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Join Date: Oct 2002
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The ugly truth about US First Class service to Hawaii
The ugly truth about US (HP) Hawaii service
I just returned from a week in Hawaii via HP’s new PHX-HNL non-stop 757 service in first class. What a positively dreadful experience.
First of all, this flight has apparently been problematic from day one, with significant weight and balance restrictions causing major inconvenience to a lot of people. On our flight, FIFTY passengers were re-accommodated “due to head winds.” When checking in 90 minutes prior to departure, the agent commented that it was a good thing we were in First Class, as we probably wouldn’t be flying. She said that they’ve been bumping “huge numbers” of passengers off that flight every day since it started. Including, she said, elite members. She said the cut-off line is based upon check-in time, so let this be a significant warning: If you are flying a US/HP flight to HNL or OGG (Maui), check-in online, well ahead of flight time if you want to be guaranteed a seat. (Though I will add to that, that online check-in was not available on the return flight, at any point within the normal 24 hour window, as I tried multiple times – I have no idea why. I don’t know about the PHX-HNL flight, as I didn’t try.)
We boarded on time, then spent 90 minutes sitting at the gate while they continued to sort out their weight and balance and reaccommodation issues (including pulling more people off the plane), according to the pilot. He announced that in addition to the 50 passengers who were taken off the flight, “around 50 bags are also being removed from the plane and those will be sent on to Honolulu and delivered to hotel rooms later that night.” (Famous last words.)
It was my hope (naďve, I know) that there would be some improvement to the standard first class service given the length of the flight (6 hours, 45 minutes) and the nature of the destination. I knew better. Food options consisted of the latest standard first class fare: chicken salad or hot sandwich. No mai tai’s, no additional meal options or snacks.
A fair amount has been written about the dreadful seats in HP’s ancient 757s. I concur that they have to be the most uncomfortable first or business class seats I’ve ever flown in. They’re hard, with absolutely no back (or neck) support and are mounted higher than normal, which puts even more stress on your back if you are under 6’. They’re old, the seatbacks are very thick and they’re crammed together, which means that the minute the person in front of you reclines (which, in my case, was wheels-up, for the duration of the flight) , you are staring at the top of their head, can hardly open your tray table and forget about using your laptop. For this reason, I had reserved the bulkhead seats in row 2 months in advance and those seats were still secure the day prior to departure. Suddenly, when checking in at the airport, two of us traveling together had been scattered in the cabin for no apparent reason, but we ended up together in row 3.
The sound and video quality of the one-day-old tape was horrible – the movie was un-watchable.
In HNL, we barely made our 2-hour HA connection to KOA. Our bags didn’t have a chance. Fortunately, they were not among those that were off-loaded in PHX (though the HP baggage office had no clue what I was talking about when I was trying to trace them over the phone) as they arrived in KOA on a later HA flight.
On the return from HNL, airport check-in was a nightmare. No skycap service is available. There is no first class, elite or Star Alliance Gold/Silver check-in counter. There are no signs or any indication whatsoever about the required pre-check-in agriculture scan of your bags. While waiting in line, I observed several frustrated passengers trekking from the check-in line back to the agriculture scan line to start all over again.
Not surprisingly, US/HP does not have their own staff in HNL, they use a local contracted service. In the words of the agent I walked up to and asked, “Is there a first class check-in desk”: “No, that’s your line (snaking around the columns and down the corridor) right there – no matter your class.”
We boarded on time. (I would hope – the aircraft sits in HNL for a scheduled 9 hours) We sat at the gate for 30 minutes past departure while “waiting for paperwork.” Then we sat out on the tarmack for another 30 minutes while the pilot seemed to be revving the engines over and over again. (Nice feeling, by the way, just prior to 5+ hours overwater in a 20+-year-old, 2-engine, beat-to-crap HP 757.)
The flight is scheduled to depart HNL at midnight. As such, they’ve modified the service and serve only drinks until about an hour before arrival, when they serve fruit and bread as a “breakfast.” I don’t know what, if anything, they offer in the back, as I fortunately slept through it.
Arrival in PHX was approximately 1 hr 15 minutes late. The gate agent announced the flights that had been missed – virtually all flights east. Nearly everyone around us in First Class was connecting and it seemed all of them had missed their flights.
I have flown First Class on Hawaiian Airlines on this route many times since they started it. I have to say that other than elite-qualifying mileage, US/HP has absolutely no advantage over HA. HA wins, hands-down in every category. US/HP came off as rank amateurs throughout this experience – a truly pathetic display.
Last edited by AZ Travels the World; Jan 11, 06 at 11:01 am..
Reason: correct typo
Thanks AZ! Your report confirms my theory that US Airways continues having the worst First Class product even on longer routes that the airline should strive to improve the onboard experience. In this forum, someone was asking about flying US F to Hawaii last week and I warned the OP about the rather uncomfortable flights that he(s) would experience. I think bigger losses are around the corner.
Programs: GSA City-Pair; emeritus AS MVPG/UA 1K/US Plat, etc.
Write in and complain. Make your voice heard. It is apparent that someone in Tempe means well, but can't get their head out of their ... long enough to figure out what to do, and they have to be bombarded with complaints to get them to wake up and smell the green limes.
Why doesn't US/HP just book FEWER passengers on the PHX-HNL flight. That's how we handled it at AA. Often, we had weight restrictions on the DC-10 out of DFW in the Winter (when they were using a -10 instead of a -30, IIRC). We simply lowered the number of seats sold on the flight.
This is the usual amateurish operation that HP runs. However, AS's troubles as of late are making HP/US look simply wonderful!
Thanks for the report, AZ --- it doesn't sound like HP/US service to HNL is exactly the way to get one's vacation off to a relaxing start (or finish).
I certainly hope from a meal perspective that HP's cold salad or hot sandwich selections as a dinner "entree" DO NOT make their way over to US. US's transcon meals are already desperately lacking when compared to UA -- although I continue to remain grateful to this day that they are at least some type of hot meal choice and not those dreaded boxed "meals." Switching over to the HP-styled "meals" in F would be a poor decision. I hope they at least stick with the two hot meals choices for B, L and D on transcons.
Also, given that another post elsewhere in this forum notes that the new US will begin using more 757's on transcons, I certainly hope that doesn't mean that we are going to be stuck with what sounds like horribly uncomfortable seats from the HP livery.
Thank you very much for the report. I am just about ready to book tickets for an upcoming trip to Maui. I refuse to deal with that crap and will fly United on a widebody. I'm not going first class, but my time is valuable and I do not want to be re-accommodated. I was a little nervous about those old 757s anyway; it doesn't comfort me that they have to take passengers and bags off the plane because of headwinds.
Phew, that was a close one -- almost booked the tickets yesterday.