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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 5, 2012 10:41 AM. The previous post in this blog was Here come da judge elections. The next post in this blog is If the Willamette River could talk, what would it say?. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Thursday, April 5, 2012

A bumpy ride on Hawaiian Airlines

On our recent trip to the Sandwich Islands, we used Hawaiian Airlines. The in-flight service and entertainment were first-rate, but we had some real problems with the corporate machinery of this airline that are worthy of internet notice.

First, Hawaiian Airlines employed a blatant bait-and-switch in getting our business to begin with. Long in advance, we signed up and paid for direct flights in both directions between Portland and Maui. But many weeks after our booking and payment -- after all the other airlines' seats on direct flights were gone -- Hawaiian broke the news to us that we were changing planes in Honolulu on the way home. We didn't like that -- hours of R&R time taken away from us without compensation -- but what could we do?

Strike 2 came when we started getting odd, pestering e-mails in the dead of night cheerily reminding us that we could check our reservation any time on line. We figured there was no need -- we had a confirmation number, assigned seats, and an itinerary -- but when we finally gave in to the e-mail messages and checked, we found to our disappointment that Hawaiian had reassigned our family to new seats on one of the flights, and they were no longer all together. When we called to straighten this out, we were jerked around for a long time. It took harsh words and a lot of transfers of our call to get us four seats together.

Some of the people who answer the phone at Hawaiian are not easy to deal with. They give off a seriously passive-aggressive vibe. When you try to get a straight answer from them, suddenly they are seized by the aloha spirit, so much so that useful information is not forthcoming.

When we checked in for the flight home, Hawaiian had a faulty printer that would not produce the baggage claim checks for the person behind the counter to stick onto our suitcases. The attendant, for whom English did not appear to be the native language, spent five minutes staring at the machine in confusion. Then she started typing away for an eternity on a keyboard, refusing to speak to us or make any eye contact with us, even for a second. After 10 minutes of standing there, we got luggage tags, but no explanation of any kind, much less an apology. We boarded the plane thinking that it would be a miracle if we saw our bags when we landed in Portland. (They did make it, though.)

The final insult was that on the long flight home, from Honolulu, two of us had been given seats that did not recline. This was an adjunct to the bait-and-switch maneuver that brought us to Honolulu in the first place. Of course, we weren't told about the nonreclining seats at all -- we discovered them as we sat down in them.

Oh well. They got us there and back, and as we say, the service and entertainment was great. But if we're lucky enough to head out to Polynesia again sometime, we'll definitely be seeing what the other airlines have to offer.

Comments (24)

The US airline industry is non-stop embarrassment for our country.

No mention of the TSA hassles? They are what usually spoil any air travel for me.

I'm starting to drive any trip that's a ten hour drive or close. I'd rather pound a nail in my eye than submit to most of those DMV style dictators. And as I age, it's getting much harder to keep my opinions on my side of my teeth.

US AIR did the same thing to us from Tampa Florida to Vancouver BC recently. One must be nearly nasty to avoid this predicament. The squeaky wheel/obnoxious passenger gets what they paid for most of the time. If you are submissive you get bubkas!

About seven years ago when we first flew to L.A. with our then one-year old son we had flown Alaska, as we had numerous times before. Alaska used to promote itself as the airline with personal service, and you weren't forced to talking to computers left and right. Yeah, not so much.

We had booked through a travel agency and were for some reason issued paper tickets. OK. So we get to the airport, and our youngest son was booked as a lap infant but that if a seat was available we could have it. We go to the ticket agent and are summarily pointed to the self check-in machine and assured we could do it. And of course, no we couldn't.

It wanted a reservation number; we didn't have one because we had paper tickets. After several minutes the ticket agent finally located our reservation, found the number embeddded deep in some other number on our ticket (like we were supposed to know!), circled it, and sent us back to the self check-in machine. A few minutes poking at the machine and we still couldn't do it. We summoned the ticket agent. Now she's grumpy, comes over and starts to show us how to do it on the machine - only to realize, it can't be done. So she grabs our tickets, heads back to her computer and does it.

We go over to the TSA and they were actually very helpful seeing we had a young child...

On our return trip leaving Santa Ana, we tried to explain the situation to the ticket agent there but we ran into a nearly identical situation - we had to go through the SAME process as she didn't want to help either! But over at TSA, there four four agents standing around (as the evening rush hour had just ended and there was no line), and they were actually taking our items, getting them on the belt, and helping us get everything resituated - and did it with a smile and without being asked for the help!!!

Since then we've flown JetBlue (as we will again this fall). Nothing but pleasant experience. Each time we approach the check-in counter the ticket agent actually spots us and addresses us by name (and we aren't even frequent fliers!), and invites us to the counter where she takes care of the check-in. And each time we've been told to pre-board with our children...and at the gate, the gate agent even came over and invited us to pre-board as well. On board there's in-flight TV (Alaska doesn't have that) and we get a free checked bag (Alaska doesn't do that anymore), and the fare is much cheaper.

