A Hawaiian A321neo Takes Me Home (A Cranky Travelogue)

Hawaiian, Mokulele, Trip Reports, United

It’s time to finish up this travelogue, so here’s a Wednesday post to wrap it up.

When I was planning this trip, I knew I’d fly out of LAX since I snagged that United Polaris seat using miles. But did I really want to have to come back to LAX? No way. We now have options in Long Beach that I only could have dreamed about a couple years ago, so I was set on flying back there.

I could have gone to Honolulu or Kahului, but for me, it was a no-brainer. Connecting from Mokulele to any other airline in Honolulu is awful and requires a shuttle transfer. In Kahului, it’s a walk. Both Southwest and Hawaiian have earlier returns out of Kahului, which I like a lot, so that sealed it. In the end, I chose Hawaiian for two reasons. One, I could take a later flight out of Molokai in the morning and feel less rushed. And two, I could take my first coach flight on the A321neo. Yes, I had flown it in First Class on the Long Beach inaugural, but that’s a whole different experience.

I used the equivalent of somewhere around $280 in Chase points for the flights. I almost went with basic economy for $40 less because the flight looked empty, but I was concerned that if Mokulele was late and I missed my connection, I wouldn’t be able to change. I just ponied up.

In a previous chapter, I had just arrived at the Kahului commuter terminal. Once I got through, I walked over the short couple blocks to the main ticketing area. This is where it got a little confusing. I saw lines of people all over the place, and I had no idea which one was where I wanted to be.

Eventually, I walked past the lines and I could then see where the TSA Precheck line was located. Having checked in on my phone, I just walked right into the line and was through in about 5 minutes.

I kept going to the gate area where I was able to plop down on the big window sill benches that I wish every airport had. I just sat there staring out the window and sweating from my hurried walk in the heat, hoping nobody pulled me aside thinking I had a fever.

At some point, the gate agent came on and apologized that we would be late. He said something about a shortage of staff, and they were working as hard as they could to get the airplane cleaned. It had just come in on time from San Diego that morning, so it wasn’t an issue of a late arriving airplane.

I was able to relax and compose myself knowing that we had some time to kill. It turns out we didn’t board all that late, and the flight wasn’t horribly full, so it was a minor inconvenience.

May 21, 2021
Hawaiian 72 Lv Kahului 1120a Arr Long Beach 735p
Kahului (OGG): Gate 23, Runway 2, Depart 14m Late
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 9, Runway 30, Arrive 10m Late
N216HA (msn 8471), Airbus A321-271neo, Maile Lei colors, ~70% Full
Seat 26J, Coach
Flight Time 4h52m

I had chosen a seat over the wing toward the back of the first coach cabin because it had an empty middle. It stayed that way the whole time, which was a nice treat. This flight wasn’t all that full, but the flight attendant acted like that wasn’t normal. I wasn’t complaining.

The seats are a nice cloth. I know some people like leather, but I’ll take the cloth any day since it prevents me from sliding around. Legroom was fine but certainly nothing special.

This airplane feels more barebones than you’d expect for something that regularly flies 5+ hours… in other words it looked like an American Airlines airplane. This had the same exact device holder that I had on my American return from Puerto Vallarta and no seatback screen.

I put my phone in there and plugged it in to the USB charging port and all was well.

The flight attendants got the cabin ready to go, and then they flipped on the Hawaiian mood lighting. Nice little gimmick there.

We took off into a layer of clouds that sat menacingly at the end of the runway. We were above them quickly and I had this view of Haleakala as we flew out.

Again, we took a northerly route, but this time I think it’s because turbulence was forecasted at more southern routes. It was smooth for the first few hours.

Hawaiian has brought back food onboard, so I got the customary barbecue chicken hot pocket and a pack of pau hana mix. There’s still no liquor onboard, but it’s getting closer to normal.

One thing I strongly disliked were the multiple announcements at the beginning of the flight telling people to put their window shades down. No way, man. I picked a window so I could look outside. I put it down halfway, and nobody ever yelled at me for it, but that is just not cool to shame people for wanting to look out the window.

As I mentioned, I put my phone up and watched some movies. First up was Impractical Jokers which makes me laugh as a show but sucks as a movie. Still, it’s the perfect kind of mildly-entertaining fare that works for an airplane. I followed that up with Superintelligence which just wasn’t very good either. I really did not do well in the movie department on this trip.

As we got closer, the seatbelt sign went on when we were passing over the jetstream which was plunging south along the coast, according to the flight attendant announcement. It didn’t get too bumpy, but the sign stayed on the rest of the time.

We were on track for the Central California coast, but then we made a turn that pointed us right at Catalina Island.

As we descended over Catalina and on to the land in Orange County, Hawaiian music began playing on the speakers. The sky looked eerily beautiful as it reflected the remaining sunlight.

We lined up and landed just a few minutes late with a quick taxi back to the gate. Once off, I stopped to snag this photo.

I like the neo a lot. Those engines are so quiet, and it’s a comfortable ride. Do I like the A330 better if I’m flying Hawaiian? Oh heck yeah. But I’d probably take the A321neo to Long Beach vs the A330 to LAX any day.

And that brings us to the end of this Cranky Travelogue. I hope you enjoyed it.

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21 comments on “A Hawaiian A321neo Takes Me Home (A Cranky Travelogue)

  1. I’m with you on these ‘close shades comments.’ I also like to sit beside a window so I can look out. Yes, I also pull it down a little to keep them from yelling at me.
    I went to the restroom once and returned and my shade was all the way down. I immediately put it halfway up.
    If there’s no sun pouring in to bother others, why are they hell bent to close shades???

