When Hawaiian Falters, Southwest Gets Me Home (Trip Report)

Southwest, Trip Reports

I left off last week with Hawaiian canceling my flight home from Kahului, and the reaccommodation options weren’t good. Fortunately for me, with Maui tourism still down, there were a bunch of options to get me back to LAX. No, it wasn’t Long Beach, but it was close enough in a pinch. And of all the options, I chose Southwest.

I decided to fly Southwest since the flight time was very similar to what I had previously, and I had some Southwest miles to kill. Even though the flight looked pretty full onboard, Southwest inexplicably had every bucket wide open the day prior. It was just over 13,000 points one way which I think means it was about $180. This was a steal just a day before travel.

Fortunately, Hawaiian had canceled our flight with about 27 hours to spare, so that meant I could get us all checked in at the 24 hour market. We scored B10 and B11 which I figured would be good for a window/middle together pretty easily.

Security lines were light at the airport, and we trudged down the hallway to the gates furthest to the south where Southwest has taken over. It looks like they are finally enclosing the hallways down that way, something that wasn’t the case previously. I’m not sure if new gates are being added as well, but it seems possible.

The Southwest gate area had three holdrooms all connected, and they weren’t that busy. While finding a seat was easy, there was none of the usual Southwest charging station infrastructure. We were left fighting for the few wall plugs that were conveniently nowhere near the seats. We weren’t the only ones, especially since Southwest has no power onboard for a very long flight. I’ll assume this is the airport’s fault for not allowing it, but it sucks.

Boarding began, and I started getting nervous about my boarding position. There was a tidal wave of pre-boarders, and many more were lined up for family boarding after the A group. There were definitely families taking advantage with kids over 6 years of age and pre-boarders who didn’t look very disabled. It’s a hard one to police, I know, but it seemed pretty ridiculous.

Southwest 1800
October 10, 2023

From Kahului
➤ Scheduled Departure: 1130a
➤ Actual Departure: 1123a
➤ From Gate: 3
➤ Wheels Up: 1132a
➤ From Runway: 2

To Los Angeles
➤ Wheels Down: 713p
➤ On Runway: 25L
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 745p
➤ Actual Arrival: 724p
➤ At Gate: 9

➤ Type: Boeing 737-8 MAX
➤ Delivered: January 26, 2016
➤ Registered: N8701Q, msn 42554
➤ Livery: Hot Dog on a Stick

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 7A
➤ Load: ~99% Full
➤ Flight Time: 4h41m

The airplane was more full than it should have been by that point, but we were able to find a window/middle in row 7, the only downside being the dude in the aisle was not a small man. Still, it wasn’t bad at all.

As we waited for boarding to finish, we were treated to a symphony. There were a good 6 or 7 babies scattered around that somehow decided to scream in unison on occasion and just individually at other times. It lasted the entire flight, and even after we got off in LA. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it before. Here’s a sampling for you.

We loaded up and pushed back a little early. Those gates are right near the runway threshold, so we were airborne in short order. The captain told us that it was expected to be bumpy for the first 35 minutes, and he’d have the crew remain seated. It turns out that it was not at all bumpy, but the crew was up and running about half an hour in as promised.

In the meantime, I was about to try to use the inflight entertainment on my phone when the flight attendant announced they knew there was a problem and they were rebooting. Uh oh.

The crew came by to take drink orders and hand out phone holders.

Oh wait, that was actually just a snack pack with Wheat Thins, a cheese spread, salty death mix, and fruit snacks, but since the seats have no place to put your phone, I used the empty snack packs to prop my phone up.

Then, I was ready to try the IFE, but it did not work. I kept getting a variety of different errors ranging from an internal server error to a gateway timeout and then just a “this page isn’t working” error in Chrome. I kept trying and eventually it would load, but it was fleeting.

At one point, I was able to watch some baseball on live tv, but it would go for about 10 seconds before the picture froze. I could switch channels and come back and it would work a couple times, but it was always the same result of a frozen picture. I gave up and tried to look at the moving map. After a few reloads it worked, but it showed us going from Austin to Dallas and at one point said we have 8h 52m left. So while our position on the map was right, nothing else was.

I quit and just listened to some music I had on my phone for a bit… anything to keep the screaming babies out of my head.

After an hour, I decided to try again. This time, I was able to get into the streaming movie area after a few reload attempts and I coaxed the Sebastian Maniscalco movie About My Father to play. It did pause a few times for buffering which was annoying, but somehow I got through it eventually. That was a good way to pass the time.

After that, I kept trying to do other things in the system, but it didn’t work. I called it quits and turned music back on. I never even bothered trying wifi since I figured if even the stuff onboard didn’t work, I’d just end up having to ask for an $8 refund for wifi. Forget it.

As is always the case when heading east, night approached quickly… but so did the coast. We flew just south of San Nicolas Island and over Catalina before turning north and flying just east of Long Beach. With no parachute available, I opted to just deal with LAX.

The marine layer was creeping back in which allowed me to take this eerie photo on final approach.

We landed and taxied back to the infamous gate 9 which still sticks out like a random stub from what will eventually be the connector to concourse 0.

Not wanting to wait around for a rideshare, we hopped in a taxi and headed home.

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33 comments on “When Hawaiian Falters, Southwest Gets Me Home (Trip Report)

          1. I’m not really a baseball fan, but I was happy to see the Astros and Phillies both lose. Rangers vs Diamondbacks should be a good series.

  1. A regular cacophony of screams. And I thought a flight from LAS – JFK with one screaming baby was something.

    Sometimes if a baby cries & another is in ear shot, the other may cry as well. It’s known as a sympathy cry, but in this case substitute screams.

