This summer, my family decided to try a very different kind of vacation. We opted for a month-long adventure somewhere in the world. The problem is, I couldn’t take an entire month off work, so I narrowed our focus to time zones that would be friendly to me getting work done. The obvious answer was to go to Hawai’i.
As long-time readers of the blog know, I have a very strong affinity for Hawai’i. The time zone advantage would mean that I could still work a full day and have time to enjoy the afternoon on the days I had to work (like today, for instance). As an added bonus, I’d be able to do some more in-depth exploration with Hawaiian if I was on O’ahu. I’ll have plenty of write about soon enough, but today I’m just starting with my flight to Hawai’i.
I’m a big fan of having my vacation start the second I’m on the airplane, so Hawaiian was where I looked first. But then I saw that American was wide open to use miles the day we needed to go. It’s hard to turn it down when a mere 12,500 British Airways Avios plus $5.60 each would get us all to Honolulu. I booked it.
At the time, I was still Gold with American as part of that random gifting of status they did earlier this year. That meant I could reserve preferred seats without paying extra, so we grabbed middles and windows in rows 13 and 14.
As the flight approached, I got nervous. As you all know by now, American has had several operational issues whether due to labor action, weather, poor planning, etc. In the eight days before I flew, my flight was delayed due to maintenance four times. One of those days, every single one of the five LA-Honolulu flights was delayed due to maintenance. I had mentally prepared myself for a delay this time around. Fortunately, it didn’t matter if we arrived on time or not. I just hoped we wouldn’t cancel.
We left home with an absurd amount of luggage a little after 6. We got to the airport relatively quickly but then it took forever to get through the airport roadway, as usual. Our flight was leaving from Terminal 5, so we went straight there and checked all of our bags. The lines were empty, but that’s probably because they were directing everyone to use the kiosks.
Several of the kiosks weren’t working and the ones that were had long lag time. There were several frustrated and confused people milling around while the agents did their best to help.
Security was empty, though I did get flagged for a random scan. It didn’t take long and we were on the other side at our gate more than an hour before departure. Gate 50A has very little seating and it was already packed by the time we got there. Our airplane was at the gate and it appeared we’d be going on time. Boarding was called fairly early, and we got on in group 4 thanks to the American credit card I still have.
July 18, 2019
American 31 Lv Los Angeles 825a Arr Honolulu 1119a
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 50A, Runway 24L, Depart 22m Late
Honolulu (HNL): Gate F2, Runway 8L, Arrive 18m Late
N128AN, Airbus A321-231, Ugly Flag Colors, 100% Full
Seat 13E, Coach
Flight Time 5h11m
Onboard, I was reminded by the first flight attendant who greeted us that my daughter had put stickers all over my face . She asked if it was someone’s birthday, and I gave her more of an answer than I’m sure she cared to have. We had celebrated my daughter’s the night before with my parents even though her actual birthday was a week later, but the stickers were unrelated. My daughter just really likes putting stickers on my face, apparently. The flight attendant, who I believe was named Michelle, wished her a sincere happy birthday and was great throughout the flight.
We took our seats, and waited as everyone else boarded. I know American will eventually be pulling screens off this airplane. That may not be ideal, but it will at least help with the legroom. Middle seat legroom is pitiful on this airplane thanks to the inflight entertainment boxes.
There was a loud and scattered family that appeared to be from Southeast Asia. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but they kept switching seats and disrupting boarding. I had three different people sitting in the aisle next to me within a span of 15 minutes.
If you ask American, we pushed back six minutes early, but that is definitely not true. They may have moved us an inch, but there we sat. The captain came on and told us after a few minutes that there was traffic in the alley behind us, so we just had to wait for that to clear. Meanwhile, people kept standing up, getting things from the overhead bins, and getting warned by the flight attendants to sit down on more than one occasion. I felt bad for the crew.
It took more than 20 minutes before we actually started moving. The captain kept us updated a couple times and you could hear the disbelief in his voice that we were still just waiting for alley traffic to clear. When we did push back, we paused in the alley for a few more minutes. Then we finally made it out… only to have to taxi all the way over to the north runways. In the end, American says we left the gate at 8:19am, I say we actually started moving at 8:47am, but we weren’t in the air until 9:22am. Hooray, LAX.
I hadn’t flown American to Hawai’i in ages, so I was curious to see what would make the service unique on this route. The answer… nothing. American does absolutely nothing different than on any other flight. The only thing was Michelle’s nice touch of a flower in her hair and a shell necklace. I think it’s safe to assume that was not provided to her by American.
When the flight attendants came through with snacks and drinks, I had a ginger ale and — absent a mai tai option — chose whisky. It was time to start the vacation.
I opened the tray table to find it had a pretty disgusting orange hue. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but it looked nasty.
My son’s tray table next to me was just as bad. Also, the table lock was chipped off, and the plane in general didn’t appear to have been cleaned thoroughly after the inbound redeye. It wasn’t a great look.
I tried to plow through the substantial selection of movies — that was helped by the fact that our long ground delay let me start things early — but my son had other things in mind. He had to go to the bathroom a lot, so I was up probably five times. I felt bad asking the guy next to me to get up so often, but that’s the life of an aisle seat person. I didn’t appreciate that one time after we got back, the window shade had been drawn closed. My son promptly opened it back up. I have trained him well.
For the last half of the flight, my son was busy playing with the moving map and asking me a million questions. (No, I didn’t know what that random little atoll in the Pacific was.)
I was just ready to be there. As if the flight wasn’t long enough I had a recliner in front of me. I’m not claustrophobic, but I did feel uncomfortable.
As we got closer to Hawai’i, the flight attendants came through with a water service and brought out my favorite form in the world.
If I’m filling this out, it means I’m landing in Hawai’i soon. Sure enough, we sliced over Kaneohe and headed out to the ocean before looping around to land toward the east. It was a beautiful day in paradise. After a quick taxi, we were parked at the close-in gate F2.
We took our own sweet time getting down to baggage claim, but when we arrived, the bags still hadn’t come off. I didn’t keep track, but it probably was long enough to qualify for compensation on Delta and Alaska. At least I could see on the app that my bags were in Honolulu. That’s a really nice feature.
Once the bags did roll off, we picked up our car and headed out of town. I’ll have more on this trip in the coming weeks.