Update 4. Hawaiian Airlines Economy. As well as a COVID-19 News Round-up.

Hello from a rather drizzly but warm Kona, on the big island of Hawaii. My planned 4,000 mile back-track went mostly according to plan and here I am only a few hours behind shedule.

For those that haven’t read the backstory, essentially I was planning to travel from Samoa to American Samoa, and then up to Hawaii from there, as it’s only a five hour flight. However American Samoa requires a 14 day period on either Samoa (or Hawaii) plus a medical examination, before they will let anyone travel there. That meant I had to fly back to Auckland where I’d come from, and then overfly Samoa to get to where I was going. However I’m here now at the Courtyard by Marriott Kona, with the fabulous view of a parking lot (a full review will come).

Courtyard by Marriott, Kona, ‘Parking Lot’ view room

However my journey wasn’t too bad in the end. Hawaiian Airlines did rebook me essentially free of charge on to the Auckland flight (from the Pago Pago service).

They fly an A330-200 aircraft and I purchased one of their extra legroom seats, which I got allocated in the very small mini cabin, just in front of doors two behind business class. Luckily from looking at ExpertFlyer I had an aisle seat in the middle block of four, with the seat next to me free.

The flight was due to depart just before midnight and surprisingly given how empty some of my earlier flights had been, was 95% full. This was a first for me, not travelling in a premium cabin nor with any kind of status what-so-ever.

The airport had a pay to use lounge for NZD65 so given I’d got to the airport early and had some left over currency I used it up and chilled out for the couple of hours before departure.

Unfortunately the inbound aircraft was an hour late in, which meant it wasn’t until almost 01.00 that we finally pushed back and took off for the nine hour flight to Honolulu, Hawaii.

I had taken a melatonin, so reclined my seat and got a reasonable amount of rest for the first six hours or so. It wasn’t perfect sleep, but it was enough. Each seat had a pillow and cellophane wrapped blanket. Additionally us passengers in extra comfort seats (their extra legroom seats), got a reasonable amenity kit.

I have to confess I don’t know if the crew did any sort of service after take-off as I put my eyeshades on and tried to get as much sleep as possible. However about an hour and fifteen minutes before landing, breakfast was served. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great. It did the job I guess.

Around thirty minutes to landing everything was cleared away and we touched down, pulling into the the very furthest gate from immigration a good ten minute brisk walk (which to be fair I really needed).

Global Entry was as swift and effective as ever, but interestingly after collecting my luggage, got directed by the (I have to say quite cute) CBP officer for a secondary luggage inspection. Turned out he was a bit of an #AVGeek as well, so we had a bit of a natter before he sent me on my way.

Thoughts

I think in the end, I was reasonably lucky to get away with “only” £250 expenditure for a new Air New Zealand flight back to Auckland, plus a hotel there.

In the future, when going off the beaten track I will not solely rely on the FCO website for travel advice and do some further more detailed research.

COVID-19 is clearly having a major impact on air travel. In fact I think things will get much worse. I’ve written a summary of some of the biggest developments below.

Lufthansa Group

The Lufthansa Group of Lufthansa, Austrian, Swiss, Brussels Airlines and Eurowings have announced that they will be cutting up to 50% of their entire flying programme. They’re also looking at temporarily grounding their entire A380 fleet of 14 aircraft, the largest of any of the European carriers.

Air France / KLM

Air France / KLM group seem to be the first of the big European carriers to understand what needs to be done with tickets. They’ve announced that any ticket can now be changed free of charge, or used as credit to a future flight. Now that they have blinked, I’m sure it won’t be long before Lufthansa Group and IAG have to follow suit.

More details are here.

Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways have announced a very similar policy to Air France / KLM, and indeed announced slightly earlier. Any ticket for travel up to 30th June is fully changeable with no fees, or you can cancel to get your money as a travel credit valid for twelve months.

Further details and the fine print is here.

FlyBe

As has been all over the UK news media, FlyBe unfortunately has gone bust. They reported over a 50% drop in bookings, and given their precarious cash position it was simply too much for them to be able to handle. Whilst it’s terrible for all of the staff and customers that have been affected, lots of competitors are already starting to fill the gaps that FlyBe left.

American Airlines

Since the start of the outbreak, their share price has lost almost half its value in a month; they were trading in excess of $30 and at the time of writing are now only $15.97. Of the big three US carriers, they’re the most highly leveraged, with the greatest debt and lowest revenues. Whilst I don’t think there’s any danger of them going out of business, or even in to US Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, where they can continue to operate and re-organise, I think they may start to have some significant flying programme changes soon.

Other Carriers

If there’s one carrier that I would be concerned about it is Norwegian. If I had a booking with them within the next three months, I would be actively looking at alternatives. They have been haemorrhaging cash for years now, however have (until COVID-19) managed to mainly staunch the bleeding. The severe revenue short-fall that other carriers are reporting can’t be exclusive to them, so would imagine that they are hurting just as much.

Fare Deals

These are now slowly starting to trickle though with a variety of carriers to a variety of destinations. My bet is that we’ll start to see £1,000 business class returns to North America and £1,500 rtns to Australia soon, indeed some blogs are reporting fares from some European locations even below that.

Award Availability

Award availability, particularly with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic is excellent at the moment, even on hard to use routes like Sydney. They’re clearly desperate for cash and given how high the fuel surcharges are, this is an easy calculation for them to make. If you know you’d like to go somewhere longhaul later this year, it’s definitely worth having a nosey around at availability.

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