    1. Carmen (and Cranky) – I agree wholeheartedly! And, in an age when you are very frequently charged for being able to pick a window seat, I find it awful that they ask people to put the shades down.

      Even worse – as I understand it, on some 787s the FAs have a master control switch that automatically makes all windows opaque. Argh!

      1. On my HNL -> ORD flight last month on AA, they did exactly that and didn’t lighten up the shade until we were about an hour outside of ORD. As someone who can’t sleep on planes and loves a good sun rising over the horizon, I was disappointed.

          1. I totally agree with the window shade comment – thanks for bringing that up. My kids don’t get to fly that often, and we we do, we take up 2 entire rows of seats (6 total). No way that I am telling them to close the shades, and not get to take in any or all of the views you can only get from being several miles up. Southwest has been the worst offender for this request, as we have had it multiple times in the past couple years coming out of Texas or Phoenix.

            1. I’m assuming they do this for cabin temperature since u mentioned PHX. I would heed the request only until the engines start after the initial pushback since the AC should be able to cool the cabin at that point anyway. I agree if you pay for a window you should get to use it.

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed the trip report! As a midwesterner, I get so jealous that you guys on the West Coast can essentially make Hawaii a weekend trip if you want to…with all the affordable, non-stop options to get there. But then again, I’m glad I don’t live on the West Coast either. Trade-offs I suppose. Back to the trip report…I appreciate the details, good photos, and perspective you bring in your trip reports. They’re simple but they say a lot. Thanks again.

    1. Agreed. For those on the East Coast, getting to Hawaii requires the equivalent of two transcontinental flights; flights from JFK to LAX and LAX to OGG (Maui) are almost exactly the same distance (within 10 miles) as each other, at just under 2,500 statute miles, and JFK to OGG direct is just under 5,000 miles.

      By way of comparison, that same ~5,000 miles from the Northeast to Hawaii will just about get a person from LAX to the edge of Japan, northern Scotland or Scandinavia, Fiji, or the Amazon river delta on the coast of Brasil.

  3. I’m with you on the window. Although sadly now it’s usually one of my kids that get the window seat. To me, watching the world go by is one of the best parts of flying.

  4. Thanks for the report Cranky! Hawaii is one of only 2 states I haven’t visited and it’s fun to vicariously travel there via your well-written travelogue!

  5. FWIW – HAL actually never eliminated food from any cabin during Covid. They just altered the service process.

  6. I’ve always found HA’s hard product decisions to be a bit puzzling, such as investing in complimentary meals (that got much smaller over the past 10 years) instead of seatback IFE. Is the streaming free on the A321s? I’ve only ever flown their A330s from the mainland, and I remember a very limited set of free stuff to watch. I feel like most customers would pay more for better food, but I think few people would pay for IFE anymore. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly HA, I just feel like aspects of their product seem sort of stuck in the past.

  7. I find it rather interesting to see how much stock airline fans seem to put into in-seat TV and entertainment. I thought airlines were in the transportation business, not the entertainment business. I’m far more concerned that I get where I’m going on time and with me and my luggage relatively intact. The double standards also interest me. Alaska’s investor presentations show an interior that looks remarkably like this one. Yet Alaska and Hawaiian receive about a fifth of the flak American does for roughly the same offering. When was a law passed that forced all airlines to offer exactly the same onboard service? Don’t get me wrong, I like having entertainment available, but it’s not a deal-breaker. I’m quite capable of providing my own – usually in the form of a book. Among other things, I don’t have to read snarky comments like this after I’ve finished reading. LOL!

    1. I agree from the consumer standpoint that entertainment is not essential, even as an aviation enthusiast I certainly wouldn’t take an inferior schedule just because that airline has seatback screens-honestly just give me a window and that’s all the entertainment I need. I was more wondering about their decision-making process since it doesn’t seem like a good way to maximize ancillary revenue in my mind, but maybe there’s something in HA’s customer demographic I don’t know about. I also definitely think airlines are held to different standards (Alaska is praised while AA/UA routinely get flak like you said despite having basically the same product in domestic Y).

  8. No chance to try out the ukulele on this flight, Brett? I always look for that in your flights on Hawaiian.

    1. Kilroy – The ‘ukulele was only on ‘Ohana flights. When ‘Ohana was shuttered, they returned the instruments to those who donated them originally.

      1. Ah, that makes sense, then; I though the ‘ukulele was on all Hawaiian flights.

        Thanks for the information and gentle corrections, and apologies for my ignorance.

  9. My thoughts exactly on the window shade or in the case of the 787 dimming. I own a Cessna 182 and Commercial Rated, IFR Pilot and get SO ANNOYED with the whole close the shade BS, I say F’em and Feed ‘Em Fish Heads, look out the window and watch that crap on your device/screen when you are on land….enjoy those views, and for those of us who love flight, too bad, my shade stays open!

    This article says it all!

  10. I also enjoy the flight to Ontario, CA on the 321, even though I have to make the connection to HNL from Lihu’e. I find the cabin and seats comfortable, (better than the 757), although I admit I spring for Comfort Plus, which makes a difference. Some of the other things I really enjoy: the fact that Hawaiian still serves some actual hot food – free! And just having the gracious, friendly Hawaiian cabin crew, who still actually treat the passengers with aloha. Such a difference from all the Mainland carriers. Hawaiian: Please keep it up and don’t cut any more corners!

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