A Hawaiian A330 Ride Back to Reality (Trip Report)

After thirty days on O’ahu, it was finally time to come home. For the ride back, there weren’t any good award options available so we surveyed our choices for paid tickets. The first thought was to fly straight back to Long Beach, but we wanted to get home earlier in the day. All the morning departures from Honolulu come back to LAX, so we naturally went with Hawaiian. Not only would it extend our vacation for another 5 hours, but it would let us sit 2-2 on an A330 without having to deal with a middle seat. When the price dropped down to $243.60 each back in January, we pounced on it.

I checked us in the night before online and paid for 4 bags. Then we set off at 5:30am to head to the airport. After gassing up, we arrived at the rental car center to drop the car. You can walk to Terminal 2 check-in areas, but with all our luggage, Hawaiian’s location in Terminal 1 was just too far. They have a small shuttle bus that takes you over there, so we hopped on.

We got off and went into the check-in lobby, and that’s when we encountered the most frustrating part of the day. We first went to a kiosk. It was slow, but we made it through to the end, printed our boarding passes, and then got a message that it couldn’t print our bag tags so we should try another kiosk or see an agent.

There was an agent near us, so I asked her. She was busy chatting with a regular customer who she seemed to know. Then she walked off saying she’d come right back, and she never did. I moved over to try the next kiosk. It was spinning for awhile trying to pull up the reservation, so when another employee walked by, I asked him if he could help. He seemed to not understand our issue, and when I turned back to the kiosk to show him, he had walked away.

The second kiosk eventually printed out two bag tags and then… nothing. This was maddening and we were getting closer to departure time. The family we traveled with had their kiosk let them get to the end before restarting on multiple occasions, so we all needed help. We saw another employee walk by, so we grabbed her. She looked at us and just told us to go stand in line at Guest Services.

As we walked over, the first helpful agent we encountered greeted us. We told him what happened, and he said not to bother with Guest Services. He pulled us out of line and got our replacement tags for the other two bags.

Our friends, however, went to Guest Services where they were scolded for checking in so late, being told their bags might not make it. Apparently trying to get kiosks to work for 20+ minutes isn’t Hawaiian’s problem.

I was quite surprised by how poor the experience was. By the time we went through security, cleared the agricultural inspection, and walked over to the gate, boarding had begun.


August 17, 2019
Hawaiian 10 Lv Honolulu 8a Arr Los Angeles 430p
Honolulu (HNL): Gate C1, Runway 8R, Depart 8m Early
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 58, Runway 25L, Arrive 7m Early
N375HA, Airbus A330-243, 2001 Pualani colors, 100% Full
Seat 24H, Coach
Flight Time 5h9m

The airplane was packed, but there was plenty of overhead bin space available. We took our seats on the right side over the wing. I think this is the first time I’ve been in coach on a refurbished A330. It has nicer, bigger screens and the seats were comfortable. (Though I’m not sure if the seats themselves are any different.)

We pushed back on time and took off into the clearing morning skies for the flight home.

Once in the air, I was a little put off by the way Hawaiian handles its service flow. There was an announcement that the flight attendants would come by and offer drinks plus snacks for sale. There was no mention of the free meal that would come right after, so it felt like an effort to get people to buy snacks without full disclosure, unless I missed something.

The meal did follow, but that is now down to a glorified hot pocket which wasn’t bad and a little breakfast bar thing that I didn’t like at all.

Hawaiian has now made entertainment free onboard, so I decided to look for movies. I quickly changed my mind, however, when I saw the entire final season of Veep was available. I still hadn’t seen the last season, so this was perfect. The 7 episodes were the right amount of time to keep me busy the entire flight home.

The only issue was that the headset jack was temperamental. It would only play sound through one ear unless I held the thing in place. So I got an arm workout.

The flight itself was entirely uneventful. I was sitting next to my daughter on this flight, and she won the battle to close the window. I would have overridden her, but there were a solid low cloud layer and I was deep into Veep. So I begrudgingly let her do it.

