Why this extremely long flight from Boston to Honolulu was actually pleasant
SOMEWHERE OVER CALIFORNIA — I might be paranoid, but I think they’re on to me. The flight attendant in the blue tropical shirt (best described as a piece from the Don Ho Collection for Tommy Bahama) has been attentive in a way I’ve never experienced in economy class.
Six hours into Hawaiian Airlines Flight 89 from Boston to Honolulu, which is now the longest flight within the United States, and he has brought me two bags of Cheez-Its, six bags of Pau Hana Café snack mix, four cans of Diet Coke, and two bags of what I’ll call economy class brunch. The brunch bags contain yogurt, a fruit cup, two packages of crackers, and a small rectangle of cheese.
I may sound a little food-obsessed right now, but you have to understand that I’ve been on flights where I can barely get a glass of water, let alone the bounty that has come my way on this particular day. And I still have more than five hours left until I reach Hawaii.
Did I mention that he gave me a quart of water when I first reached my seat? No exaggeration, it was a quart of water.
Therefore I’m convinced that Steve the Flight Attendant — a bear of a man with a smile that could melt margarine — knows I’m a travel writer reviewing the new route. I arranged the flight myself and paid for the ticket through a third-party booking site. There wasn’t much more I could do to hide my identity, aside from using a counterfeit passport and wearing a fake mustache like Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) from “The Americans.” But I don’t think the TSA would take kindly to such shenanigans.
I traveled on April 8, just a few days after Hawaiian Airlines began offering the nonstop service from Boston. I thought at the six-hour mark that I would be thoroughly uncomfortable, bored out of my gourd, cranky, and writing some screed about airplane endurance. Instead, I’m sitting comfortably in my Cheez-It crumbs thinking that at my current rate of snack consumption, I will definitely not be wearing a bathing suit in Hawaii.
According to my unofficial count, there are about 40 empty seats in economy on my flight, which puts the crew in a good mood. They said the previous flights out of Boston have been full or near capacity.
It also puts me in a good mood because it means the seat next to mine is empty.
All of this is much appreciated because the official flight time from Boston to Honolulu is 11 hours and 25 minutes. For some reason — I’ll assume it’s the wind — my flight is 11 hours and 48 minutes. I’m spending half a day on a plane.
Before I delve into the details of my trip, I have an important spoiler: I contacted Hawaiian Airlines after I landed on the island. They said they had no idea a writer for the Globe was on Flight 89. Someone needs to give Steve the Flight Attendant an employee of the month award. The man is a gem and made the long flight a joy.
8:42 a.m. — The plane, an A330 with a 2-4-2 configuration in economy, looks spotless. The seats are upholstered in a blue swirl fabric that hints at the tropical destination but doesn’t smack you in the face like a palm frond in a hurricane.
I take my seat and assess leg room. I know that the seat pitch, which is the amount of space between you and the passenger in front of you, is 31 inches, which is as respectable as economy gets in 2019. By way of comparison, JetBlue’s seat pitch ranges from 32 to 33 inches.
As soon as I see that I’m surrounded by empty seats, I bid my husband “aloha” (in this case I mean “goodbye”) and snatch the empty row behind him.
There is no Wi-Fi, and there are no power outlets at the seats, which seems extreme for a flight of this length. But there is a decent amount of in-flight entertainment and a USB outlet at each seat.
9:49 a.m. — The flight departs Logan Airport about 25 minutes late and I’m happy to say “aloha” — another goodbye — to Boston. It’s a miserable day and fat raindrops are slapping at the windows.
Shortly after departure, a flight attendant explains over the intercom that a hot meal will be served three hours before landing, and that Hawaiian is one of the only North American airlines to still do so in the main cabin. I like the cut of their jib.
11:48 a.m. — It’s beverage cart time! The usual soft drinks and juices roll through, accompanied by little bags of snacks. I’m watching “Bad Times at the El Royale.” Why? Because I have nearly 12 hours to kill. Steve the Flight Attendant hands me two extra pillows and another blanket.
12:18 p.m. — Flight attendants pass out the bargain brunch bags. On his way to the back of the cabin, Steve the Flight Attendant asks me if I’d like a second one. As this is a first for me, I say yes. He swings around for an unprompted refill of my Diet Coke. When I return from the washroom, the ice in my drink has been refreshed and I’m gobsmacked.
1:30 p.m. — I start watching “Hanna” on my iPad. It’s so engrossing that I want to watch more, but then I remember that I’m supposed to be writing about the flight. Thankfully my favorite flight attendant has swung by with more refreshments to fortify me. So the typing begins.
2:09 p.m. — I open the seat’s window screen and see a desert. The map tells me that I’m flying over Arizona, which seems like a good time to take a nap.
2:14 p.m. — A baby begins crying a few rows ahead of me and my naptime is officially over.
5:16 p.m. — My paranoia begins to subside. No one has come around to offer an extra drink or snack for more than two hours. It makes me insanely happy to think that the airline gives this level of service to everyone. I want the same experience that everyone would have on the airline. With several hours remaining, I dive back into “Hanna.”
7:01 p.m. – Dinner arrives, and as promised, it’s a hot meal. It’s bowtie pasta with tomato sauce, cheese (ricotta, I think?), and bits of eggplant. Not the finest meal I’ve had in the skies, but still appreciated. There is an option for free wine in economy class. This is another first for me on a US airline, so I say yes. Unprompted, Steve the Flight Attendant tops off my wine when it’s getting low. Let me remind you that I’m seated in economy.
9:32 p.m. (now 3:32 p.m. Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time) — We land in Honolulu and Steve the Flight Attendant is again going above and beyond. My husband, Alex, and I have a connecting flight from Oahu to Maui, but because our flight arrived late and the connection is tight, Steve is worried we won’t make it. Also, for some reason, we didn’t check our luggage through to Maui, so we need to recheck our bags. He meets us at luggage claim, runs to the check-in counter with us, makes sure that we can make it to our flight, and shows us where we can find security and our gate. This is the first time I’ve had a flight attendant care enough to take the trouble to do any of this. Many flight attendants have told me “good luck” when I express concern about missing my flight.
6:30 p.m. — We check into our hotel and receive a complimentary glass of champagne. I raise a silent toast to the flight attendant who made the very long day a success. I’m almost afraid to fly Hawaiian Airlines again because I don’t want anything to change the way I feel about the carrier, and, most importantly, Steve the Flight Attendant.