Flying Hawaiian to Moloka’i (Trip Report)

Last month, it was Alaska. This month, I headed to Hawai’i. But unlike the trip last month, this was a true vacation and a long one at that. It was also a celebration in advance of my 40th birthday coming in September (along with my dad’s 70th). The plan was this. I’d head to Moloka’i for a week. My wife would join me for a few days. Then I’d spend another week on the Big Island with the whole family.

This was a fantastic trip that gave me a new record short flight (9 miles from Kalaupapa to topside Moloka’i on Makani Kai Air), a first experience flying Mokulele, and a handful of new airports including Waimea on the Big Island. I’m going to break this down into several posts, so for today, let’s just start with the flights out.

I found First Class availability from LA to Moloka’i on Hawaiian for 40,000 miles on the day I wanted, so I grabbed it right away. There’s something about flying Hawaiian to Hawai’i that I love. Part of it is the widebody aircraft, because it reminds me of flying to Hawai’i as a kid (and I love widebodies). But the bigger part of it is that when you’re going to Hawai’i, you want that vacation to start as soon as possible. And with Hawaiian, it starts when you walk on the airplane.

I checked in online the day before my flight, and only then did I realize just how early a 7am departure was. I wasn’t complaining, but it meant an early wake-up call. I took a Lyft to LAX and got there just before 6am. It was strange going to Terminal 5 at LAX since Hawaiian has been in Terminal 2 for so long, but at least Terminal 5 is a nice spot. There was no line at the premium counter and the agent seemed a bit surprised to see me checking a bag through to Moloka’i. (I’m guessing they don’t get a ton of people going there.)

I sailed through the Pre Check security line, and as I got to the gate, boarding had just begun.


July 26, 2017
Hawaiian 1 Lv Los Angeles 7a Arr Honolulu 955a
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 58, Runway 24L, Depart 8m Early
Honolulu (HNL): Gate 34, Runway 8L, Arrive 13m Early
N393HA, Airbus A330-243, Standard Hawaiian colors, 100% Full in First, pretty full in Coach
Seat 2J, First Class
Flight Time 5h29m

I was holding out hope that I would end up with a new Hawaiian flat bed in First Class on this flight, but I got one of the only 7 aircraft left that has the old seats. Oh well.

I’ve written about these before, so I won’t get into great detail, but there’s nothing special about these seats. They’ll be gone soon enough with, I believe, only 3 aircraft left by the end of the year and the rest done by next summer.

I turned down the pre-departure mai tai thinking it was just a bit too early. Menus were handed out, and I settled in for our flight. From Terminal 5, it was a longer taxi to get back to the north runways for departure, but it wasn’t too long before we were airborne and heading west into the marine layer.

This time when they came by with drinks, I couldn’t resist and had a mai tai with macadamia nuts on the side.

It was good, but it was sweet. And when the first course came out with lemon poppyseed cake along with fruit, I was feeling some sugar overload.

By the time the omelette with cheese and onions came out, I wasn’t feeling great. I certainly wasn’t hungry, and I found myself feeling really drowsy. In fact, I briefly feel asleep and woke up awhile later with the food no longer at my seat. At least I was feeling better.

I flipped on “Hidden Figures” and tried to relax. Eventually I went to the lav, and the flight attendant immediately stopped me. She said she saw I had fallen asleep so she took my food away so I didn’t fall into it. She said she could serve it to me anytime. I wasn’t ready for that, but I appreciated her letting me know.

Not long after, I was feeling like my normal self. I asked the flight attendant if she’d mind serving my breakfast and she seemed more than pleased to oblige. She brought out my tray, and I scarfed down the omelette. It was actually very good.

It was a beautiful and smooth day up at altitude as we continued making progress. About 3 hours into the flight, I allowed myself to get truly excited since I knew we had passed the halfway mark, and even if there was a problem, we weren’t turning around. (Yes, that’s ridiculous, I know.) After the first movie was over, I made the awful mistake of flipping on “Why Him?” Oh man, that was awful, even by airplane movie standards.

As we got closer, the flight attendants came through with a bag of Maui chips and the always-delicious Koloa Rum punch.

I had finished that when the flight attendant came through saying she never served my cheesecake dessert from breakfast. I had that too.

Even though sugar sounded awful earlier, for some reason it was immediately hitting the spot now.

Once the movie mercifully ended, I switched to listening to music (Territorial Airwaves) as we came close to the islands.

We flew directly over Maui, so I missed most of the good views until we flew south of O’ahu. After passing under a cloud layer, the gusts picked up, and we landed toward the east as usual. We taxied to the very last gate on the Ewa Concourse, but I knew I’d still have plenty of time to make my flight.

As I got off, there was someone there holding a sign with my name on it. Apparently Hawaiian was concerned that my layover was too short, so they sent someone who usually works with Japanese groups over to assist. She walked with me over to my connecting flight in that odd little spur off the southern end of the interisland terminal, and she stuck around until I boarded. That was nice of Hawaiian but certainly unnecessary. I had plenty of time to kill.

