen the same ‘set and forget’ behavior. It is bad form from the cockpit and absolutely produces a dangerous behavior. Because it happens so often people start to ignore it and FAs stop enforcing it. Personally, I like the ‘trigger happy’ pilots who turn it on and off and on and off because it means they’re paying attention to their customers’ safety and comfort.

    1. I’ve only run into once where the FAs enforced it, and it surprised me. I think part of it is push back from the FAs who have to do a cabin check every time it comes on.

      1. I flew from EWR – MSP a couple of months ago where the pilots had the ‘set-and-forget’ mentality (I swear the seat belt sign was only off for all of 15 minutes of the 2h45 flight), and the one FA delighted in taking power trips by ordering passengers back to their seats (it was a ERJ-170 on Shuttle America). My fellow passengers ended up “sneaking” to the lavs when she was occupied with her service duties at the front of the plane. I did think about filing a complaint, but in all seriousness, I doubt anyone would do anything – since I have no hard evidence, it will be all too easy to dismiss my claims as a passenger who knows nothing about air safety.

  8. I have only flowing Delta once from LAX-TPA and it was on the oldest 737 I have ever flown. They had problems before we boarded, the inside of the airplane looked OLD (yet there were in seat TVs) and the wall panel in my row was partially broken and you could see insulation. Bad first impression.

  9. Do you mean you moseyed over to the NORTH runway complex for departure from LAX? (Gate 55A to runway 24L.)

  10. I know many of the airlines fly sub par aircraft to Hawaii and I don’t really get it. You think they would want to impress vacationers but I guess not. I know US air has doggy aircraft to Hawaii as well. Sad I say.

    1. Meh, vacationers who don’t want to spend any money on their vacation? Why bother trying to impress when it doesn’t matter what you deliver? They’ll just buy on price.

    1. fififlies – While I agree that this was a ridiculously cheap ticket, I don’t agree that you shouldn’t be able to complain just because you didn’t pay a lot. (This is a more general topic as opposed to this specific mistake fare situation.) The airlines set the prices and they give very little reason to buy up to a higher fare, so in general, people should be able to complain no matter what they paid.

      In this case, however, I’m just calling it like I saw it. I was more than happy with the value we received for the price paid!

  11. If Cranky paid rack rate for his fares, Budget’s service still would have been bad.

    For all Hawaii islands (except Lanai), I strongly recommend discounthawaiicarrental.com. They service most (if not all) of the major agencies and always seem to be able to find the best rates. I’ve booked on my own through them and have also used their search service and they have yet to disappoint me.

  12. Thanks for the side notes on the OGG Airport. I knew it was named after a Captain Hogg but I always thought he was a United Captain. Matters not, he was interesting to read about. Thanks again.

  13. Went to Hawaii on DL in 1998 – on an L1011. Had no idea those planes were still flying as late as that. It was pretty beat up but F Class was decent enough and was ok by me. The plane had this super industrial heavy duty feel to it, which was reassuring considering its age. Wish I’d taken some photos.

    757s are my least favorite aircraft. Basically a super stretched version of an old 737. Old 73s are also on my dislike list. The new ones on the other hand I find adequate for the job, esp. the one’s with the updated 787 style interiors.

    Was on a UA 757 a few years back from IAD to LAX that had to divert to DFW because it lost and couldn’t regain cabin pressure. UA sent another 757 down from Denver and we continued on. Most of the 75s are just too old for comfort.

  14. OGG has been my home airport since 1998 and I fly in or out at least twice a month. I’ve got 3.2 million lifetime miles on AA.

    In all my time here I’ve NEVER seen those moving sidewalks you mentioned (just past the agricultural inspection) in working order. Not once.

  15. Why did you use the T6-T5 tunnel to get to baggage claim? Its far easier (and less up & down) to exit T6 via the lower level and take a quick left through AS baggage into DL’s baggage area.

  16. Similar experience with US Air returning from honeymoon. OGG to PHL with a transfer at PHX. Weirdly bad plane. Horrible service. Cold cereal for breakfast in First. My wife and I were disgusted. Thankfully, the PHX to PHL flight was more up to par. Others in First on the same OGG-PHL route commented “what was wrong with the last plane?” It was almost as if the plane was on its last legs. At least 30 years old. Is there a max years of life?

    We had used United with 180 degree lie-flat seats to fly from Newark to Honolulu. I guess it spoiled us.

  17. When did Delta start flying out of gate 35? I have been flying back and forth between LAX and OGG for years, and always have gone in and out of gate 7. Anyways, great report! Been on N752AT many times, and also had an issue with our EX-NWA 757-200 (N545US) on the way home. Bad enough to delay us from 1:30pm to 8:17pm. I kid you not, we backed out, and the other Delta red-eye flight to LA pulled in behind us! Quite the adventure…

    1. Kyle – I don’t know how long it’s been, but I do remember gate 35 (and all the ones down at the end) looking pretty empty when we flew last year. Looking at flight status, it looks like Hawaiian is using gate 7 for ‘Ohana right now so my guess is that Delta moved when ‘Ohana started on Maui.

  18. I know this is a really old post but I’ve been reading your trip reports on slow days at the office.

    I’ve flown to HNL twice, both times I’ve connected in ORD on UAL on the way out because they use a 772 and I try to get on a widebody every chance I get. (I’ve tried to connect in LAX or SFO but my schedule never seems to align with the 777 on the way out. I’ve taken the red eye to SFO coming back on the 777 both times though.)

    The 777 came out in the mid 90s and on both trips the planes looked the part. Instead of your own personal screen you have the bulky overhead screens and a screen on the cabin bulkhead that you cant see if the windows are open, and air phones in every row. I really don’t mind though because with the 2-5-2 configuration, I’ve been on the aisle of the center section (in economy plus, I’m 6’4) both times and each time I have had an empty seat next to me. Like you, I prefer a window so I’ve missed the breathtaking views on approach, but its a small price to pay for comfort on a 9.5 hour flight. The seats were cloth, which I prefer to the new leather seats, and a little wider I think. The crew (and most of the passengers) also looked like they had been around a while. But they were perfectly pleasant and on both trips there were medical emergencies where they had to do the whole “if there are medical personnel on board….” routine and the crew handled them with confidence and we were able to stay in the air. I just don’t understand why ORD gets the shaft with the old aircraft on that route, while the EWR run gets a sleek new 767.

    I enjoy flying in general so my only complaint is that even though the flight is over 9 hours, you have to pay for any sort of meal in coach. I know this isn’t anything new, but I’ve been on shorter flights to and from Europe and been fed two meals and a snack. On both these trips to HNL I paid $8 for just a ham and cheese sandwich.

    Now, if only I could know about these times when airlines file incorrect fares, I’d be set. I remember this being reported. And I think United was in a similar situation around this time. I’m a little surprised that all the recent outages the airlines’ computers have had in the past year haven’t caused any issues.

    I thoroughly enjoy your blog and there have been a few times when I’ve almost hired Cranky Concierge to get me out of a tight spot, but I enjoy the challenge of figuring it out myself. Keep up the good work!

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