The only drawback is that Long Beach Airport is a very cramped airport to fly out of. (Flying into LGB is a breeze because it's a straight walk from plane to the baggage claim and to the rental cars, about a one minute walk.)

You expected customer service from an oligarchy industry?

This is yet another reason we need high speed rail. It would not have helped to get you from Hawaii to home, but it would offer a real choice for most extended distance travel. Competition in modalities promotes freedom of travel, efficient utilization and customer service. For those who wish to pay less to take six hours from downtown Portland to downtown San Franciso they could choose high speed rail. And those who wish to pay more, get insulted by airline flunkies, groped by the TSA, pay to park at the airport, pay to get a shuttle from SFO to downtown all in about the same total travel time could choose to fly.

For those who wish to pay less to take six hours from downtown Portland to downtown San Franciso they could choose high speed rail. And those who wish to pay more, get insulted by airline flunkies, groped by the TSA, pay to park at the airport, pay to get a shuttle from SFO to downtown all in about the same total travel time could choose to fly.

I agree that we (esp in the west) need high speed rail in this country, but you are kidding yourself if you think you'll just lift the Japan Rail shinkansen network over here lock, stock, and barrel. What you'll get is the high-speed rail equivalent of the airline industry, complete with bumbling security, corporate waste, etc. etc. etc.

Anyone who thinks that long distance high speed rail wouldn't be infested with drones needs to take a drug test.

No Fly Zone, even within the City of Honolulu, the State of Hawaii is experiencing tremendous problems planning and funding their short, low-speed light-rail system. Yet another rail boondoggle in the making.

Then again, nobody is stopping you from starting a railroad. Go for it, you'll get to keep the profits. Oh, you wanted *me* to pay for this high-speed rail... well then, I'm not at all interested.

Look how California is doing with planning their massive boondoggle project, after wasting billions of dollars, and relying upon the promise of tens of billions more from our Federal taxes.

Even now, they can barely get enough scratch together to connect two jerkwaters deep in the Central Valley. And even that pathetic link may not ever happen. Forget about SF and LA.

It costs far too much, even when California lies through their teeth about totally unrealistic revenue projections, and Uncle Sugar subsidizes building the thing to the tune of tens of billions.

Sorry, but the numbers just don't pencil out. It's a big, spread-out country. Flying just makes more sense given the existing technology and available funds. If you can find a better way, build it and collect your reward.

I don't love how airlines do business, in fact I avoid flying when I can. This is to say that high-speed rail -- heck, even Amtrak low-speed rail -- is (to coin a phrase) "unsustainable".

As you pointed out, it's true that Hawaiian Airlines doesn't serve many city-pairs that can be linked with rail. =-) Many airlines have started service to the Islands, lost money, and gave up. It's still a tough, low-margin business.

Going back to the invention of manned flight, the industry as a whole has never made dollar one. Does that mean they aren't oligarchs? No, but this is all to illustrate that it's not as easy as it sounds. More innovation is needed. Best of luck with your ideas.

Aloha MotherF***er.

That's the perspective you're dealing with. Hawaii is a 3rd-world country owned by America. Sorry dude!

Ah, the old seat-switcheroo! Love that! Continental did that to us on a flight to FL - non-reclining seats right up against the restrooms and above the engines - surround-sound and scent-o-rama! They tried to pull it again on the return trip, but things got a bit heated and they yielded.

High-speed rail, though...what a joke! As DD above noted, bankrupt California's planning to "invest" some $70 billion of money they don't have to build it - but they have a magic way to pay for it: unicorns, as it happens, fart pixie dust, and that's what Governor Moonbeam's going to peddle to pay the tab. Well, sort of: Actually, the plan - if you want to call it that - is to win the lottery, or more accurately, to use money from a pollution auction established by the state's landmark global warming law. However you think of it, it amounts to the same thing. The most likely outcome is that revenues will continue to fall as companies continue to flee the state for less onerous venues.

Pixie dust, pollution auction, unicorn's the same approach we see in Portland - drive out productive businesses in favor of baristas.

Gee guys, how sad. I booked a flight to Honolulu , six months ago, and several other friends of mine booked to Kona on Hawaiian Airlines. We knew that NO airline flew direct from PDX to Kona. All inter island fights go thru Honolulu. A easy trip to your computer, to check your status is not unreasonable, maybe for some, print out your boarding pass 24 hours before departure.

Smile, get groped, bend over, get groped again, TSA has a job to do. I like holding out my arms like a felon going from cell block to cell Block. But, I purchased First Class, no knees in nose for me.

Good luck, Hawaiian is good, not doing your do diligence is not Hawaiians fault.

Just spent three weeks in Hawaii at the end of February where we were married.

