Island Air ATR 72 Kona to Honolulu

Island Air ATR 72 Kona to Honolulu

Have you ever been distracted by something so interesting that it causes you to make a mistake that nearly ruins your carefully planned Hawaiian vacation? I have. Let me explain what happened…

Getting off that Alaska Airlines flight from SAN and being dumped into one of the most casual and laid back airports I’ve ever seen (KOA) was sensory overload. Landing in Hawaii after a long flight is a special feeling all it’s own, but landing at Kailua-Kona cranks that up to level 10 and it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the warm tropical breezes, swaying palm trees, and those pretty Hawaiian Airlines 717’s all over the place.

This airport is unique on so many levels, and all I wanted to do was to sit and watch for a while and soak it all in. And that’s exactly what I did for the two hours before my connecting flight to HNL.

SANspotter selfie KOA
“Ooooh, pretty airplanes…”

The problem was I didn’t realize that I was waiting in the wrong terminal. Yup, the Island Air gates are in terminal 1 at KOA, and I was inadvertently waiting in terminal 2 (the terminal I flew into).

I thought it was strange that I hadn’t seen a single Island Air airplane (or sign, or gate) while I was waiting, so 10 minutes before boarding was scheduled to begin I asked the kind lady at the information desk what gate Island Air departs from. As soon as she raised her arm and pointed to something way over my left shoulder, I knew I had screwed up. She didn’t even have to say anything – I knew I had to make a run for it if I was going to make this flight.

Kona, HI (KOA) – Honolulu, HI (HNL)
Saturday, April 29, 2017
Aircraft: ATR-72-212
Registration: N944WP
Duration: 40 minutes
Seat: 7D (economy class)

island air ATR-72 side view drawing
Island Air ATR 72 (N944WP) side view illustration by
KOA to HNL route map
Our route from Kailua-Kona to Honolulu today: V20 HOKLA JULLE5
walking between terminals Kona airport
The walk of shame. I can’t believe I was waiting at the wrong terminal!

Thankfully this is a small airport and the two terminals are located very close to each other. It only took 2 minutes to walk between the two, and then another 5 minutes to get through security. Whew. Disaster averted! Especially since the flight was running just a bit behind schedule and I still had a bit of time to wait before boarding would begin. Heck – the plane wasn’t even here yet so there was still plenty of time.

island air check in kona airport
Island Air ticketing counters and bag drop here in terminal 1 at KOA.
kona airport departures list
Island Air flight number 85 to Honolulu showing as an on time departure.

The temperature had risen quite a bit since my arrival earlier that morning, and I was a hot mess by the time I got through security and out into the terminal. Kailua-Kona airport is an outdoor facility with no air-conditioned gates to escape to, so the best you can do is find a spot in the shade that has a nice strong breeze blowing through it. Once I did that, I was good. Living in San Diego has made me forget what real heat and humidity feels like!

spot in the shade kona airport terminal 1
Hanging out in the shade trying to cool off. It was still very hot despite the strong breeze!

I ended up having to wait about 30 minutes due to the late arrival of the aircraft, which was totally fine – the weather was absolutely beautiful despite being so hot, and I was quite enjoying that fresh Hawaiian air and those warm tropical breezes. I wasn’t any in any rush to get to Honolulu either (no plans for the evening), so I was perfectly content just to sit and wait.

kona airport spotting
There are literally no barriers between the terminal and runways / aircraft here at KOA. This is a lousy overexposed screenshot from a video I took (sorry for the poor quality of the image!) but it was cool to be so close to the action.
island air ATR 72 arrival kona airport
That’s my Island Air ATR 72 arriving from Honolulu.
kona airport gate 5
Gate 5 is our departure point today.
kona airport gate 5a
I wonder what happens when it snows here? I’ll bet they didn’t think of that when designing this outdoor terminal! (Yes, I’m kidding)

Boarding began just minutes after the last incoming passenger had deplaned, and once past the gate door it was a rather neat walk out onto the ramp. It was windy and hot though, so taking pics and video of the experience was tough. But I did my best, and I was very much looking forward to getting a ride on the first ATR 72 I’ve been on in over 16 years. Yeah, it’s been a while. That was back in 2001 on an American Eagle flight between St Louis, MO and South Bend, IN. My route today would be far more interesting I think.

island air boarding kona airport
Here we go. Boarding is now underway.
island air ATR 72 at gate Kona
Walking out to the plane.
Island air livery
Hello there! Island Air has such a good looking livery.
island air ATR 72 selfie
The light couldn’t be any worse, but I had to take a selfie in front of this beauty anyway.

The boarding door is in the rear of the ATR 72, with the cargo going up front. It’s a bit of a weird experience to sit in the aft section of the airplane like that (separated from the pilots), and to make things even more interesting, they usually keep the first 4 or 5 rows empty for proper weight balance. They did that on my last ATR 72 flights way back in 2001, and they did it again today.