Later in the flight, the flight attendants came through regularly with water or coffee. They also dropped off little chocolate-covered macadamia nuts.

About an hour out, the flight attendants came through with the second service. This one included a free Koloa rum punch for anyone interested as well as a Pau Hana snack mix bag. (Fun fact: Pau Hana translates into “salty death.”) I sipped my punch slowly as a last feeling of aloha before reality would set back in.

In the middle of the final episode of Veep is when the interruptions began. I had already ignored the earlier “free” promo from Shutterfly where you could get an album, but the video credit card promo followed by a flight attendant-led promo over the PA was too much. I started to get nervous that I wouldn’t be able to finish the season since Hawaiian shuts off IFE during final approach. Fortunately, I made it just in time.

We came in from the south on a beautiful summer day where the smog wasn’t even too bad. That was good news since it meant we’d land on the south runways and have a very quick taxi back to the gate. We even lined up next to a United 787 for our approach. From there, it was all like clockwork. We headed into the terminal, the bags came off, and we hopped into a Lyft XL (to hold all our bags) for the ride home.

While there were things that bugged me about this flight, I still wouldn’t have been happier flying anyone else. The 2 seats on the side is a huge benefit for our family of four. And that Hawaiian service onboard along with the rum punch and chocolate macadamia nuts may sound unimportant, but it helps extend the vacation by a few more hours. If there’s anything that needs work, it’s the check-in experience.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the increased coverage of the Hawaiian market over the last couple months. Now it’s finally done. Back to our regular programming.

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23 Responses to A Hawaiian A330 Ride Back to Reality (Trip Report)

  1. Lundberry says:

    I have discovered that those particular IFE screens (delta uses those as well) seem to be extremely temperamental. I have had like whole rows that would either not operate or would not provide any audio at all.

    That sounds like a very rough check in experience. This is where I am often skeptical about the kiosks if they are not going to make sure that they have 2-3 people dedicated to the kiosks to make sure they are flowing smoothly and are willing to whisk you away to one of their agent computers if everything is not going the way it should at the kiosk.

  2. Kilroy says:

    Seems like Hawaiian’s execs really need to try the check-in experiences for themselves; the ground service you had on the flight back and the day flying around Hawaii was mediocre at best, both from a technology side and from a people standpoint.

    I have generally had good experiences with most airline kiosks, but the self-checkouts at grocery stores and supercenters (“Unidentified item detected in bagging area”) are the bane of my existence, especially as some chains (**cough**Walmart**cough**) sometimes don’t even had a regular checkout lane staffed. I’ve taken a full cart of items over to the express checkout (“20 items or less” [sic]) at Walmart if they don’t have any other lanes staffed. Even with a wait, it’s faster for me to go through a checkout with a cashier in it compared to bagging my own items.

  3. Brendan says:

    I can’t imagine what the kiosk and check in situation must be like in the early/mid afternoon, when all the mainland flights start heading east. Last time I was in HNL two years ago I remember seeing the T1 lines stretching way out to the curb

  4. NSS says:

    Most of my experience with the kiosks has been on inter-island flights, after getting to HNL on DL, and at least in on that side of the terminal, I’ve found a lot of staff milling around, waiting to help.

  5. rickcrago says:

    Glad you caught them with bad service, might pro then up a bit.

  6. Jerry Noel says:

    What was on the menu for the pay for snacks?
    It seems that the complimentary meal from being described as a glorified hot pocket to the presentation was extremely shabby for a five hour flight.
    Hawaiian should have at least included a cookie for desert but I guess that would leave their catering budget in shambles.

    • CF says:

      Jerry – I don’t remember, didn’t look. Of course, no other airline offers a meal at all, so this rather premium.

      • Bob says:

        American offers free “meals” on flights to/from DFW.

      • Jerry Noel says:

        Sad!
        I have so many memories of my 38 years as a NRSA and I traveled a lot on domestic flights and was usually seated in the first class cabin. Dining was always great especially on UA when the carts, on their widebodies, started down the aisle with the roast beef being offered “end cut or center”.