Took Alaska to Honolulu to transfer to Go! inter island. That was the single most painful airline experience I've had so far. To get to the inter island terminal, we had to leave security, thanks to the inept workers at the Alaska counter. Our brand new carry on bags wouldn't fit in their bins, so another $50 down the drain to check them in. At least they didn't try and take my bride's dress out of her hands. I'd hate to see her kill someone in front of me, it would have put a damper on the occasion we were going to celebrate ;) Alaska was nice enough to provide a place to hang the dress during the flight, the BO-ridden gentleman on the Go! flight was not as accomodating

The plane ride from Honolulu to Kauai was about 30 minutes of sheer terror thanks to the weather in Kauai. Once we landed and prepared to leave the plane, the rain was coming down sideways and we had to walk, exposed, across the tarmac to the terminal building. At least they were handing out umbrellas, but it was a flat out foot race to the building to avoid being drowned. The dress was realtively safe in its plastic covering. I was not thanks to a miscommunication about checked bags being available at the rear of the plane, they were in fact going to be inside at the carousel.

After the Wedding, we stayed in rainy Kauai for another week before flying to Hawaii (The Big Island) on another Go! flight. At least we were prepared for their lack of service and accommodations this time and made sure to pack lightly as we'd sent most of our clothes home after the Wedding. We also grabbed seats at the very front to allow faster egress (we also had the same BO-ridden steward, the poor guy)

The flight home to Portland from the Big Island was on United, which wasn't as good as Hawaiian in terms of overall service, but they were at least passable compared to Alaska or Go! We were seated in the back against the bulkhead in seats that wouldn't recline. They provided some snacks and a couple of complimentary drinks along with some TV and a Movie.

In the it could always be worse department, at least your trip was a step up from the old Aloha Airlines.

Unfortunately, Hawaiian Air has outsourced their reservations center to Manila.

When dealing with them a few years ago about flights between Hilo and Honolulu, I was told after missing the flight that I could simply drive, "it's only 90 miles". I patiently explained that it was impossible since there was a lot of ocean between the two islands.

The call center personnel do not have a clue about the geography in the state of Hawaii.

Hawaiin air has got to be the worst airline on the planet. I have flown on many carriers all over the world. I expected crappy service from JAT, air peruana, Alitalia, air morocco, and countless other airlines serving d***wad locations. But the winner in the lottery for worst service, highest jerk around factor, and guaranteed to be no less than four hours late is none other than Hawaiian air. And for bonus points you get to go through Honolulu international airport, whose major claim to fame is the singular lack of ANYTHING on the concourses served by HA. I have never been in an airport in which there are no restaurants, no bars, no coffee shops, no nothing on an entire concourse. And the only thing available for entertainment is the dips**t Hawaiian airlines attendant telling us that the most commonly rescheduled or late flight is to PDX. Makes me want to race to the islands on HA again, soon.

I have had nothing but good experiences from Hawaiian in the past. I am going to Maui soon and will be using them. I will let you know my experience.

That being said, one experience like you had doesn't indicate a trend. Multiple ones, will give more of an indication.

This is yet another reason we need high speed rail.

You have got to be joking...

At least the airline industry offers competition. Do you really think Amtrak is going to be a model of quality customer service? I used to ride Amtrak about a half dozen times a year, but I haven't stepped foot on an Amtrak train in over two years now because of crappy customer service. I'd much rather drive - and thank God there are HOV lanes and multiple freeways in Seattle.

I can actually tell you some bad stories about Amtrak, but Amtrak seems to shoot itself in the foot pretty well by itself.

Bummed they cancelled their direct to Maui service. We had the same thing in January - direct there, via Honolulu home. Service was much better than you got, though. Alaskan offering direct seems to have been too much competition.

not doing your do diligence is not Hawaiians fault.

Read the post, son -- they sold me a direct flight.

At least you weren't carrying a lot of cash....

You can protest by not watching Hawaii 5-0. :)

I also like that Alaska Airlines is advertising on your blog. nice. I prefer alaska, much better airline.

high speed rail in the US will never work. Too much corruption from politicians and unions. Imagine Portland's light rail corruption on a national level and be thankful it won't happen.

Wife and I have been flying to the islands on Hawaiian since the mid-90s and the DC-10s, and service has been steadily deteriorating. Used to be great to deal with, but they raced to the bottom with the rest of the airlines. A real shame. Still, once we get on that plane -- and don't get bulkhead seats -- we feel like our vacation has begun: slack key music playing, attendants in aloha shirts, etc. They do that much right.

Whatever it is,it's just about the best we've got.
Nice fleet, too.

Hawaiian was flat-out terrible when we took them on our honeymoon (Seattle to Kauai) back in '05. We were seated separately, and when I called about a month in advance to see if that could be changed (our honeymoon, for crap's sake!) I got a lot of "it's not possible." I said "Of course it's possible. You're sitting in front of a computer capable of doing that right now. This is our honeymoon. Either that matters to your airline or it doesn't." That did it.

Then they lost my wife's luggage and didn't seem to care at all or have any knowledge of where it was. You hit the nail on the head with the "suddenly seized by the aloha spirit" once something important needs to be done. It was exasperating dealing with them--bad enough I'd pay a few bucks to use another carrier if we're fortunate enough to return one day.


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