ATR 72 rear boarding
Walking around to the boarding door at the back of the plane.
boarding an island air ATR 72 kona airport
Up the ramp and in we go.
Island Air ATR 72 interior.
Island Air ATR 72 interior.
Island Air ATR 72 seats
Island Air ATR 72 seats.
island air ATR 72 cabin pic
For some reason or another I was expecting some tropical colors in the interior, but apparently that wasn’t in the budget.
island air interior cabin seats
Island Air ATR 72 seats 7C and D. The window seat is mine (of course).
island air ATR 72 seating
A quick look across the aisle right after sitting down.
Island Air ATR 72 seat pitch
Island Air ATR 72 seat pitch. I’m not exactly sure, but this felt better than the United Airlines A320’s I’ve been in recently!
island air ATR 72 cabin pic wide angle
The view looking forward from row 7.

Unfortunately, it was hot and miserable onboard, and I was sweating profusely by the time they pushed us off the gate. I saw many other passengers using the safety card as a fan, as there sure wasn’t any fresh air coming from the vents. I assumed things would cool off nicely once we took off though, so I was a perfectly happy trip-reporter taking pics and video of anything that moved.

Island Air ATR 72 safety card
I paused fanning myself with the safety card for a moment so I could get some pics. Here’s the front cover.
Island Air ATR 72 safety card inner cover
Island Air ATR 72 safety card inner cover.
Island Air ATR 72 safety card full interior
Island Air ATR 72 safety card full interior.
island air ATR 72 back cover
Rear cover of the Island Air ATR 72 safety card.
island air ATR 72 window view kona airport
Pushing off the gate. Finally – let’s get some fresh air flowing through this cabin!

We took off to the south today (runway 17), and then made a big gradual turn back towards Oahu. I still wasn’t completely in my happy place yet though, as it was still incredibly hot in the cabin and the windows were so dirty that I couldn’t get any decent pics of the departure. Frustrating! But hey – I was in Hawaii, so how bad could things really be? It’s important to keep things in perspective!

island air ATR 72 taxiing at KOA
Dirty windows and horrible lighting conditions, but I’ll do my best to get some decent departure pics…
KOA airport landscape terrain
The landscape surrounding KOA is very cool – I’ll be back tomorrow via Mokulele Airlines to check it out!
runway 17 KOA airport departure
Making the turn onto runway 17.
KOA takeoff runway 17 ATR 72
These dirty windows were killing me! Sure does look pretty down there though.
departing kona airport hawaii
One last look at the big island as we turn towards Oahu.

The clouds began to build as we made our way towards Honolulu, and the flight attendant came by offering complimentary cups of water – which ended up being a lifesaver for me due to how hot and muggy it was. I slammed that cup of water back like it was a shot of straight vodka, and it only left me wanting more. I probably could have drank 10 of those things, but thinking that it would be rude to ask for more, I toughed it out and sat in thirsty silence for the rest of the flight.

island air complimentary water
Complimentary water for the 40-minute flight over to HNL. I wonder how you say “10 more of these please!” in Hawaiian?
flying over clouds hawaii
The clouds are starting to build. Looks humid out there.
SANspotter selfie island air ATR 72
Despite the dirty windows and less-than-ideal lighting conditions, I was still loving every minute of this experience.
island air ATR 72 propeller
island air ATR 72 cabin in flight
Bouncing and buzzing our way over to Honolulu.

The heat combined with the solid white mass of cloud outside my window were starting to make me sick by the time we started the descent into HNL. This was an extremely bumpy flight due to the high winds across the entire Hawaiian Island chain that day, and the fact that I couldn’t see anything out the windows to help me get my bearings was starting to give me motion sickness. I’m usually fine if I can see the horizon, but…that wasn’t happening today. I didn’t see the ground (or ocean) until just minutes before landing, so unfortunately, I can’t offer you amazing travel magazine-style pics of Oahu from the air. This was all mother nature was giving us today:

approaching oahu
Dropping out of the clouds and getting my first look at the eastern edge of Oahu.
flying over honolulu
Dive-bombing Honolulu.
HNL approach Island Air ATR 72
I never realized how densely populated Honolulu is until experiencing the vast emptiness surrounding KOA just 40 minutes earlier.
arrival into honolulu
Welcome to Honolulu!
HNL terminal hawaiian airlines
Hard to get decent pics of the terminal with the prop in the way, but it’s always fun to see the vast lineup of HA A330’s here at HNL.
island air ATR 72 deplaning rear door
So glad to be on the ground again after starting to feel a bit of motion sickness. Let me off this plane!
island air stairs HNL airport
Out the boarding door and down the ramp.
N944WP HNL airport
One last close up look at N944WP as I walk down the ramp.
island air ATR 72 HNL walk around
What happened to the sun?? Oh well – it’s good to be back in Honolulu!
island air ATR 72 HNL gate
Sorry, one last pic of this beauty before I walk into the terminal.
HNL inter island baggage claim
Baggage claim section of the inter-island terminal here at HNL.

Crummy weather, right? Oh well. As I said before, it’s always a special feeling to arrive in Hawaii and I was still feeling energized (with a twinge of motion sickness) and very much looking forward to hitting the beach that evening. I had a series of really fun inter-island flights planned for the following morning, so it was important to relax and get some rest before taking to the skies again…

Comments (3)

  1. Benjamin Cooper

    March 25, 2018
    • SANspotter

      March 27, 2018
  2. Jim Thompson

    November 30, 2019

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