Our flight was fairly full, but with so few seats we didn’t start boarding until a few minutes before departure.


July 26, 2017
‘Ohana by Hawaiian 614 Lv Honolulu 1056a Arr Molokai 1128a (Operated by Empire)
Honolulu (HNL): Gate 49, Runway 8R, Depart 3m Early
Molokai (MKK): Gate 2, Runway 5, Arrive 3m Early
N804HC, ATR 42-500, Standard ‘Ohana colors, ~70% Full
Seat 4D, Coach
Flight Time 16m

‘Ohana uses gates 49 and 50, and today we were at 49. I walked out on to the ramp to find the very same aircraft I had flown back in 2014 when I visited with Hawaiian for the blog.

As I boarded, I asked the flight attendant if the airline still had the ukulele onboard as was the case when ‘Ohana launched. He paused and then said that indeed it was still there. I asked if I could have it, and he said he’d bring it to me.

I took my seat and realized that this airplane was worse for wear.

You could tell that it really hadn’t received much interior care lately. The seats were tired, and there were scratches all over. The overhead bins had gunk on them.

The airplane still did its job just fine, but it certainly didn’t look good.

As we got ready to leave, the flight attendant showed up with the ukulele in a beaten up case. It was this ukulele that sparked my interest in learning to play back in 2014. Here I was with my own uke, hoping I could repay the favor by tuning it up and giving it a little love on the short flight across the Kaiwi Channel.

It turns out the ukulele was actually still tuned up nicely, and I began to play as we started our taxi out. I played softly (or it sounded soft against the roar of the props), but it was a great feeling for me considering when I took this picture back in 2014, I didn’t know how to play anything.

We were soon in the air for the extremely short flight. The flight attendant came through and flung POG juice or water at each passenger.

Then we started our descent. I asked if anyone ever asked for the ukulele, and he said that I was the first he’d ever seen. So I was pleased to be able to give the neglected instrument a little workout.

We descended over Moloka’i and found ourselves bounced around until we planted firmly on the runway. Moloka’i Airport has 2 gates for departure, but all arrivals just go through a single gate out toward the baggage claim, which is in itself just a single shelf which seemed to do better a bench than anything.

I walked out into the parking lot and picked up the car — only on Moloka’i can they just leave the keys under the seat — and headed out into a Hawaiian experience like I’ve never had before. It’s a bit out of the ordinary for this blog, but I may write up more about Moloka’i anyway in the next report. If you’re interested (or if you’re not), let me know in the comments or via email.

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37 Responses to Flying Hawaiian to Moloka’i (Trip Report)

  1. Chris says:

    Always goid to hear about your experience on the ground at places you go to, makes the flights look less random !

  2. enplaned says:

    Let’s have some Molokai…

  3. David A says:

    I’ve flown Hawaiian many times over the years, with mixed feelings. I’ve always found the flight attendants on inter-island flights far more pleasant than the long haul flights, although it sounds like you had a great one out of LAX. But you are right on the money about their tired short hop planes. They get a lot of use and it shows. Your description of your small puddle jumper could also apply to their workhorse 717s. People are on board such a short time, they probably don’t care. But those inter-island planes are showing their age.

    • CF says:

      David A – Have you been on the 717s since they redid the interiors with slimline seating? I was on one a couple years back and it was spotless from what I recall. Of course, that was a couple of years ago so it may be different now. Just curious if those new interiors had fared better.

    • Brysen says:

      The flight attendants on the Interisland flights tend to be the old veterans that fly because they love what they do. The newer ones tend to get the transpac flights, and so service isn’t always the best. Same goes for the pilots.

  4. colruff says:

    I am a private pilot and rented a plane on Maui. I also hired a flight instructor to go with me. My wife rode in a seat with no discernible support. We flew around Maui and I landed at Hana. Then we flew up to the area where the seven sacred falls are located.
    The plane was a Cessna 172 that looked like it had cans of yellow paint sprayed on. When we got in the plane the instructor got some wire to keep his door closed as we flew. The plane had a STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) kit installed.
    After we left Hana we headed to Molokai. As we flew north we passed a huge canyon with waterfalls. The instructor said some Jurassic  Park scenes were filmed here. Approaching Molokai we saw the graves of the leprosy victims lining the island. I landed at Kalaupapa. This is a short runway and the STOL kit made it easy.  This is a great memory of my time as a pilot. I no longer fly. I lost my medical certificate when I was diagnosed with cancer and I soldmy Beech Bonanza. After treatment I was cancer free and started the process to re-qualify for the medical certificate. Then I was diagnosed with cancer again. Radiation treatments made me cancer free again and this time it has been 8 years cancer free. Never did get my medical back.
    Renting an airplane in Maui and flying to Molokai was a wonderful experience. Really enjoy your blog.

