Back in 2019, Cranky Concierge had a very good year. We hit our stretch goal, and that meant I would follow through on my promise to take the whole team to Hawaiʻi. That trip was booked for April 2020. It obviously didn’t happen and for awhile there, it seemed like it never would. But things rebounded, and in 2021 we were back above our original plan, so it was time to finally make it happen.
We settled on Maui, and thanks to a favorable group rate from our partners, we were able to stay at the fantastic Andaz Maui. We had some hesitation after the fires tore through Lahaina, but the Andaz is in Wailea, far from the fires, and it became clear that the island needed tourism to return.
I’ll talk more about being on Maui in a later post, but first, we have to talk about an underwhelming pair of flights.
The best option was naturally to fly from Long Beach. Southwest doesn’t do Maui nonstop at this time of year, so Hawaiian it was. We used 20,000 points each per direction. As the trip came closer, I was a little worried about all the Pratt & Whitney engine issues causing us trouble. We thought about switching to LAX because space was wide open not only on the Hawaiian A330 but on other airlines too. Even with the two days prior to our flight being delayed, we decided to stick with it. We had no issues going out, but the return was a different story.
Not having to check bags, we left home just about an hour before departure. Nobody was at security, and on the other side we sat down just as they were pre-boarding our oasis in a sea of Southwest.
We were in group 4, and we boarded toward the end of that group.
October 3, 2023
From Long Beach
➤ Scheduled Departure: 850a
➤ Actual Departure: 842a
➤ From Gate: 1
➤ Wheels Up: 854a
➤ From Runway: 30
➤ Wheels Down: 1107a
➤ On Runway: 2
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 1130a
➤ Actual Arrival: 1117a
➤ At Gate: 33
➤ Type: Airbus A321-271neo
➤ Delivered: November 21, 2018
➤ Registered: N217HA, msn 8578
➤ Livery: Maile Lei
➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 24J
➤ Load: ~70% Full
➤ Flight Time: 5h13m
The flight was not full. We sat down in the comfortable cloth-covered seats, and the flight attendants welcomed everyone on board. They told everyone to turn to the person next to you and say “aloha.” It was a nice touch.
Surprisingly, we pushed back early and were in the air only four minutes after our scheduled departure. Those Pratts may be causing trouble, but they are so nice and quiet when they’re flying. We climbed our way just south of LAX and stayed north for much of the flight.
The first half of the flight was mostly smooth with some light chop. They came through with a croissant breakfast sandwich which was not bad. I had some water too.
The A321s don’t have in-seat video, but they do have onboard streaming. I fired up my phone, put it in the device holder, and watched Weird: The Al Yankovic Story which was exactly the kind of fake biopic you’d hope Weird Al would put together. I highly recommend it.
Over the next couple hours, the flight attendants regularly came through with a big bottle of water to top people off or give them a new cup. About halfway through, we found ourselves skimming cloud tops and the bumps picked up. The seatbelt sign came on the pilots told the flight attendants to sit down.
On the other side, some light chop continued, but the seatbelt sign stayed on… forever. The flight attendants were clearly allowed to get up, but the sign never came off for the rest of the flight. I hate when pilots do this, because everyone just starts ignoring it. Just before descent, the flight attendants even came on and said “we know the sign is on, but if you have to use the restroom, do it now since we’ll start descending soon.”
Meanwhile, I decided to turn on Territorial Airwaves, a mini-tradition when I fly Hawaiian to the islands. But this time, it was nowhere to be found. I think it was replaced by something called “Hawaiian Legacy Favorites,” which wasn’t quite the same.
About an hour out, I had expected to get a second service where they handed out some of that rum punch that gets you in the mood for being on island time. But there was no second service. The only thing they handed out was the paper agriculture form and nothing else. I later learned from Hawaiian that they discontinued the second service in 2021. They tell me they still have the punch available during the first service, but who wants that in the early morning? This was a real bummer.
I decided to take the survey that was linked in the streaming portal, but, well, this is where it took me.
So I went back to staring out the window and soon enough land came into view.
From my vantage point on the right, I saw Molokaʻi first, followed by West Maui. We passed to the east of the airport and over Kihei before turning around to land. I still can’t get over how brown the landscape is there now.
With sugar cane cultivation having ended on the island, the land has shifted to brown grasses as a legacy of the former crop and water diversion that has altered the island. There is a smaller farm in one area, but this is a drier side of the island, so it shouldn’t have looked as green as it did. Still, it is a stark contrast to what once was.
Before the flight, we were told it would be 5 hours and 26 minutes, but they must have found a shortcut, because we landed a mere 5 hours and 13 minutes after lifting off from Long Beach. Our gate was occupied, but we didn’t have to wait long until it opened up. We were off as quickly as possible, and it was nice to see the airport back to a more normal state compared to the last time I was there with all the COVID rules and checks.
The team was ready to go home on Monday, but I was staying one extra day to close everything up. Sunday evening, someone on my team received an email with the subject “URGENT: Important flight change notification.” Yep, his flight back to Long Beach was canceled. The next morning, I received the same email for my flight on Tuesday. It turns out the whole week of flying from Kahului to both Long Beach (and San Francisco) was canceled.
I’ll have a closer look at how Hawaiian is suffering with this Pratt & Whitney problem tomorrow, but at that time, I just cared about getting home. The email from Hawaiian said that they would contact me about reaccommodation. They did eventually call several hours later, but in both our cases, the options were not good. We opted for a refund and pressed ahead with finding a new option on another airline. I’ll talk about that in a future post.