Just How Bad is the Honolulu Airport?

As a travel addict, I’ve seen my fair share of airports around the world, including the good, they bad, and the ugly. I FINALLY got around to visiting Hawaii after all these years and I loved it all around. We visited both Kauai and Oahu and Kauai was by far the big winner. It was truly paradise! Oahu was nice but Honolulu is quite the urban contrast compared to even the North Shore of Oahu. Honolulu felt a lot like Miami Beach so after visiting the peaceful paradise of Kauai, it was a lot to take in.

Shipwrecks Beach, Kauai. So beautiful it doesn't even look real!
Shipwrecks Beach, Kauai. So beautiful it doesn’t even look real!

We flew United in Economy to Honolulu out Denver. We snagged incredibly cheap tickets about 3 months in advance so for the price, Economy was bearable. We connected onto Hawaiian Airlines on to Lihue. We also returned to Honolulu for a few days before returning back to LAX from Honolulu. So throughout the whole trip, we got 3 visits to HNL and a good perspective on how bad the airport is.

Rather than feeling like a major airport, HNL felt more like a small regional airport; quite dated and with limited amenities. While some of the mid-century fixtures were charming, a nice remodel could go a long way in the terminals. Taking advantage of the pleasant Hawaiian weather year-round, a large portion of the terminals is outdoors. The gates are confined into individual air-conditioned areas but they are small and the seating is limited. There are very limited food options, even in the overseas terminal, and the bathrooms were filthy. Imagine transiting from the mainland to Asia through Honolulu and wanting to freshen up, only to find very dirty, dated restrooms!

The layout is disconnected with the overseas terminal, international arrivals, and inter-island terminals completely separate. There is an inter-terminal shuttle but it is usually about a 15 minute wait. The walk is outdoors and takes about the same amount of time as you would wait for the shuttle. There is also no free WiFi and even the paid WiFi was down while we were there. I found this to be quite irritating. Also, don’t plan on finding a spot to charge your phone unless you want to sit on the floor. United clearly did not install power ports like they do at nearly every other major airport they serve.

Through the entire trip, we checked in with both United and Hawaiian Airlines. Hawaiian Airlines utilizes self check-in kiosks and the attendants were friendly. Everything was efficient for the inter-island flights. TSA PreCheck was extremely quick each time. United on the other hand, was a huge hassle. Don’t forget to stop at the USDA station before heading to check your bags. The Premier Access line was incredibly slow and the staff unfriendly. I’ve never had a negative experience with United’s Premier Access bag-check so this was a first.

So long, Honolulu!
So long, Honolulu!

Honolulu definitely gets forgotten by the airlines due to the fact of a low number of business travelers and tons of tourists. There seems to be a low incentive to make updates to HNL since the tourists keep on flowing and the inter-island flights so vital to Hawaii’s economy. While the terminal facilities are among the worst I have seen, the good service by Hawaiian Airlines and the quick TSA PreCheck are bright spots for HNL.


United Status Match Success!

With all the recent buzz about the negative changes to United’s Mileage Plus last week, I did get a glimmer of good news from United. I had recently gained elite status with Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan and decided to put it to good use with United. I’ve been a fairly loyal United customer over the last few years which is quite rare for a DFW based flyer.  United is currently advertising their status match program through July 31, 2014 at no cost on United.com. American Airlines also offers status match but they do charge a fee based on the status level you are requesting.

united status match

Email of course is the fastest and easiest way to send in your status match request. I simply sent in my personal details, Mileage Plus number, and a copy of my Alaska Airlines MVP card. The site says 7-14 days to process, but in less than 24 hours I logged into my United account and I was Premier Silver! Yes, for all you seasoned road warriors out there, I know Silver is quite amateur but it’s still pretty cool to me! Now you must achieve a certain number of United  premier qualifying miles in 90 days to maintain your new status for the remainder of the elite year. I should be set for this as I have enough United travel booked in the next 90 days to maintain my elite status.

With Premier Silver, of course I’m not expecting my flight experience to change dramatically with United. However, 10 minutes worth of work will now save me a couple hundred bucks in checked bag fees, upgrades to Economy Comfort, and who knows, perhaps First on a very empty flight!

That Cat’s Out of The Bag…..United’s Mileage Plan is Going to a Revenue Model

It was one of those mornings as a miles addict that when you open Twitter, and your morning has been shot. Delta did this to us a few months ago and now United has followed suit: United’s Mileage Plan is flipping from a mileage based rewards program to a revenue based one.

Of course, those of us who follow the airline and miles world daily, we knew this was inevitable in the U.S. airline industry. European carriers have fuel surcharges and now the U.S. carriers are going to revenue models. I had a feeling that United would be the first to follow Delta’s lead.  Many of us were hoping that the industry would wait and see how Delta fared with their revenue based program before jumping on that ship. Of course Southwest and Virgin America are revenue based but their model has always been different. I view those carriers with a completely different strategy.

For me personally, it stings. I’m a rare bird in the sense that I’m Dallas based and somewhat United loyal. They aren’t always my #1 choice and I don’t even have status with them. But I like the Star Alliance group and I can find decent award availability with United for the places I want to go. United always seems to have great European deals out of American hubs. But now that I’ve gone elite with Alaska, my strategy to gravitate with American, Delta, and Alaska will only strengthen. American and Alaska could go revenue based at any point but I think their a lot smarter than United. They won’t jump the gun and I don’t think they’ll be as lazy and uncreative  as United. United’s new revenue model is a mirror copy of Delta’s.


united reply 61014


United’s social media team wants me to give the program a chance.


United of course is promising all kinds of exciting changes to benefit Mileage Plan members with things  like using your miles to buy Economy Plus seats and checked baggage subscriptions. These are not genuine perks for customers but merely a gimmick for uninformed travelers to waste their miles on. If United wanted to go the revenue route, they should have at least made the model more attractive than Delta’s to lure customers.

Of course all the credit card bloggers claim they aren’t worried about the change because they’ll keep applying for dozens of rewards credit cards. But I disagree because airlines going the revenue route further limits the options for the everyday traveler to accrue miles. Credit card spending and bonuses are only a small part of my miles strategy. I actually enjoy air travel and the hunt for a sweet mileage run deal. I’ll keep modifying my miles strategy as the game changes but today was another defeat for travel hackers.