Hawaii Flights: Doing It More But Enjoying It Far Less!

Your editors have been flying around and to and from Hawaii a lot lately. And it’s nice to see that, in a way, things are similar to before Covid. But on the other hand, things couldn’t be less like before, and to say it is frustrating is an understatement. Two BOH editors took four flights in the past two days, and here’s what comes to mind.

Flight delays are exasperating on interisland flights.

With the most recent flight being the most irritating, editor Jeff flew between Kauai and Honolulu yesterday. Easy right? Well, in a word, no.

First, to attend a Honolulu event, he decided to fly nearly 4 hours earlier than he would usually have. Why? Because it is almost impossible to rely on interisland flights for punctuality any longer for various reasons, including the ongoing DOT runway outage at HNL that will continue into next year. Case in point, there were in total 105 flight delays at Honolulu yesterday, of which Hawaiian suffered 87.

The issues at Lihue Airport.

Heading out to Honolulu, things went reasonably well. The major issue was that the Southwest flight to Honolulu was using gate 10A, which means there is no boarding gate at Lihue. Passengers are escorted down a flight of interior stairs to the ground. Then walk to the boarding ramp for the aircraft. We had the same gate on a recent Alaska Airlines flight.

As a side note, the condition and appearance of Lihue Airport is embarrassing. We skipped photos in the antiquated, rusty restrooms. But it is simply a ridiculous situation for a state where tourism is the only real economic driver, and this is what visitors see on arrival. Don’t get us started on where did the resident and visitor taxes go if not to this and the roads.

On yesterday’s Southwest flight to Honolulu, perhaps a half-dozen wheelchair passengers needed to board first. In third-world Lihue Kauai’s airport, only a tiny old elevator is available to take those passengers to the ground level. That means only one wheelchair passenger at a time can be in the elevator. About a 10+ minute delay resulted from waiting for the slow elevator to get those passengers to the ground. Had it not been for that, oh well, you get the point.

Even in spite of the elevator-induced delay, the flight left promptly and landed on time in Honolulu. There was a slight delay waiting for a gate agent to help open the aircraft door. The Southwest purser-acting FA told jokes on the way to the gate, and when he discovered a further delay, he continued to tell more jokes. All-in-all, it was a nice touch.

Return from Honolulu to Lihue.

It’s worth noting that Honolulu Airport is still in the midst of renovation. Some parts are better than others, and for us, the middle terminal where Delta and Southwest depart has the most modern and fun appearance, with more things to do and see. The only issue even there is that there are no good food options, largely because the state’s selected food vendor does an awful job. We also recently reported on the new Hawaiian terminal and its shortcomings. The interisland terminal, too, has nearly no vendors open past 5 PM. It was shuttered at 7:30 pm when editor Jeff arrived. Because he’d just been there recently, he came prepared with food, and it wasn’t an issue. Also, note that there are no restrooms in a significant section (B gates) of the area where Hawaiian’s interisland flights arrive and depart.

Back to the flight. On the return from Honolulu to Lihue, editor Jeff’s Hawaiian Airlines flight was delayed (no surprise). That story has become a broken record. Not only that, but the Hawaiian Air app and the flight display boards at HNL continued to show that the flight was on time, whereas in actuality, it was 45 minutes late. The only clue came when Jeff used FlightAware and tracked the inbound flight, which was also about 45 minutes late. It would have been great to have known that in advance. Fail.

More minor issues on the flight included the plane not being able to approach the gate for unknown reasons when it arrived late. Plus, a catering truck got stuck between the baggage trolleys and the plane’s cargo ramp.

On checking FlightAware, there were 87 Hawaiian Airlines flight delays at HNL yesterday. It was just not a happy affair, for either the employees or the customers. The lead photo in today’s post shows one of the HA service desks at nearly 9 PM last night. The line was long, and the employees looked even more unhappy than the customers. On this last flight of the day to Lihue, all seats were taken, and it was announced at boarding that those still wanting to travel but who didn’t have seats would not be going to Kauai last night. Did they sleep in the airport or what?

Once on the plane, Jeff noticed one of the flight attendants was repeatedly checking her watch. In his mind, she, too, was frustrated about getting home so late.

Again, this might not seem like much in terms of a delay to you, but for us in Hawaii, airline employees and passengers alike, this is like a city bus running 45 minutes late.

What have you experienced recently in Hawaii at our airports?

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22 thoughts on “Hawaii Flights: Doing It More But Enjoying It Far Less!”

    1. Hi Alexandra.

      We’re with you as we are heading out for a 15,000 mile jaunt on United from Hawaii next month as well. Wishing us all good luck.