  5. caalberson says:

    Would love to hear more about Molokai. My nuns from Syracuse served the lepers there and I have always wanted to visit. What is there to do and or see?
    Cathy

    • Mike R says:

      I went there in January 2017 and loved Molokai. Extremely laid back with much more local feel than other islands. You can hike, fly or mule ride to/from Kalaupapa. Besides that, there are some beautiful beaches, great hikes and a definite lack of the tourist vibe (which I love). A great place to visit and I can’t wait to see what Cranky did while on the Island.

    • CF says:

      Cathy – Oh yes, Mother Marianne (er, Saint Marianne) and several others did some really tough work down in Kalaupapa. We did visit, and I’ve read a great deal about it as well. I’ll be sure to include some of that in the write-up.

      • caalberson says:

        Thanks. Her convent was 2 miles from my home. And her order taught at my grammar school.
        I would like to visit this island, but know it is not a tourist destination.

  6. Malcolm Harriss says:

    Hi from England Another of your fascinating trip reports – you certainly get to more places than I ever did in my near 50 years in the travel business!
    I’d be very interested to hear your experiences on Moloka’i. It’s not somewhere I’d ever expect to be able to visit as it’s half a world away, and funds are more limited now I’m retired.
    Hope you have many more years of happy travelling and I get to visit many different places through you.

  7. Doug Swalen says:

    I did Molokai as a day trip once. With like only two hotels on the island (a third resort on the north side was shut down) it’s not like they get a lot of guests.

  8. Liz says:

    Yes, please write about Moloka’i like how you wrote about the Milk Run in Alaska! It was so easy to visualize the experience with your story telling style of writing.

    Liz

  9. georgechesney says:

    Please do a Moloka’i post! Fascinating Island and did the Mike ride down to Kalapapa years ago. Love the place.

    Thx

  10. pddee says:

    I’m interested in learning of your experiences on Moloka’i as you write so very well. Thanks.

    Patrick Dee

  11. mr.johns says:

    I for one would be interested in hearing more about Molokai. Thanks in advance for sharing.

  12. Bob Schilling says:

    I’d love to hear more about Molokai.  An yes, 0700 departures are really, really early.

  13. JayB says:

    Of the 50 states, are there any to which you haven’t flown?

    • CF says:

      jaybru – Oh sure there are plenty. I have visited all 50 but I’ve done a lot of driving. Looks like there are 35 I’ve flown to. The ones I haven’t flown to are Idaho, Montana, N Dakota, S Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, S Carolina, W Virginia, Delaware, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine.

      • oldiesfan6479 says:

        Crankster–if you want to fly into Delaware, you’ll have to wait until UA decides to reinstate its “all 50” service from some years ago. What was it–an ILG tag to an ORD-MDT flight? On a 721?

        • CF says:

          Well, more recently Delta tried that 50 state strategy. And Frontier was there a couple years ago until it couldn’t make it work either. I think I’m ok with not flying to Delaware anytime soon. ;)

  14. kaageesaak says:

    Truly enjoy the articles you write!  After reading this one I’m interested in a trip Moloka’i.

  15. Please do write more on Molokai as I own a small travel agency that does about half Hawaii trips.
    I’d love to hear your up to date observations.
    Mahalo!
    Paul

  16. Scotfree1999 says:

    Love to hear more about Molokai! Been Hawaii many times but never made to Molokai. Flew over it in a Helicopter..please tell more!

  17. Yo says:

    I’m flying to LIH on Sunday. I know exactly what you mean about the half way point. I was on a flight to KOA once and there was a guy that was having massive sweats and problems (probably coming down from some club drugs) All I could do was get out the GPS and start doing some calculating on when we would past the point of no return..LOL. I still haven’t been to MKK, after dozens of trips..I have to go there some day.

  18. A Kindred Soul aka Norman L. Wherrett, Jr. says:

    We’ll suggest Seattle’s own Rick Steves [KCTS-9 pbs] visit and add his video & commentary….Should boost Hawaian’s numbers enough to refurb that beater ATR42!  A KINDRED SOULaka Norm Wherrett

  19. Gary says:

    Interested. Never been to Molokai.

  20. Dave says:

    My only question is if the inflight movie was that bad why did you continue to watch it? LOL

    • CF says:

      Letstry2 – This is a very good question. Once I start a bad movie, I still feel the need to see how it ends. It’s a sickness, yes.

  21. Bajean says:

    Molokai is Mo Betta – spill plz.

  22. AdrianinNZ says:

    I travelled from New Zealand to Hawaii to do the Pride of America cruise and then afterwards did a side trip to Molokai for the day to do the mule ride down to Kalaupapa. It was wonderful and I met people on this mule ride who I am still Facebook friends with.
    (Although on the day I went the driver of the old school bus broke the key in the ignition and we had to walk some of the way from the far church). When I went, only Island Air & Mokulele did the route from HNL. I used both. I would love to read what your experience of Molokai was like.

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