I have a pretty high tolerance when it comes to bad service; and working within the hospitality industry for the last 10 years has, if anything, left me with an appreciation of hospitality staff and what they deal with on a day to day basis.
I understand that not all customer requirements can be met; I understand that you will never please absolutely everybody; and I am a huge advocate of getting further by remaining polite. I’m not easily irritated, I’m very understanding, and I deal well with situations when things don’t go my way. However there comes a point where enough is enough, and for Hawaiian Airlines to have frustrated me to the point where I would rather swim than to ever fly with them again takes genuine skill!
Here is a letter I wrote to Hawaiian Airlines outlining my experience and expressing my disappointment in their airline.
My personal details have been taken out of the below letter, but you should be as specific as possible when writing to an airline. Be sure to include your name, flight numbers, confirmation numbers, seat numbers, staff names (if you remember), frequent flier numbers, cost of fare etc.)
Dear Consumer Affairs
Earlier this year I traveled with Hawaiian Airlines from Sydney to Maui. As I was travelling for my destination wedding, 10 other family members made the same flight with me, and 50 other guests flew with Hawaiian Airlines during February to make their way to Hawaii from Australia. Sadly, the majority had quite a poor experience flying internationally with your airline.
Our itinerary was booked on the same ticket – we landed in Honolulu on QF3 from Sydney on February 10 2013, and were to make a connecting flight to Maui on HA126. The Qantas flight was slightly delayed in landing, and we arrived in Honolulu with 20 minutes left to check in for the connecting flight.
Your international connection procedure is a complete mess and incredibly stressful. There were no staff members available to point us in the right direction for check-in, signage is incredibly poor, and finally after conveying the urgency of our check-in to one of your ground staff members, we were told to check in at self help machines. While some of us managed to check-in and print tickets, we were not offered any help by ground staff members when some experienced issues trying to re check our baggage and print new baggage stickers – despite continuous attempts and requests for help. We were told we had to sort it out ourselves.
My now husband and I ended up leaving the rest of our family to sort out their tickets to run for the gate. My father, whose bags were already checked in the whole way through to Maui, was forced to pay for excess baggage despite having already paid for this on his ticket. After having paid for excess baggage and printed new bag stickers, the staff member who finally decided to help them said;
“Oh, you didn’t actually need to do that, your bags have already been checked the whole way.”
Not happy – especially as he and my mother were flying business class with your airline.
My husband and I got to the gate, and informed the staff that the rest of our party were on their way, just running through security. They were incredibly rude and did not care. Despite my whole party having already checked in and printed their new boarding passes, the staff members closed the doors to the plane, essentially kicking my two sisters off the flight. In doing so your staff separated a mother from her 1 year old and 4 year old children who had already boarded with our party. I made your staff aware of the fact that the children were on the plane and two other passengers were running for the gate; however they said “too bad” and proceeded to close the doors.
This is incredibly unprofessional and honestly we were appalled. Every airline I have ever flown with has made an effort to escort you to the plane, or call ahead to hold the plane for a few minutes if they know that checked in passengers are on the way. Being a travel writer, I have traveled quite extensively and am a frequent flyer; however I have never experienced service so horrible. It is hard enough travelling with young children; however please try travelling with young children who have been separated from their mother.
We had been told by airline ground staff that all of the flights to Maui for the day were overbooked and so if we didn’t get on the flight we weren’t making it to the island that day, so you can imagine our stress.
Upon arrival in Maui we went straight to the customer service desk to sort out how my sisters were going to arrive. Obviously having no telephone reception being from Australia we had no means of contacting them. Your staff were incredibly unhelpful, rude, and would not give out any information despite us having explained the circumstances. We were not asking for personal information, just if they had been put on another flight, if we should wait around the airport, if they were even going to be flying in that day. As we explained, we had her children, we were all originally booked and checked in on the same flight, and we had no way of contacting them.
Finally after we became incredibly agitated she gave us a “hint” to wait at Gate 19 for as long as it took. Additionally, our bags were not put on the same plane so we were waiting at the baggage terminal for a good few hours before our luggage arrived in Maui.
I can write one bad experience off as a once off. However we experienced the same level of unprofessionalism and disorganization on our flights back. Due to issues with my immigration status (my husband is a United States citizen) we then flew back to Sydney on February 16, and back to the States via Hawaii on March 2 2013.
Check in for both flights was once again the most disorganized process I have ever experienced, lines were moved after people had already begun queuing, staff members were late to work and no-one gave the impression they had any idea of what they were doing. I understand that the islands may run on “Hawaiian” time; however an international business should not.
Myself and my husband often choose seats at the back of the plane so that we can spread out should the plane not be full. On the flight back to Sydney there were two rows of three completely empty behind us, and three rows of two seats empty on each side of the plane. After the seatbelt sign was turned off, I moved to one of these rows to lie down, as did another gentlemen sitting near us who was incredibly tall and had to either lie or stand as he didn’t fit in the seat.