    1. It’s amazing how babies can cry for hours, when we adults would lose our voices after screaming like that for even a few minutes. My high school choir teacher told us how babies do it: they scream *from the diaphragm* (like opera singers). Remember this when you watch the D’backs tonight, and you’ll be cheering all the way into the ninth inning with no problem!?

  2. Sounds absolutely miserable. Even without the babies and the largish neighbour it sounds mediocre at best…or, in other words, a typical Southwest flight. But in all fairness, it was a steal for next-day travel.

    Love that picture!

    1. Southwest needs to update the pre board policy. This concept that everyone gets to preboard, and the cheaters that don’t need it still do it sux. Everyone who preboards that is walking, should be required to fill up the back of the plane first, all seats in the row. Only after the last of the C group is boarded, can they move up if there is space. Or something like that. Boarding speed will increase too.

  3. Earplugs
    Noise Cancellation headphones
    Offline content on my iPhone/iPad

    Thats all I need for any flight

    1. PlanAhead perfect list. Earplugs just to cover ALL the background noises. As for Southwest- I will avoid at all costs. The entire boarding process is such a disaster (pre boards, seat savers).

    2. To your list, I would also add a small plug extender, such as the ones that turn one AC outlet into 3 AC outlets. Those sell for < $4 at almost any hardware store, and if you have one of those you can get an AC outlet in almost any airport terminal by holding the extender thing up up and politely asking whoever is using the outlet if you can unplug them for a moment in order to share the power.

      Agreed on the other items, with reasonable substitutes as needed, especially the earplugs. I keep stashes of earplugs in my car, briefcase, and suitcase, along with a few places at home, and bring them to almost any public event… To many places have the speakers turned up to dangerously loud levels.

      1. I carry a pair of earplugs in a small container which is in my pocket. They come in handy for public transit, and for anyplace else, including airline flights.

  4. > and the reaccommodation options weren’t good

    Kinda curious, what options did Hawaiian offer?

    1. Outer Space Guy – I didn’t get very far in the conversation because by the time they called me I had already booked a different option. (Couldn’t get through by calling in direct without a very long hold time, so I didn’t bother.) When I looked after the first flight was canceled, I saw that the nonstop to LAX was sold out as was the connection via Honolulu to Long Beach. My assumption at the time was that the only possibility was connecting via HNL to the redeye to LAX, based on availability. When they called a few hours later they said they had an option connecting via Honolulu available, but I don’t know if it was that same day or another one, what airport was involved or anything. I already had my plan so I just asked for a refund and got back to enjoying my time on Maui.

  5. Your notes about SW’s boarding are spot on. I fly out of Denver several times a month and often find that between the pre boarders and families a B20 boarding number means the last row of the plane. It’s gotten beyond frustrating. I’ve heard from a gate agent that SW consistently sells out of the paid boarding upgrades, so it seems like people are paying up for it.

  6. It is not a surprise that WN delivered when HA could not. Southwest has put a world of hurt on Hawaiian as none of the big 3 could get by with doing. Add in the lengthy covid restrictions that decimated HA’s business and now NH’s A380s to Tokyo that are trashing fares in the top HA international market, and HA’s finances don’t look great even with whatever compensation they get from RTX for the GTF issues.
    Notably, RTX stock is having a nice day on Wall Street boosted by stock buybacks while HA is expected to report a 3rd quarter loss after the markets close today.

    Yes, the MLB playoffs have been anything but predictable. The powerful continue to fall. signed, an anybody-but-Philly fan

  7. I call SW the “Hallelejuh, It’s A Miracle Airline!”…So many wheelchair assist preboards go on first and almost all of them walk off unassisted. SW should only allow wheelchair preboards on a pre-qualified basis. Just like some airlines require funeral home info for bereavement fares, SW should require a faxed or emailed statement sent from a doctor’s office stating the need for wheelchair assist. That will slow the boarding choke that happens now. I really detest those that take advantage. Their selfishness ruins it for everyone.

  8. As a not very seasoned traveler I’ve learn to bring a battery backup to charge my phone/computer .. when chargers are not available or broken at the airport.
    Also I don’t depend on an airline to have a movie I want to see, so a download movies from Netflix on my I-pad so I have a choice of movies. Also

    when your watching a movie your headphones block out baby noises. That takes care of 3 complaints. Stop acting like your an expert cause your not

    an expert.

  9. This report is linked to another trip which you took for the 10 year anniversary of your blog. You tried to fly 10 Southwest Airlines flights in one day, so that your wife would qualify for a companion pass.

    Did you successfully make all 10 flights on that day?

    1. Dominick – Must have just automatically connected those in the section at the bottom, but there’s no link. That was long ago and yes, the flights were completed.

  10. Love your travel reports — just wish in this one you had not commented on “pre-boarders who didn’t look very disabled” in the commentary on the boarding. I would love to know what disabled passengers look like.

    1. Tim – While not all disabilities can be seen, in this particular case, it’s the specific disabilities that would require someone to need extra time for boarding that count. So yes, when I see someone with no limitation on range of motion who is moving around just like anyone else, then I assume they’re simply taking advantage of the situation.

      1. I have never looked disabled, although I do look like a senior. However, the year I had untreated rheumatoid arthritis I could walk down the aisle but needed a wheelchair in the airport. Using a wheelchair is a pain, I can’t imagine using one if you don’t need it.

  11. I flew on a Southwest flight 10/22, and the inflight entertainment TV worked better on my iPhone than my Android phone. On my Android, I got many of the same errors you show on your trip report. So it might be a problem with their software not being fully up to date for android/Chrome vs iOS/Safari.

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