Los Angeles to Hawaii
Aloha! There are five airlines that offer nonstop service to Honolulu (HNL) from Los Angeles (LAX). They are American, Continental, Delta, Hawaiian and United. On this particular route I've flown them all but Continental. Out of the four I would say my favorite is Hawaiian since they have wide body planes, free food, Hawaiian juices, and staff in colorful uniforms. The others aren't so bad; here's what it's like to fly on American Airlines.
American has four flights a day to and from Honolulu. American also serve Hawaii's other main airports: Kona (Big Island), Kahului (Maui) and Lihue (Kauai). I'm a big fan of American's frequent flier program but not of their single aisle 757s which they're now flying to the islands. I prefer to spend five-plus hours on a wide body or a plane that has individual on-demand entertainment systems (such as Delta). On American they just show a movie and in-flight programming on the overhead monitors. If you don't like the movie they are playing (you can look up American's in-flight entertainment programming online) my advice to keep from boredom is bring an iPod/iPad or laptop.
I checked in online for my 7:50am flight because I wasn't checking a bag and wanted to save myself time and money. American charges $25 for the first checked piece and $35 for the second. Then it's $100 per piece for the third, fourth and fifth checked bags. Don't grumble yet but it's $200 per piece for the sixth checked bag and any additional pieces. Go online for American's complete baggage guidelines.
When I rolled up to the gate area just before 7am the agents were making an announcement that they were looking for three volunteers to give up their seats since the flight was oversold. In return, they would give those passengers a $500 American Airlines voucher and confirmed seats on American's next flight two and a half hours later. Hello McFly?! That's easy money so of course I'm going to snag that deal. I darted to the desk and was first in line but unfortunately, they ended up not needing my seat. TIP: If you do get bumped voluntarily always choose the airline's cash vouchers over a free roundtrip because the latter are heavily restricted and you don't earn miles.
Sleeping at LAX and Onboard
I kept my original seat and boarded the packed 757. I had the best seat in coach -- 18C -- which is an aisle seat in the second exit row. I sat next to a cool couple in their early twenties from Long Island who informed me that the terminals in LAX close during the middle of night except for the Tom Bradley International Terminal. How do they know? They arrived into LAX late the night before and instead of splurging for a hotel for a few hours they slept in the airport. They said they didn't sleep too well on the airport floor, but they sure did on our five-hour-and-thirty-two-minute flight to Honolulu. It helped that there were no crying babies on the plane. What a difference that makes.
Lunch, Not Breakfast
One beef I have with American is that we were on a morning flight going to a destination that's three hours behind (two hours in daylight savings) and they were selling lunch items, not breakfast. Who wants a Boston Market beef brisket sandwich ($10), Caesar salad with chicken ($10), or cheese and crackers at 9am? Where's the ham, egg, and cheese bagel or a bowl of fruit and yogurt?
Military Eat for Free
What's cool is that the flight attendants made an announcement that if there were any military on board who were hungry all they had to do is show their military ID and their food would be complimentary. They went on to say, "Thank you for serving our country." Now that made up for the lunch food at breakfast time. However, it didn't make up for the fact that the flight attendants came down the aisles serving tap water from pitchers. One swig of that gnarly water and I kindly handed it back. Serving tap water from a plane's holding tank which you know is full of germs should be an FAA violation. Don't you agree?
AA Flight Attendants
Two out of the four flight attendants were very nice, but the purser (lead flight attendant) had a bad attitude, and she's supposed to have the best. When I got on the plane I gave her a big Good Morning with a bright smile and she muttered "Hi." Maybe she was having a bad day, but you got to pick it up or call in sick instead of having a frown for the whole flight. Come on lady, we're going to Hawaii!
The flight was smooth, on time and no crying babies so overall I would say it was pretty darn good. The only thing that could've made it better was if the purser smiled, they had individual entertainment systems, offered breakfast instead of lunch and had Guava or some other kind of fruity juice instead of the regular beverages (they did have mai tais). But to me there is nothing like having a cold glass of Guava juice flying to Hawaii. We landed 10 minutes early at 11:30am local time, and I was pumped to be back in the islands. Then again, who wouldn't be?
American, tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com
Note: This flight was sponsored by the Lanai'i Tourism Board. Frommer's does not promise coverage of any kind in exchange for assistance from travel providers.
John E. DiScala (a.k.a. Johnny Jet) travels around 150,000 miles and visits over 20 countries each year. He and his website JohnnyJet.com have been featured in USA Today, Time, Fortune and The New York Times, and he has appeared on ABC, CBS, CNBC, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, FOX News Channel and PBS. JohnnyJet.com has been named "one of the top best money-saving web sites for travel" by Budget Travel Magazine, while the L.A. Times calls it "one of the top 10 essential travel resources on the internet." Sign up today for Johnny Jet's free weekly travel newsletter at JohnnyJet.com.