  7. grichard says:

    Just an observation: You seem to have described several pretty marginal customer experiences on Hawaiian, even though your bottom-line impression still seems very positive. Do you think it’s the halo effect of the airline’s association with Hawaii itself? Or is it just that the problems are more worthwhile to blog about, even though most of the experience was fine?

    • CF says:

      grichard – It’s a good question. On my day trip around the islands, I just had the one bad experience in Maui. Everything else was great and we ran on time. On the return, it really was the ground experience that bugged me. The flight itself was good with just a couple minor issues. But the thing is, it’s all about considering the alternative. I didn’t like how Hawaiian tried to make you buy snacks before getting a free meal, but on no other airline do you even get a free meal. And holding my headphone in the jack was annoying, but if I were flying Alaska, American, Southwest, or Sun Country, I wouldn’t have had a screen at all (or I soon won’t on American). So it’s all about comparing options.

  8. TrpN says:

    HI’s issues here span from the kiosks themselves, which they seem to be aware of, to agents in the check-in area as we had the same problems checking in for HNL-OGG.
    The first try at a kiosk got us neither tags nor boarding passes so we tried another machine. The second time got us one of two bag tags and again no boarding passes, with no one in line at bag drop we walked over and asked an agent for help. She simply said she couldn’t do anything and try another kiosk. I explained that we had tried two already but it was met with a blank stare so we dragged our bags back to the third kiosk. This time everything worked as it should so we then dragged our bags back to bag drop with not a word from the agent.
    Obviously HI’s ground staff needs refresher customer service and empowerment training but do they also need to better monitor their printer paper or something? Strange so many people experience this very specific problem.

    • Oliver says:

      Hopefully Cranky’s contacts at Hawaiian will notice his post and the comments. It’s a shame Hawaiian of all airlines has such bad apples staffing their checkin desks.

  9. Jimm says:

    Was heading to return from OGG, grabbing a coffee in an already long line, and a Hawaiian (stewardess?) was in front of me, all smiles. After about 5 minutes another Hawaiian employee showed up, then another. So 2 others cut in front. To add to it, the person in front of her also had another person excuse themselves through and cut. So, an additional 3 people added to the already long line in front. Anyway, you would think they would realize this reflects badly on their employer, but perhaps they just don’t care….

    • Garrett says:

      It depends on the airport, but those with out dedicated crew screening points, it is normal for employees to cut to the front of the line. Working on a project in LGA a couple of years ago, I must have had to do it 20+ times.

  10. amy says:

    Had a similar experience with HA kiosks at JFK. They don’t work either and I tried every.single.one.
    None of the ground staff bothered to help. Wound up standing in a regular check in line to check a
    bag.

    On the way back home, I left early for HNL airport after hearing nightmare stories of check in lines.
    I was lucky and missed the worst of it but I have to say that HNL would be no one’s favorite airport.
    I thought MCO was bad but HNL on the whole was pretty awful.

    Hawaii was great- but the airports-both on Oahu and Maui-not so much.

  11. GCS says:

    I was surprised, for a company that prides itself on the Aloha spirit, it was lacking on my last trip. I went to the kiosk, checked in, tagged my bag, but no one was at the counter. There were agents at the next section down so myself and another traveler walked down there. Upon arrival a very sour HA employee pointed back the other way…”you need to go back to your check-in area”. I looked at my companion not wanting to be rude, we stated there was no one there (and there wasn’t). He pointed back again and said “You need to go back to your check-in area.” OK… so we went back and there was no one there and stood in line, while everyone at the other check-in area got assistance. Finally an employee appeared from behind the Agricultural screening area and helped us. Pretty sad for an airline that claims to have the Aloha Spirit. Some customer service training would be helpful.

  12. Kevin says:

    A warning to those checking in to Ryanair in Europe for the first time: give yourself two hours if it’s the first time. You will understand.

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