Groundbreaking And Alluring: Setting Hawaii Flights Apart From The Crowd

Read on for details about our choice in today’s lead photo. Sherri brought this subject to mind when she commented that “Flying to Hawaii these days is no different than flying to Newark.” She added, “I get cutting the costs, but there is no reason to cut the aloha spirit. It doesn’t cost a thing to be nice.” Right you are Sherri.

Many of us remember all too well what made flights to Hawaii indelibly memorable, and sometimes still does. What do you remember?

Coming up short on Aloha, Pam said about her flight to Hawaii, “They started to hand out crackers and cokes and when they got to our row, 3 rows down they said they ran out. We’re were starving. Thank goodness I had a few things in my purse. This trip we only got what economy was offered. With the cost of tickets you would think American could go to Costco and buy crackers, right? It amazes me the ticket prices.”

Reminiscing, Joe B said, “Prior to landing, we got a 2 pack of Caramac candy. Hooked me on them and been eating them for the past 33 years. I’ve been to Hawaii over 20 times since and nobody does that anymore. Service on the airlines has been going down hill fast. On a recent flight on American, my (first class) dinner was still frozen and I sent it back. No replacement. I asked the FA if there was another meal and he offered me a meal to purchase!”

Here’s a list of things that made Hawaii flights uniquely wonderful, some of which are gone.

A traditional lei greeting: Passengers were met on arrival with fresh and fragrant Hawaiian flower lei. Don’t forget the lei stands at Honolulu Airport (a few of which remain), where we’d go to purchase lei for friends and family.

Live Music: Music performances could be found sometimes before, during, and after flights to Hawaii. While it would be unusual now to be greeted at the gate by musicians, you can still find live music in Hawaii airports.

Flight departure and arrival hula shows: Cultural performances that set the tone for epic island vacations.

Flight crew special attire: Crew uniforms with Hawaiian motifs or themes. While it remains Hawaiian Airlines stock-in-trade, other airlines still have some touches. On Monday, our United Airlines crew to Hawaii didn’t have anything more than a touch here and there – like a Hawaiiana apron, for example.

Educational narratives: In-flight information about Hawaiian history and landmarks. Those were always a lot of fun when arriving or departing Hawaii, and we haven’t heard them for a while, it seems. We also remember the halfway to Hawaii-game played with other passengers. The Pilot would announce distance, airspeed, headwind, and take-off time to help you guess the right answer.

Unique in-flight entertainment: Special programming highlighting Hawaiian culture and music. Here, too, it’s a focus area for Hawaiian, and that’s about all are aware of. We also remember that some airlines, like defunct Northwest, offered exercise instruction on board. That was before single aisle service and knee-breaking seat pitch.

Hawaiian cuisine and snacks: Unique and authentic Hawaiian meals on board. In a word, no. Maybe on Hawaiian’s first class, wide-body flights, but other than that and some Hawaii snacks, we haven’t seen this in a long time. But then we’ll save airline meals for a whole other story.

Cultural ambiance: Cabin decor reflecting Hawaii’s cultural elements. That’s always been in the wheelhouse of Hawaiian Airlines alone.

Island-themed amenities: Both United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines have Hawaii-themed premium amenity kits, pictured here. We’ve also seen Hawaii-themed blankets (Hawaiian has a new line of these coming up for their Dreamliners), pillows, and other amenities.

Signature beverages: Offering island-themed soft drinks, like POG, and Hawaiian cocktails continues to this day.

Hawaii Has the World’s Longest Over-Water Flights:

Flights to Hawaii are different. Why? These are among the longest overwater flights in the world (without a diversion point), with more than 2,500 miles of open ocean separating the islands from North America. It means that you could at any point be up to three hours from the nearest diversion airport. For a multitude of reasons, safety takes on a new meaning.

Did you know that the FAA once said they would never allow flights to Hawaii on today’s twin-engine aircraft?
“It’ll be a cold day in hell before I let twins fly long-haul over-water routes,” said FAA Administrator Lynn Helms in 1980 when asked by Boeing to approve longer duration ETOPS. If you don’t know ETOPS, we’ll share more in today’s post. It is critical that an aircraft can fly with one engine across the Pacific, even when it is three hours away from land. For Hawaii flights, that requires what’s known as ETOPS-180 certification.

Alaska Airlines 737 to Hawaii was ground-breaking.

Aloha Airlines was the first to operate a 737 (with ETOPS-180) to Hawaii. They paved the way for Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines in that regard. That was in 2000, when they flew their Boeing 737-700 aircraft. That also opened the door to today’s other twin-engine jets, the Boeing Airbus A321 used by American Airlines, Delta Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines.

How much Hawaii aviation has changed. It’s interesting how much has changed since the FAA said “no way” to twin engine Hawaii flights. But now, 4-engine jets have largely disappeared, especially from Hawaii’s skies.

Hawaiian Airlines is still the leader when it comes to island-themed service on board: How important is that when choosing your airline to the islands? In the past, Alaska came in second. We’ll be flying with them in December to see if that’s still true.

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7 thoughts on “Groundbreaking And Alluring: Setting Hawaii Flights Apart From The Crowd”

  1. I always enjoyed Hawaiin flights.
    We would stop in Honolulu for a bit, then head over to Lihue.
    Since the Lihue airport was expanded, Hawaiian does not fly from Seattle to Lihue.
    I often fly on Alaska & save a couple of hours.
    I would still prefer Hawaiian!

  2. I remember flying United 707’s in the mid 60’s visiting my Father’s folks in Ct (VERY long flights). Everyone was dressed to the Nines (It was pretty much required). My father had on a suit and tie, my mother had the full Jackie O look complete w pillbox hat and white gloves, I had a little plaid sports coat and Buster Brown shoes on and my sister wore a nice party dress w ballet flats. The crew handed out little pilot’s wings and captains caps to all the boys and cute stewardess caps and wings to the girls (Yeah Yeah – it was 1965 :D)Try seeing That today!

  3. Flew Hawaiian from Kona to LAX on Monday.
    Cabin Crew was grumpy.
    Airlines need “secret shopper” passengers to monitor crew members.

  4. I miss the Lei greeting, I purchased one through Hawaiian Airlines and got a late and not fragrant at all Lei 🙁 . Sad because the memory of the Lei greeting and how fragrant it was as well as the aloha spirit I experienced the first time I ever went to Hawaii is gone now.

  5. As I’ve posted before, I used to enjoy flying to Hawaii because of the unique service- flight attendants in Hawaiian garb, lei’s upon arrival, special drinks, Hawaiian music during boarding….. Nowadays, as Sherri said above, the flying experience to Hawaii is no better than flying to Newark, or Hoboken, NJ (if they had an airport). Now the experience is nothing more than a means to get from point A to point B, with no service given, nor expected.

    1. So true. But it’s generally true that flying used to be an “experience”. People got dressed up. Now, it’s just a flying bus that’s uncomfortable, crowed, and generally annoying. There is nothing special about it anymore to any destination. Well, at least with the US carriers. No US carrier is in the top 10 airlines worldwide.

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