01. Introduction: Hawaiian island hopping!
02. Alaska Airlines 737-800 economy class San Diego to Kona
03. Island Air ATR 72 Kona to Honolulu
04. Vive Hotel, Waikiki
05. Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 Grand Caravan Honolulu to Ho’olehua
06. Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 Grand Caravan Ho’olehua to Kahului
07. Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 Grand Caravan Kahului to Kona
08. What to do when it rains for the entirety of your Hawaiian vacation
09. Grand Naniloa Hotel, Hilo
10. Hawaiian Airlines 717-200 economy class Hilo to Honolulu
11. Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 Extra Comfort (premium economy) Honolulu to San Diego
After years of doing my best to avoid flying on a 737 to Hawaii, it finally happened. The entire goal of this trip was to see as many parts of the Hawaiian islands as I could that I’ve never seen before, and with the limited amount of time I had, kicking off the trip with an Alaska Airlines 737-800 flight from SAN to KOA ended up being the best option to get me positioned for some really fun inter-island flights.
So what’s the problem with flying on a 737 to Hawaii? Honestly, nothing at all, but you have to understand that I grew up in a time when the only way you could get to Hawaii was on something big (like a 747, DC-10, L-1011, or 767). I was conditioned from a very early age to expect nothing but wide body service to the islands, and to be honest, flying on a little 737 across the pacific to this tropical paradise takes a bit of the romance out of the experience. At least it does for me – I know plenty of people who don’t care one way or the other and the only thing that matters to them is not crashing into the ocean on the way over. Yeah, that’s important too, but…bring back the 747’s I say!
San Diego, CA (SAN) – Kona, HI (KOA)
Saturday, April 29, 2017
Duration: 5 hours 32 minutes
Seat: 21C (economy class)
Alaska Airlines 737-800 (N538AS) side view illustration by norebbo.com
Seat map of this Alaska Airlines 737-800 (courtesy of seatguru.com) showing my seat for this flight.
Our route from SAN to KOA this morning: PADRZ1 MALIT C1177 FICKY R578 FITES OKALA VECKI8
Alaska Airlines has a rather impressive schedule in and out of SAN these days, with plenty of service to and from Hawaii covering a multitude of destinations (beyond just Honolulu). The good thing about that is they are fighting tooth and nail with Hawaiian Airlines and their daily A330-200 service to HNL, which is keeping ticket prices low and service levels high. This is a very good time to be a San Diegan if you travel to Hawaii on a regular basis! I’ve always favored Hawaiian Airlines over Alaska in the past, but I was looking forward to changing things up a bit and giving AS a chance to win me over.
It may be dark, cold, and early but I’m headed to Hawaii today so I don’t care!
Alaska Airlines terminal 1 check in counters and bag drop here at SAN.
The only advantage terminal 1 has over terminal 2 is that it’s generally not as busy.
I checked in online for this flight at exactly 24 hours before departure, and at that time, the fight looked to be about 70% full with an empty middle seat next to me. Nice! The opportunity to be able to spread out and relax a bit on this flight was looking good, so I was especially chipper and ready to go the morning of departure. Things appeared to be starting off well!
Just passed through security, and up the escalators into the circle of death.
There she is – my ride to Kona this morning. I was surprised to see it had the old livery, as Alaska Airlines has been pretty aggressive about repainting the fleet into the newest colors.
A better shot of the old gal.
Kona! I love it when the flight information board for my flight has a Hawaiian destination on it.
There was still a bit of time before boarding, so I found a corner spot to sit and relax.
Boarding was called just as the sun was rising, which really helped to brighten the dull atmosphere of terminal 1 here at SAN. I’m not a fan of this terminal at all, and the more that I think about it, it’s probably (subconsciously) another reason why I don’t fly Alaska Airlines or Southwest all that often. Terminal 2 is so much bigger and nicer with a lot more places to sit and relax in peace and quiet.
Alright, here we go!
I’m blanking trying to come up with a clever caption for this. There’s only so much you can say about a jet bridge!
It’s happening. My first ever 737 to Hawaii.
Alaska Airlines 737-800 main cabin.
Alaska Airlines 737-800 economy class seats.
Unfortunately, the middle seat next to me ended up being occupied. To make matters worse, two minutes after I sat down, he rang the flight attendant call button and asked if they had any extra barf bags available. What?? He said he wasn’t sick, but does get motion sickness very easily, so it was just a precaution. Oh jeez. Can you imagine sitting next to someone puking into a little bag for 5 and a half hours? I could, and it was not pleasant. I did feel bad for him (motion sickness is not fun) though. All I could do was hope for the best and pray for a smooth ride.
