Trip report introduction: Catching the Hawaiian Airlines A321neo (by the skin of my teeth)

01. Introduction: Catching the Hawaiian Airlines A321neo (by the skin of my teeth)
02. Hawaiian Airlines A321neo first class San Diego to Maui
04. 3 things I wish I would have known about driving to the top of Haleakala
04. Westin Maui Resort and Spa, Ka’anapali
05. Hawaiian Airlines 767-300 economy class Maui to San Diego

Booking a trip to Hawaii is a special kind of feeling that I look forward to more than anything else in this world, and as far as I’m concerned, it ranks right up there with putting on warm clothes fresh out of the dryer, coming home to a pet that is SO excited to see you that she pisses all over herself, and blasting out a huge sneeze after fighting so long (with watery eyes and an itchy nose) to unleash it.

And you know what? I don’t even care if that was a grammatically incorrect run on sentence, because even just talking about how good it feels to book a trip to Hawaii is immensely satisfying, and my concern for proper grammar goes right out the door for such things. Concern, I no have!

Thinking back on it, it never once occurred to me as I was putting this reservation together that it had the possibility of falling apart on me really fast. All I could think about was bottomless and ice cold guava juice on the five-hour flight over, followed by being mesmerized by swaying palm trees and ukulele’s for three days straight. Anyone who has been to Hawaii more than once knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Doing whatever it takes to get a ride on the A321

It was a risky reservation (despite my reluctance to acknowledge it), but it was a gamble I was willing to take to get a ride on a brand new Hawaiian Airlines A321neo. For those that don’t know, Hawaiian Airlines relaunched their San Diego to Maui service back in May of this year, and their goal was to start it with fresh-off-the-line A321neo aircraft. Unfortunately, manufacturing issues with the engines were causing aircraft delivery delays, and it turned out that Hawaiian had less A321’s on hand than they were expecting by the time they launched this service.

A lack of availabile aircraft required them to bring back some 767-300s (which they had just kicked to the curb), and that was all they had to launch the SAN-OGG service back on May 17th. I already knew that this was happening when I booked my reservations, so I decided to wait until they permanently switched over to the A321 before going. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to try that NEO!

Based on the schedules available at the time, they were planning to switch to the A321 on the 29th of June. I decided to book my reservation for mid July, thinking that I was playing it safe and that even if they delayed the start of A321 by just a little bit, I would still be OK by going several weeks later. I also know that the harder I plan, the more that things will go wrong – it’s my entire life story basically. With that in mind, I simply let it be and let fate take over from there. “Whatever happens will happen”, I muttered to myself as I shut down my computer and sat down to watch something completely mind numbing (and likely really immature) on Netflix for the next two hours.

“Dear Mr. SANspotter – we regret to inform you…”

What eventually happened was that I got a email exactly 4 days later informing me of a schedule (and aircraft) change. Pretty much the last thing that a careful planner like me would want to happen, right? But it wasn’t all bad news – and as a matter of fact, I actually felt as if I had lucked out a bit as I read my new itinerary:

07/16/18 HA37 A321neo first class SAN-OGG
07/18/18 HA38 A321neo exit row / economy class OGG-SAN
07/18/18 HA38 767-300/ER economy class OGG-SAN

Yeah, it was a bit of a bummer to realize that I lost the A321 on the way back to San Diego from Maui, but I write airline reviews after all, so getting the chance to finally do a full review of Hawaiian Airlines 767 economy class didn’t bother me a bit. It was something that has been missing from the blog anyway (besides this series of dull pics I posted from a SAN-HNL 767 flight in 2013), so I was feeling glad that I was going to have the opportunity to give you my opinion about how old and crusty those birds are (because, well, they are). Never mind the fact that they will be completely gone from the fleet very soon and that nobody will ever be searching for such information from here on out, but it’s the principle of the matter.

The thing that I was most happy about was the fact that I really lucked out on that A321 from San Diego to Maui. It turns out that the switch from the 767 to the A321 was only temporary – and that they were planning to switch back to a 767 the day AFTER my flight on the 16th. So that meant that I was going to get a ride on the very last one between SAN and OGG – at least for a while.

Heck, even at the time of this writing, they are still using the 767 on the route and to be honest I don’t even know yet when exactly the A321 is going to return. It will though, and (spoiler alert) if you’re planning on flying to Maui from San Diego, it’s in your best interest to wait to get yourself a seat on one of those airplanes. Without giving too much away, it was a really nice flight and heaps and bounds better than those old and crusty 767’s that have been the backbone of the fleet for so long. It’s not very often that I’m happy to see a small narrowbody replace a larger widebody on a long and heavy route like this, but in this case I’m totally onboard with it and very excited about the direction that Hawaiian Airlines is headed!

Despite that excitement, the full trip report for the San Diego to Maui segment is going to be delayed by a few days since I am traveling right now (Europe again!) and finding the time to hammer it out has been difficult so far. Besides, Europe is pretty much as far as one could get from Hawaii, and I’m not sure that I’m in the proper “island mindset” to do it any justice. I mean, I don’t see how it would be possible to write a nice Hawaiian Airlines trip report from a place where they don’t even sell flowery Hawaiian shirts or prickly coconut bras…

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