  1. Good writeup. As a side note, years ago the quote the state got from their crony contractors was $1m per restroom at HNL to renovate. One million. Imagine what it costs in LIH. I’ll refrain from any political commentary.

  2. I have to agree. As much tourism there is, there is no support or rebuilding of the airport. A sad joke. I’m flying there every month. Also Maui needs big improvements. Food and facilities. What is the State of Hawaii doing with all those tourist tax dollars? Embarrassing

  3. Isn’t arriving at an old mildew smelling airport with rusty bathrooms, no jet ways and creaky slow elevators a part of the charm of visiting Hawaiian islands?

      1. My numerous flights to BI the last several years have eithers been on time or early. Anyway aren’t we just talking 1st world problems.

  4. When we used United to get to the island, we always had to use Hawaiian Air to make that last leg into Lihue. That’s been a good many years ago and, it would appear that nothing had changed with that being late always.

  5. Same thing on the mainland! Arrived in Seattle from Kona week ago friday. Our connecting flight was 45 min late departing because our flight attendants were crewing a flight that was delayed arriving in seattle. There was another flight that looked full leaving at 10:30 pm ther was cancelled shortly prior to boarding likely causing those folk a night in the airport

    1. Something else to remember is that the flight crews are required to have a rest period of a certain length, so when a flight is late arriving at a mainland destination that crew is probably the same crew for the next mornings departing flight and since their layover clock doesn’t start until after landing your departure can be delayed too. This happened to me on my first trip to Hawaii.

  6. We flew over to Honolulu this past Friday (11th) on SWA at 2:25 pm, Gate 10A (walk downstairs and outside to board – other way around to deplane). We’re we on your flight?? Was on time. We flew back to LIH Sunday afternoon. A few minutes late, but not a big deal.

    Yes, LIH is sad and tired. At least they finally have wifi (in the “outdoor” lobby bar only AFAIK).

    Friday dinner at Merriman’s, excellent as always. Sunday brunch at Hana Koa Brewing – I highly recommend, if you have not been there. I have my eye on those big sports bars on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the downtown Whole Foods (across street from Merriman’s) for next visit.

  7. We just spent this past weekend in Honolulu. Friday dinner at Merriman’s. Saturday on Kailua beach. Sunday Brunch at Hana Koa Brewing (highly recommend!). And, how about those sports bars on the 2nd and 3rd floors of downtown Whole Foods, of all places.

    We took the 2:25 pm SWA flight from Lihue on Friday (11th) – were we on the same plane? Not the first time we’ve boarded gate 10A by walking down the stairs and outside. Not a problem for us, so long as not pouring rain. Flight was on time. Sunday afternoon return slightly delayed, maybe 15 minutes. Yes, LIH is old and tired. But, at least they finally have wifi in the (relatively recent) lobby bar. Also, not enough parking.

  8. We just got back from Kaua’i. Our flight from Honolulu to Kauai’s was a 2 hour delay. Allot of shops and restaurants were closed in Honolulu and it was only 3:30 in the afternoon. Finally landing in the Kaua’i, I was surprised how old and antiqued the airport was. Not a good introduction to the beautiful Garden Island. Aloha🌺🌴🌺

  9. Thanks for your comments. We recently had to switch arrival gates on a SWA flight from the mainland. The jet bridge was broken and no one to fix it. Please correct me, but the airports are managed by HDOT if I am not mistaken. One quick drive on most of Oahu’s highways and roads, and you can see how terribly mismanaged HDOT is. For example, after years of neglect, Hwy 98 near Schofield has finally been re surfaced, however about a half a mile at the end of the H-2 was not. One of many examples of gross mismanagement by HDOT. Sadly, very little change in our governance this last election! Sigh!

    1. Hi Dan.

      Yes, it is Hawaii DOT that is responsible for airport management. So it’s hard not to think of our roads and airports in the same bucket. We were told recently by someone employed at HNL that funding for roads and airports may be quite separate. The management, perhaps less so.


  10. Back in the days when Hawaiian was well, less than stellar with its service, the acronym “HAL” meant “Hawaiian Always Late”. While Dunkerly and his successors, before COVID, were able to keep the airline generally on time, the situation now harkens back to the bad old days of Hawaiian. Now the reasons could be different than it is before, but it’s all about operations and performance, especially for passengers. While Southwest does run a more tight ship interisland, the coin flip could see them having problems, in the future.

    1. Hi Stan.

      We didn’t recall that expression, but a HA pilot friend of ours coincidentally just mentioned it. Those of us who rely on them as a utility sure hope that reverses, and their executives have assured us it will.


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