I can't count the number of times I've flown to Hawaii. But I can count how many times I haven't flown Hawaiian Airlines. In fact, for the past 20 years I have almost exclusively take Hawaiian Airlines when visiting the islands. It not only leads all U.S. carriers in on-time performance for each of the past seven years (2004-2010), as reported by the U.S. Department of Transportation, but consumer surveys by Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure and Zagat have all ranked Hawaiian the top domestic airline offering flights to Hawaii.
Hawaiian was also the nation’s highest-ranked carrier for service quality and performance in the prestigious Airline Quality Rating (AQR) study for 2008 and 2009. Do these accolades jive with my personal experience? Actually, they do. With very few exceptions, even after the security mania post-911, both the gate and onboard staff are some of the most welcoming and accommodating in the airline business. I love that their flights leave from Los Angeles early in the day, which, with the change in time zones, always gives me enough time to run down and dip my toes in the water for a few hours before dining under Hawaiian skies.
Hawaiian Airlines recently added its fourth new Airbus A330-200, the Hanaiakamalama,and will add three more of these amazing, comfortable 294-seat wide-body aircraft in 2012, three in 2013, three in 2014 and two more in 2015. Look for them when you book between Honolulu and Los Angeles or Las Vegas in the coming months before being introduced to international service later in 2011. Business is up in the islands, so plan on reserving your ticket as far in advance as possible to get the best rates. A great way to stay in touch with special fares is to get on their email list. When a $350 round-trip fare shows up on your screen, don’t hestitate as they go fast.
As a cultural aside, Hawaii is the only state from which the Southern Cross can be seen in the night sky. It’s now believed that ancient Polynesians used the constellation in the southern hemisphere to navigate their way to the Hawaiian Islands. Hence, all of Hawaiian’s new A330s are named for a constellation or star used by Polynesian voyagers for celestial navigation.
But the most exciting news for travelers is the redesigned lobby at the Honolulu International Airport, the result of two years of industry research and motion studies conducted by Hawaiian to find a solution to long lines and bottlenecks during busy periods and to speed up the check-in process. Not only does Hawaiian Airlines tell us it'll be striking in appearance and the results will be immediate in reducing wait times for customers – especially during peak traffic periods - but they're also removing the traditional ticket counter lobby configuration at Honolulu International Airport and replacing it with six circular, check-in “islands” in the middle of Hawaiian’s two check-in lobbies in Terminal 2 at the airport, four in Lobby 2 and two in Lobby 3.
Each check-in island features eight, agent-assisted, self-service check-in stations that can be used to check in for any scheduled interisland, mainland or international flight on Hawaiian. The innovative, free-flowing floor plan eliminates one of three check-in steps and also removes the limitation of having designated queues for various destinations, meaning customers entering the lobby will be able to go to any of the new 48 self-service check-in stations that are available, cutting peak period wait times by up to 75 percent.
Each check-in station will be equipped with state-of-the art technology that allows customers to complete the check-in process for their flight, including the weighing of luggage, payment of any fees for upgrades and other services, and printing of destination luggage tags with assistance from Hawaiian’s customer service agents. Customers will then place their checked luggage onto a single conveyor belt for inline U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection, TSA screening and loading onto their flight. This new process will eliminate the current requirement to have luggage being checked to destinations outside Hawaii pre-screened by USDA before starting the check-in process.
Hawaiian’s new lobby design also provides designated service areas that will give customers a place to re-pack their luggage and carry-on items if necessary, or to receive additional assistance from Hawaiian’s customer service agents. With the removal of the existing ticket counters, Hawaiian’s customers will have more control over their check-in process, and its customer service agents will be free to move about the lobbies and provide more personal assistance alongside customers checking in for their flights. Hawaiian expects to complete the $6-million self-funded transformation of both lobbies in June.
So will all this redesign effort streamline matters for the average traveler? Time will tell, but if nothing else, I'm impressed but not surprised at Hawaiian Airline's continuing ability to get inside the head and concerns of their customers, not just their bottom line.
To make a reservation on Hawaiian Airlines or sign up for their email blasts, visit www.hawaiianair.com.