Both myself and this gentleman (who proceeded to stand for the entire long haul flight) were kicked out of these rows by Hawaiian Airline staff members who were incredibly rude and informed us that these seats were reserved for staff. They then proceeded to cordon off all empty seats. None of the seats were occupied for the first 5 hours of the flight. Additionally, when a staff member was utilizing the space it was only one at a time. Why one person required 20 odd seats at the back of the plane is beyond me, and it is incredibly poor customer service. We were not impressed at all.
I am a travel writer at “Mapping Megan” and unfortunately will not be writing a good review for your airline. I will be writing about my experience as outlined above. Should you wish to write a response to accompany my piece I would be more than happy to include it as I believe in writing which is balanced, fair and accurate.
It is also for this reason that I have waited so long to contact you about this experience. As you can imagine we were incredibly angry with your airline at the time, and I hope that the time passed has allowed me to write to you with a level head, having allowed me to reflect on the experience and remove my emotions.
Hawaiian Airlines Response:
First, we want to thank you for sending us your feedback. We sincerely apologize for your unpleasant experience with Hawaiian Airlines on February 10, 16 and March 2. As a customer, you are our valued guest, so there’s never an acceptable excuse when you receive poor service.
We take experiences such as yours very seriously, and we will use your feedback to help us improve our service. We assure you that your concerns have been shared with our respective managers for their internal review and necessary action.
Ms. Donoghue, thank you for taking the time to communicate with us. Again, please accept our sincere apologies for your experience, and we hope to have the opportunity to serve you again.
Domestic Travel with Hawaiian:
My horrible experience aside, I have friends who swear by Hawaiian Airlines. Kimmy Hayes from the popular travel blog AfterGlobe wrote the following review of her domestic travels with the airline.
I love Hawaiian Airlines. It’s my favorite airline to fly and I recommend it to anyone flying between the mainland and the Hawaiian Islands. I even have the Hawaiian Airlines Credit Card that I put all of my purchases through to be able to earn points towards free trips to Hawaii. To date, I’ve earned 5 roundtrip tickets.
Most of the time, Hawaiian Airlines is on time. There was one time we got delayed due something needing to be fixed on the plane. When they realized it was going to take a while to repair, they found another plane for us. Sure, we had to wait, but they constantly gave us updates with what was going on. I forgave them for that. There is no being on Island Time when it comes to Hawaiian Airlines.
I have always received great service while flying on Hawaiian from letting me know if there is a flight change before our travel date to free inflight food to plenty of free drinks during the flight. On our next flight to Kauai, our in-flight meal consists of a fresh fruit tray with cheese, crackers, Hawaiian Host macadamia nut chocolates, Hawaiian sweet Maui onion chips, and a Koloa Breeze rum punch cocktail. If that doesn’t meet your fancy, you can opt to purchase an upgraded meal. It’s the little things like this that have always felt us feeling like we received great service not only from their crew in the air, but all of their employees.
Once on board, I’m happy for their wide body planes that allow my husband and me to share a two seat row. This way I get my favorite window seat, he gets his aisle seat, and we get to sit next to each other. No compromising on who has to give up their preferred seat. These planes also offer more leg room, a roomier, cleaner cabin, and more comfortable seats. As far as I know, Hawaiian Airlines is the only one who offers wide bod planes to Hawaii.
Their flights offer state-of-the-art interactive entertainment systems at every seat with a variety of audio and video options. There’s a USB port in case you need to charge your phone or tablet in flight. Even better, they offer the award-winning magazine, Hana Hou in the back of every seat pocket that you are welcome to take with you. This magazine is full of insightful views on the people, places, cultures that make up the Hawaiian Islands. It’s my favorite out of all of their in-flight entertainment.
On your return home trip, Hawaiian Airlines offers curb side check-in. With our bags usually overflowing with Hawaiian treats to take back with us this is one of the best perks ever. You are serviced very quickly, my bag has never been weighed, and it costs nothing. Of course, you do want to tip the attendant since he just saved you overweight fees and standing in the much longer line at the counter.
All in all, I love Hawaiian Airlines. I will continue to fly with them and use their mileage card unless they someday do me wrong. Until then, I’m going to sit back to enjoy my Koloa Breeze rum punch and macadamia nut chocolates while reading my Hana Hou with my legs stretched out.
Morals of the Story:
- Everyone has different experiences.
- Don’t fly with Hawaiian internationally.
- I could have potentially improved the effectiveness of my letter. After having researched, and evaluated the whole process, tomorrow’s blog will be on how to write an airline complaint.
Have you had an experience with Hawaiian Airlines?