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AS 737s to Hawaii

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Well-known member
Nov 26, 2001
The following is the original post (OP) of a thread on another web site that I visit occasionally and I'm wondering whether anyone has some thoughts from the other side of the cockpit door? The OP was made on November 26th and has already drawn 85 responses, so it appears there are many opinions from the passenger side of the door.

Angry mob in LIH: Are 737s to Hawaii a really bad idea?
We flew to LIH last night, and due to the strong headwinds, AS had to bump a half dozen people and offload 50 bags. This was handled very poorly by the ground crews in SEA and LIH. In SEA, some operations manager came on board and announced that they might have to unload some bags, then came back 20 minutes later to announce that everything was fine and all bags would get to fly along; half hour later, another announcement came that 50 bags (out of 90 checked) had been unloaded.

During the flight, the FAs contacted the passengers whose bags were on board, and told the others that the ground staff in LIH were already preparing lost luggage paperwork and would have information about when the luggage would arrive. (The official story line was that the plane to HNL -"which departs 15 minutes after this flight"- would bring the luggage, even though it, presumably, would be dealing with similar headwinds).

Upon arrival in LIH, the AS lost luggage counter was staffed by one agent, who seemed blissfully unaware of the situation; later, as a line of 50 travelers had formed, two more agents turned up. No arrangements had been made, and no further information was available.

Obviously, some passengers were very upset (and I'm sure their mood will only get worse as the hours go by and their luggage fails to show up). I totally understand the need to take on extra fuel during these strong headwinds, but it's evident that a 757 or other larger plane wouldn't have had this problem. I guess LIH is at the upper end of a 737's range, and they're just not cut out for 6 1/2 hr flights.

I will make sure to go back to 757 flights, even though I vastly preferred the AS F experience to NW. In addition, I hope that AS will improve its handling of such irregularities.
You run what you brung. I'm sure AS would put a 757 on that route - if they had any.

I'd rather buy off a couple pax on the departure end so everyone onboard had their luggage with them when they got there. Maybe that's too logical.

Hawaiian uses 76's to cross the pond. Much better ride and far less middle seats. You will have to connect through HNL, but its only a 20 minute flight on he 717.
If the claim of bumping 50 bags is true, then it is a shame that the baggage problem was handled poorly by the company. The last thing I'd want to do when vacationing in Hawaii is to have my luggage not show up with me. Though I don't excuse the mishandling of the problem, I think it reflects the relatively small percentage of times this occurs on these flights. The -800 is a very capable airplane, especially when equiped with the SFP (Short Field Performance) package. Unfortunately, unusually strong headwinds are a fact of life from time to time. I think that if flying the 737-800 to Hawaii was a chronic problem, it would not be our fastest growing market. Alaska just added Portland and Oakland, is adding flights from Sacramento and San Jose soon, and it's rumored Las Vegas and San Diego could be next.

I've flown many of these flights and haven't noticed issues like this. The most common case is that non-revs are denied, but that stems less from headwinds and more from load factors that fill nearly every seat.

Again, I'm not trying to gloss over the negative experience that these folks dealt with, but as far as the 737 to Hawaii being a bad idea...well, in the big scheme of things, it seems like it's been a great idea.

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I agree with you, CP. Occasionally in the Pacific, the winds kick up. Now if you were bumping 50 bags every third day, it would be an issue. Once in a while, though, winds happen.
Again, I'm not trying to gloss over the negative experience that these folks dealt with, but as far as the 737 to Hawaii being a bad idea...well, in the big scheme of things, it seems like it's been a great idea.


Tell that to the people who didnt get thier bags! I dont think Boeing designed the 737-700/800 to fly those type of distances overwater with the APU running!
I get comments from people who fly on Alaska/737 flights to Hawaii once and go back to airlines that fly bigger equipment.
Some say one of Alohas big mistakes was flying 737's to the mainland. Who knows, but a lot of people are in fact are turned of by it. A friend recently rode on AS and overheard a passenger getting off in HNL comment that "sure wasn't Hawaiian was it". They were discussing how much nicer the ride on the 767 is.
That said, if AS can fill up the airplane and grow, it probably is a good market for AS. I think the AS 737's have a better range than AQ's did. They had big problems with them in the winter, especially on the northern tracks.
Aloha had 700's and AS is using 800's. It is true, there can be problems with the 737 as you are most definitely on the edge of the range envelope. As for time on board, It is about the same distance from NYC to LAX as it is from LAX to HNL. It is all about the right tool for the job. If you are going to sell 150 seats, you are going to make much more money with a 737 than a 767. If you are going to sell 300 seats, you are better off with the 767. Right tool for the job. Alaska has looked at this problem going to ANC from SEA. It was decided that 16 flights a day, every daylight hour, was better than large aircraft less often. It gives you the flexibility to tailor your time schedule. You are starting to see this with HNL-SEA at twice a day now. From a passenger standpoint, I agree, there are better rides out there. From a flexibility and profit stand point, a "one type" fleet with short, long, and oceanic capability is the hand that AS is going to play.
Makes sense. I should stress I don't see this as an attack on HAL by AK or any kind of us vs. them crap. Airlines compete, you guys seem to have found a market to go after (I'm surprised you haven't jumped on Orange County to Hawaii yet) and the fact is, in some ways, more flights heat up the entire market. Also, as you pointed out, HAL flys only were we can fill up a 767.
I do not think you will see Orange to Hawaii for ALK. That is one runway (5,700) that will not work. Even with the SFP kit and 27K bump on the engines, the 800 would leave about 30 pax at the gate. That worked with the 700 for Aloha.

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