I have been on difficult, scary flights in the past. Several
in and out of O’Hare. Once landing on Crete, and one alley-oop
at LAX, but my flight home last Tuesday is now a chapter in my
ongoing autobiography titled Travel Gone Wrong.
To begin that day, it wasn’t Aloha Air’s fault my
parents decided I had to leave their house by 4:15 am to beat
the traffic on Hwys 91 and 55 to John Wayne Airport, and I’d
be lucky, they thought, to just make it. They were right about
the traffic, there was already tons of it, but I reached John
Wayne at 5:45 anyway. Unfortunately, my off airport car agency
did not open until 7, so I sat at an I-Hop eating hashbrowns until
I could turn in that car.
It wasn’t Aloha’s fault a United jet stood at our
gate and couldn’t get itself together to leave. Our flight
lost the gate, moved to a new gate, and then the Aloha jet waiting
out on the tarmac all that time had to be emptied of passengers,
cleaned and restocked, refueled and reloaded. We left an hour
and a half late, which isn’t that bad, we told each other.
It wasn’t Aloha’s fault an hour into the flight that
a baby ate a peanut and went into anaphylactic shock, and the
doctor from first class decided our flight should return to John
Wayne. Problem was, this was decided quietly among just a few
people, so they were the only ones who knew the jet’s shuddering
and descending were deliberate. This went on far too long for
everyone else before the pilot finally explained. I personally
aged a hundred years, and that definitely was Aloha Air’s
fault. The pilot then added that it would be loud in the back
while he tried to dump fuel because we couldn’t land full.
We all cringed into our seats as the flammable fuel flared and
spewed out the anus of our jet and fell to cover the ocean below.
After the jet pancaked heavily onto the runway at John Wayne and
screamed to a halt, we were told we could not get off, that it
was not Aloha’s fault, it was just the rule. We had to sit
there while the paramedics removed the baby and family. We had
to sit there while they removed a man in the row ahead of me,
window seat, who was having a meltdown because of the stress of
the flight so far, and we had to sit there while they looked for
those passengers’ luggage.
While we sat idling in a long line of jets waiting to take off,
the pilot explained that Aloha’s mechanics had been checking
the integrity of the jet the whole time we were on the ground.
We were scanned for stress fractures, blown wheels, shifted loads,
etc, because we landed with far too much fuel, an extra 10,000
lbs of it. Aloha’s jets aren’t designed to dump, you
see, just to use, and, By the way, our pilot added, Aloha mechanics
had to restart a generator which shut down at the hard landing.
As opposed to no information when we started our return to John
Wayne, this was far too much news for those of us in the main
We eventually took off for our second run at Honolulu. Everyone
sat stunned by the idea that our flight was starting over. Our
moods sank further when that pilot announced we were being directed
onto a more roundabout route because of missile testing in the
mid-Pacific. This new heading would add an hour to the normal
five or six in the air. Sorry, folks.
None of this was Aloha’s fault. We knew that, but our discontent
and gloominess was hard to ignore. One woman behind me had not
stopped sobbing since we turned back an hour out over the Pacific.
She would clearly miss her connection to Australia, and now there
was no way she could get there in time for her father’s
funeral. At least 5 babies were also crying the whole time, and
who could blame them.
None of this was Aloha Air’s fault, we did know that. Still,
none of us laughed when the pilot ended his latest disturbing
announcement by joking, Wouldn’t want to get hit by falling
missile debris, would we? He chuckled alone, and it was deafening.
That’s when the flight attendants started giving out free
mai tais in coach, which is what made it possible for me to survive
the rest of the flight.
When our jet landed, applause broke out. Spirits were restored.
Smokers were hyper with relief to reach the smoking area between
terminals. Passengers staying on Oahu sprinted down to baggage
claim, while those of us only part way home negotiated new departures
to the outer islands.
I waited an hour in Aloha Air’s First Class Lounge, where
I listened to dramas that our delay had caused on the Honolulu
end. One elder just out of surgery was wracked in pain sitting
in a wheelchair as she waited hour after hour. An Aloha Air employee
was massaging the elder’s hands and speaking in a low voice,
soothing that elder as best she could, while officials came in
to assess the situation. Perhaps the elder should return to Queen’s
Hospital, they suggested to her frantic, gray haired son. It would
be several more hours before departure, they said, because there
were maintenance issues with the jet that had arrived so late.
At that point I left. I couldn’t sit down, wouldn’t
sit down until I had to, so I decided to lap the InterIsland terminal
a couple of times and work out some kinks. The elder in the First
Class Lounge was surrounded by tender loving care as I rolled
my carryon out the door. I prayed for her as I power walked mauka
past all the Hawaiian Air gates, past GO Air and Island Air, then
back to Aloha..
When I caught my flight to Kauai at Gate 55, it was almost empty
and left early, and that really was Aloha’s fault, bless