28 June 2008 - The long-awaited, much-planned Hawaiian vacation began. Getting to Hawaii wound up being ~interesting~ for us. It all started off smashingly enough. We left the house on time and arrived at the airport about an hour and a half before our flight was to depart. No sooner did we print out our boarding passes, however, than we noticed that our flight would be two hours delayed.
How could a 7a flight be 2 hours delayed, we wondered – isn’t it the first flight of the day? Turns out the crew got in very late the night before and there’s a mandated amount of sleep they must get before flying again. (I won’t even bother launching into my angry little tirade asking why they’re the only crew that can manage to fly a Super 80 for a three hour flight to Los Angeles – Sean’s the only one who had to suffer through that one). Fine. Instead of panicking, we talked to the desk agent about how we were probably going to miss our connecting flight to Hawaii if we arrived 2 hours late in LA (silly us thinking a two hour and twenty minute layover was sufficient), and could they please rebook us. They told us there was nothing they could do. They were American Airlines and our next leg was through Hawaiian Air. We tried to explain that the first airline in the chain of flights was responsible for the whole flight, but she was having none of it. She told us we only paid American for a flight to LA, not a flight to Hawaii. You’ll be proud of me – I swallowed the urge to point out that we also paid for a flight that left at 7, not 9. We were told this 2 hour delayed flight was our only option and good luck catching our next one.
When we finally got to LAX with thirty minutes till our Hawaiian Air flight was to take off, we began to desperately try to get from terminal 2 to terminal 4 as quickly as we could. I may not have mentioned this yet, but thanks to my husband’s obsessively tool-based photography habit, both of us were hauling around bags that weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty pounds. No, they did not roll. Turns out that either the only way to get from terminal 2 to terminal 4 is to exit the secure area of the airport, or the entire staff of LAX (at least the 3-4 people we begged for help) are evil passenger-hating sadists who insisted on uniformly misdirecting us. We finally get ourselves hauled over to the Hawaiian Air desk with about 15 minutes to spare till our flight was to take off. They gave us our boarding passes, we walked about 10 yards from the desk, and they called us back. The doors to our flight had closed – we could no longer get on (even if we could make it through security and find our gate in 15 minutes which wasn’t too likely). Their first comment to us was that we should go back to American to insist that they fix the mess they had made of our flight. By this point, we were getting understandably frustrated at the whole airline business. We accepted an alternate flight from Hawaiian that would get us into Kona about 6 ½ hours after we were meant to arrive, thereby completely blowing our first day’s plans and potentially making us miserably tired for our second day’s plans. Next, we drug ourselves back over to terminal two to confront the American Airlines folks. As we were walking and moving our bags around, I noticed that I had a very sharp pain in my back – the kind that makes you suck wind when you move too quickly. Maybe I pulled a muscle in repeatedly picking up and putting down my backpack - it was really the least of our problems at this point. We waited in the slowest moving line I have potentially have ever stood in and finally were in front of the American Airlines desk lady. I have to say, she more than made up for the now obvious buck passing we had received from everyone else. She was very polite and clearly making an effort to get us to Hawaii faster. She had to dicker around with people on the phone to get our altered Hawaiian flights canceled and was having trouble getting her system to put us on the flights she thought we should be on (I’m wondering if dollar amounts were a factor here). Her solution was to route us through San Francisco and then on to a direct flight to Kona getting us in around 7:15p or so, only about 3 hours later than intended. All this sounded like an acceptable deal to us, and we thanked her profusely for putting in the effort. And then if all that weren’t enough, she gave us a $20 voucher for lunch (which was great, because we were both STARVING by this time).
Since we had a couple of hours till the new flight left, we sat down and had a leisurely if unremarkable lunch. Then we moseyed on down to our gate where the flight that was supposed to leave at 2:15p was now scheduled to leave at 3p. We were again in jeopardy of missing our flight to Hawaii (we only had about an 80 minute layover). When our boarding time came and went without anyone getting on the airplane, I had to work very, very hard to keep tears from falling. After getting to bed around 1 in the morning and getting up at 4 and running into two crappy delays and at least one missed flight to get to the trip of our dreams, I was beginning to get sort of irritable. Sean, bless him, went up to the counter at the gate and asked the lady there if there were other flights to San Francisco to Kona in case we missed the one we were currently booked on. She, apparently unkindly, told him that there was nothing she could do for him, that an American Airlines agent in SFO would rebook us if we missed our flight. (See, our plan was to go back and take the later Hawaiian flight from LAX instead if there was nothing else we could take from SFO.) She was decidedly unhelpful, and in the end we made up our minds to try it and hope for the best. As I was sitting there stewing at the unhelpful person behind the counter, it occurred to me that I might know what was causing my back pain – suppressing the urge to kill. When we finally pushed back from the gate at 3:15p, I had already calmed down and was making preparations to sleep in the San Francisco airport that night.
We arrived in San Francisco with about 15-20 minutes to spare and speed-walked to our departure gate. We got our boarding passes at the counter and breathlessly placed ourselves in line. The rest of the flight went just fine. We even met a very interesting man on the plane. He was friendly and conversation with him was unforced – and he was even a Kona local, so he gave us lots of good advice about where to eat and what to see and all that (most of which I had unfortunately forgotten by the time we landed). We were both fairly calm by the time we arrived in Kona, resolving to embrace the aloha and enjoy our vacation.
The Kona airport was fascinating – it seemed more like we had entered a friendly island shopping center than an airport. We received our lovely leis from whoever the travel agent paid to lei us and walked over to the baggage claim. Neither of us really expected our bags to show up given the missed flight, flight change, and near miss on the changed flight, so we were positively serene when we went to the baggage office and talked to them about getting our bags. He didn’t seem to think it’d be an issue and wrote out all the details of our flights and hotels and luggage and gave us a little slip with a number to call if we hadn’t received our bags by the next afternoon. We walked over to our original airline as well just in case it had shown up there – it hadn’t. Then we hopped a shuttle, picked up our rental car, and drove uneventfully to our hotel.
We met up with Sean’s father Harry and sister Darci to go eat dinner. It was a sports bar called Drysdale’s Two that was recommended to Darci by a local she had met at the bar. By this point, I just wanted to shovel food down my maw so I could go back to the hotel and crash like I had never crashed before. In looking though the menu, absolutely nothing presented itself as the one thing I really wanted to have for dinner, so I ordered a dish called Sam’s saimin. I wasn’t sure it was wise ordering saimin at a sports bar, but as I stated, I didn’t really care what I was consuming so long as I was full when I was done and could sack out directly thereafter. Saimin is sort of like standard ramen noodles in broth with the addition of various fixings to kind of dress it up and make it more filling. This particular saimin had eggs, ham, fish cake, green onions, and mushrooms. It was incredibly filling, and the broth was fantastic (certainly not the salty mess you get with your grocery store ramen here in the states). She had asked if I needed any shoyu (on the mainland, we’d call it soy sauce), and having not tasted it yet when she asked I said yes, but it was definitely not necessary here – there was plenty of flavor to be had without overdoing it with added shoyu. When I was through eating it, I was plenty full, deliciously happy, and unbelievably ready to fall asleep (I think Sean was in the same boat, hence, no photos of our first Hawaiian meal).