Used: 2011

When I get an airline route in my head that I want to take, there is little you can do or say these days to make me change my mind. Since I work a full time job, my schedule is way less flexible then it used to be and I’ll pay nearly any price to get what I want. Obviously, it’s all within reason but I’ll now pay a little more then the cheapest price if it’s the days and times I really really need.

After going to Hawaii a few years back and flying out Thursday afternoon and taking the red-eye back Monday night, that is the route I burned in my head when starting to plan my 30th (EKKK!!!) birthday on The Big Island. I kept my eye on flights and prices for nearly a year and had a price in mind that I wanted to pay. For months, nothing seemed to budge as my birthday falls during one of the many high seasons and I started to think about other options.

All of a sudden in February, a flight appeared on the new United/Continental merger that dropped the price by about $300 AND flew the exact times I wanted. I immediately jumped on and bought it. I was so excited! I actually found out later from my friend Melanie that this was a new route that they weren’t even starting to run until June (my birthday is in August) and I was probably one of the first people to buy it, about 6 months out. While still expensive and more then I normally would ever pay for a flight (hell, my flight to Peru was only about $70 more, you do the math on distance from Los Angeles) I ended up getting the best deal compared to the rest of my family and I was the only one who flew non-stop.

All in all, a decent flight. I am so not picky as long as I get where I am going in one piece with no delays. Terminal 5 at LAX is pretty much my idea of a nightmare (see my flight on Spirit) but luckily, it was pretty empty when my flight was leaving. Since it’s all holidaymakers heading from LAX to ITO, the load time for getting on the plane was one of the longest I have ever experienced. It took FOREVER! So many families with so much stuff, plus throw in people who rarely travel, oy. At first I got really excited because my plane was equipped with individual tv screens and for the first time ever, I was willing to pay the price to watch tv as the flight is over 5 hours. But if you fly often enough, you know what is coming. Once you get 200 miles away from the shore, you loose the signal. AGH! They stock the screen with other crap, but I was totally disappointed and didn’t pay for the service. Oh well. But everything was on time, so no complaints from me.

On the day I was leaving, I checked my phone for emails and this is the first time I have ever said this, but thankgod! for smartphones. Quiet early in the day I got an email alert saying that my flight was delayed over an hour. So I didn’t have to be at the airport until later! Yay for smartphones and email! Throughout the day, I got 3 more emails, moving my flight back and forth, but never back to its original time. Since it kept moving, I didn’t want to get to the airport that late. When I told my mom this, she was like, “ohmigod, getting to the airport so early, that has to be the worst thing ever” which is like the biggest exaggeration ever. The Hilo airport is AWESOME and if you have to be delayed anywhere, I highly recommend ITO. While there isn’t anywhere really to shop, the waiting lounge looks like your living room with comfy Hawaiian print bamboo chairs everywhere and there is no shortage of availability. Plus there are like no windows and you feel like you are outside in most of the place. So Hawaiian! The check-in counter was a joke as well. I was so lax about this trip that I forgot my e-ticket print out and when I went to check in, I stared at the screen for a minute before the girl behind the counter asked if I had any luggage to check (I did not) and even when I said that, she was like, let me check you in and I just handed over my id and she printed everything for me. Since Hilo is such a small airport, I asked if the Continental flight back to LAX was the largest flight they had every day and she laughed and said yes. Even at the counter, there was a sign that said it was only open a few hours a day because really, there is no point to be open “normal hours”.

If only this really was your living room!

I love tiny airports. No parking police driving around clearing out the arrivals and departures passenger area, you can take your sweet time loading and unloading. After check in, security was a joke. I mean, you do all the normal stuff that you do at all American airports, but it’s a little more casual. The guard checking id’s made light conversation with me saying “I know where your going” and not in a creepy way, more in a depressing, “your going home” type of way. And unlike big airports, it was quick and painless and not nerve racking at all. The whole thing took like 15 minutes, if even. The only other flights that leave from Hilo throughout the day are going back to Honolulu and there was a flight that was very delayed as well going back to HNL at the same time my flight was supposed to leave. It was delayed longer then mine and there was announcement made over the loud speaker, asking people not to leave because security was closing at 10pm and there would be no way for passengers to get back in after that time. I had to laugh, you would never hear that announcement at a major airport!

It’s the same plane that comes out earlier in the evening (that I flew out on) that turns around and goes back to LAX on the red-eye. The plane on my return flight was super basic compared to the plane I flew out on. Besides the ample leg room, it was just like a Spirit or Southwest flight in that there was no entertainment what so ever. No screens anywhere and no music in the armrests. It didn’t matter too much as the flight back is a red-eye and quiet quick, but I feel bad for the passengers who flew out earlier in the day who had no entertainment options at all! I love flying over water, the ride is always so smooth so I look forward to it, unlike the people who hate flying and are scared to fly over water, I actually prefer it.

Moral: Realistic waiting on airfares can be worth it, within reason. Of course, taking into consideration time in advance and season can make a huge difference. And always sign up for the delay alerts directly on the airlines website so you can know in advance if your flight it going to be delayed, though for most major US airports, it doesn’t make a difference as you have to get there hours early anyway. But for a place like Hilo, it pays off and alerts you so you can arrive later as it takes like 3 seconds to check in. Also, I had a pleasant experience with Continental/United as I rarely fly with them, I don’t really care that much. They kept me alert for all delays and that is really all I can ask for.