It turned out that he was a pretty nice guy actually. He and his girlfriend (seated in the window seat) were heading off for a week of rest and relaxation on the big island, and I was really hoping for his sake that he could hold it together and not start off their romantic getaway with dribbles of puke on his shirt…
There are no seat-back video screens on Alaska Airlines, but they do have a streaming entertainment service that you can access from your personal device (for free).
Leg room in these standard economy seats isn’t that bad actually.
Juuuust about ready to go. Still waiting for the last passengers to board.
Normally I’m seated in a window seat, but today I purposely chose an aisle. There’s noting to see between San Diego and Hawaii anyway, and having the option to get up and walk around (perhaps maybe to get away from a puking seat mate?) was nice. The only downside is that I don’t have any takeoff and landing pics for this trip report. The upside is that it makes me try and be more creative with my photography to make up for the lack of window view pics.
How about a look at the WiFi & Movies booklet? Here’s the front cover.
Interior of the WiFi & Movies booklet.
You’ll have to use your imagination here – we are in the process of taking off in this pic, but it’s kind of hard to tell without a view to the outside world…
In flight service started within 10 minutes of departure, consisting of drinks and snacks for purchase. Out of curiosity, I pre-orederd a fruit and cheese tray on the Alaska Airlines website the day before departure, just to see how the process worked. I didn’t have to pay for it on the website – it was simply a reservation. Anyway, it worked like a charm. When the snack cart arrived at my row, the FA asked if I had reserved a fruit and cheese tray. I didn’t even have to mention it. Isn’t technology grand?
This is the fruit and cheese tray that I pre-ordered. The Biscoff cookies were freebies.
But what about the rest of the menu? Let’s have a look.
Alaska Airlines food & drink menu interior.
The wine list.
The service was really good on this flight, thanks in large part to some of the happiest flight attendants I have ever seen. There was one young woman in particular who stood out as being someone who I think deserves to be working in an international first class cabin somewhere. She was just so happy, so friendly, and she even carried energetic toddlers up and down the aisle to give parents a much-needed break. I wish I would have got her name so that I could post it here as a way of giving her some attention she deserves!
I spent a little bit of time trying to play with the streaming entertainment service, but it was generally too slow to use.
Every once in a while I was able to connect…
…but most of the time errors were the name of the game.
I listened to music and tried to sleep as much as I could during the flight, and thankfully, my seat mate never once held that barf bag to his face and let loose. He actually looked happy and fine for the entire flight, so I was quite thankful of that.
Since I can’t take pics of the view out the window, pics of the loo will have to do instead.
I’m going to Hawaii! I’m going to Hawaii! lol
Nice view of the entire cabin on the way back from the lavatory.
The mood lighting would be really beautiful during night flights – but it was kind of difficult to see today.
I was tempted to reach over and snap a pic of the view outside…
The final drink service began with just over an hour to go, and free Mai Tai’s were offered to everyone over 21 as a welcome to Hawaii. Watching them come down the aisle, it appeared that a majority of passengers took them up on their offer, as they were slingin’ those Mai Tai’s fast and furious from row to row. I’m not normally a fan of sugary drinks, but I had to do it because…well…Hawaii. On a side note, I had a look at the bottle from which they were pouring from, and it was standard-issue stuff from Trader Vics. Not that I’m complaining, but it made me chuckle because I had to wonder who’s job it is at Alaska Airlines to run out to Trader Vics and load up on plastic bottles of ready-to-drink Mai Tai’s for their Hawaii flights. They probably make the interns do it!
Drinking a Mai Tai while listening to “Toes” by the Zack Brown Band. Yep, I’m getting in the island mood now!
Oops – I forgot to fill out my agricultural card (required for everyone traveling to Hawaii).
I was regretting my choice of an aisle seat as we were making the descent, as there were some pretty spectacular views of what looked to be rugged volcanic terrain out there. Too bad I couldn’t get any pics of it. Oh well. We did end up landing 30 minutes early though, so that was nice.
The view was looking pretty good out there during the approach to KOA!
At least I’ll have a window seat on my next segment (KOA-HNL) in a few hours. I couldn’t see anything on this approach.
Kona International Airport is a lot smaller than I expected it to be, and our taxi from runway to gate took all of 30 seconds. And there are no jet bridges here, so I was pretty excited about being able to get some nice pics of the plane from the air stairs. I was not disappointed. They were letting passengers out the front and rear of the plane, and since I was seated in the middle of the aircraft, I could have chosen either door. I held back for a few minutes in favor of deplaning through the rear door though – that would give me better photo opportunities.
Making my way to the rear boarding door. This is gonna be good!
Ahhh, nothing like being hit square in the face with that warm tropical air!
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a 737 from this perspective.
737-800’s do look pretty big at ground level.
Walking into the terminal.
Welcome to Kailua-Kona!
Once off the plane and into the terminal, I was simply in awe. Kona airport is so tiny, and it’s it’s a completely outdoor facility. I mean completely. There are no barriers to the airplanes, and all it takes is just a small hop over a bush to run out onto the runway. I found all this amusing considering how jail-like most other commercial airports in the world are, with locked bulletproof doors separating the terminal to the outside world. Things are much more relaxed on the big island I guess.
Interior (if you can call it that) of the Kailua-Kona airport.
As you can see, it’s more like an open-air park than an actual airport!
Instant arrest and prosecution is yours should you choose to hop that bush. The lack of walled security here is kind of refreshing actually.
So what did I think of my first ever 737 flight to Hawaii? It was fine. It wasn’t uncomfortable. And the sense of “fun” about flying to Hawaii still filled the cabin. But as long as Hawaiian Airlines offers A330-200 service between SAN and HNL, I’m going to choose that every time over an Alaska Airlines 737. Long live wide bodies to Hawaii!
How the heck am I able to fly in business class all the time?
Subscribe to my mailing list and and I'll share with you a detailed list of the top 5 tools that I use that allows me to fly in international business for free on a regular basis!
Thank you for subscribing! Please check your email - a confirmation link has just been sent to you and your subscription will not be active (and the free report not available) until you click that link.
Something went wrong.
Seat map Boeing 737-800 “Alaska Airlines”. Best seats in the plane
Alaska Airlines operates two versions of Boeing 737-800.
First cabin version of the Boeing 737-800 (738) Slimline V1
First version of the Boeing 737-800 operated by Alaska Airlines may accommodate 163 passengers in two classes.
16 recliner seats are located in the first class. All these seats are standard. Noise coming from the galleys may cause discomfort to passengers ofthe seats of the 1st row. Also these seats may have no floor storage during take-off and landing.
Entertainment equipment stored under the seats 1A and 1F limits under seat storage and legroom.
147 passengers may accommodate economy class. Economy class is divided from first class with a curtain divider.
Passengers of the seats of the 6th row will take advantage of extra legroom. However, these seats have no floor storage during take-off and landing and are narrower than standard as the tray tables are in the armrests making them immovable.
All A and F seats of the rows 9-12 have misaligned windows. The seat 10A has no window.
Because of the exit row located behind the seats of the 15th row are less reclining.
As the seats of the 16th row are located between two exit rows, they offer extra space for passengers’ legs, but at the same time have limited recline. Among other disadvantages: lack of floor storage during take-off and landing, lack of overhead storage and reduced width of the seats.
The best seats on this airplane are considered the seats of the 17th row Passengers of these seats will feel comfortable thanks to the extra legroom. However these seats have no floor storage during take-off and landing in addition the seats 17ABC have no overhead storage.
Close location to the lavatories and limited recline or even no recline make the seats 31ABC and 32DEF bad seats.
Second cabin version of the Boeing 737-800 (738) Slimline V2
Second version of the Boeing 737-800 airplane offers seats of three classes: first, premium and economy.
This airplane offers totally 159 seats.
First three rows of seats represent seats of the first class. These seats have 2-2 configuration. The seats of the 1st row have the following disadvantages: location of the galley and lavatory in front and lack of floor storage during take-off and landing.
The seats of the first class are divided from the seats of premium class with a curtain. Premium class may accommodate 30 passengers in 5 rows. These seats have 4 extra inches of legroom. An extra fee should be paid to book these seats. As the tray tables of the seats of the 6th row are in the armrests the width of these seats is slightly reduced. As these seats are located directly behind the seats of the first class the floor storage during take-off and landing may be limited.
Economy class consists of 117 standard seats. Most of these seats have 3-3 configuration. Only the last row contains just 3 seats. Due to the exit row located behind the seats of the 15th row have limited recline.
Passengers of the seats of the 16th row will feel comfortable thanks to extra legroom. However, these seats are less reclining than standard, have no floor storage during take-off and landing and have limited storage space in overhead bins.
Thanks to the exit row located in front passengers of the seats of the 17th row will take advantage of additional space for their legs. But lack of the floor storage during take-off and landing and limited overhead storage space may represent problem.
The only disadvantage of the seat 31D is close location of the lavatory and galley.
Limited recline and the noise from the galley and lavatory located behind make the seats 31 ABC and 32DEF bad seats.