How not to start a vacation

Oy. This vacation is not off to a good start.

One of the conditions of this vacation was that we were to incur no red-eye flights (in other words, no sleeping on the plane). That meant getting there and back was going to cause some difficulty in how we went from Calgary (a second-tier airport) to Kona (a second-to-third tier airport). Direct flight? Hah!

Calgary to Denver. Denver to Honolulu. Honolulu to Kona. About 14 hours all told, including running through airports to catch connecting flights.

The drive out to the airport this morning was a little worrisome. We’d been hearing since yesterday morning that we were going to have a serious snowfall. Being Calgary, that means a lot of snow, not just a little. And a lot of snow tends to wreak havoc with flights.

At 5:30, the DJs on the radio were suggesting people start to work in advance of the coming blizzard. I was not exactly thrilled with our chances. But we saw no snow all the way to the airport.

Checked in, went through US Customs and through security (both remarkably easy, for a change) and went to have something to eat. Alex wanted a bagel, which was not to be found anywhere. I’d have settled for napkin if that’s all that could be had. Airlines don’t feed you anymore, not even pretzels, so you’ve got to cover your own food issues.

Waiting at the gate, I realized that I couldn’t see downtown. From the gate (which I’ve left through before), I normally can.

Then I couldn’t see Nose Hill.


Snow was falling as I walked down the gangway into the plane. I already knew we were going to have to de-ice, putting us behind schedule. And we didn’t have a long time to make our connecting flight in Denver. Ninety minutes goes more quickly than you think.

For some reason, a lot of flights leave Calgary at around 8:00. And they all needed de-icing. Thirty minutes passed before we finally started to taxi to the runway. Start. Stop. Start. Stop. I was starting to crawl the walls. Alex was probably ready to divorce me on the spot and find another seat in the plane.

Never put an already stressed out person on a plane that doesn’t leave on schedule. It’s not pretty.

Finally, the engines wound up, the roar filled the cabin, and the plane started down the runway … only to stop about 250 metres down. The plane turned off onto one of the taxiways while Alex prepared to peel me off the ceiling.

Something hardware-related. After 20 minutes, the pilot announced that it was fixed, and that as soon as they’d filed their paperwork, we’d be off. I almost bit through my tongue to prevent from yelling: “FILL IT OUT WHEN WE’RE AIRBORNE!”

Now, for the record, I totally understand why this is done on the ground. My desire to get out of Calgary pretty much cancelled out all reason.

We arrived in Denver quite late. Twenty-five minutes before our next flight left. In at Gate 8, out at Gate 94. (Or something like that … a long way down, either way.) Denver is a LONG airport.

The next flight left on time. In the back of my head, I knew this was a problem. I knew this would be an issue. And it was.

It’s a seven hour flight to Honolulu from Denver. That’s seven hours with only one movie (Happy Feet) and no meals. WTF. It’s a friggin’ long flight, and you want me to shell out $5 for a crappy box with a couple of crackers, some cream cheese, apple sauce, and cookies? I don’t even like cream cheese!

If my Dad hadn’t been cremated, he’d be spinning so fast in his grave the whirring would sound like a power drill. That’s just spectacularly poor, folks. (That’s United Airlines, in case anyone’s wondering.)

Arriving in Honolulu, we were greeted with the moist warmth that comes after a rainfall. For a moment, time actually slowed down while we walked from one part of the terminal to another (outside) to pick up our bags. For a moment, everything was great.

A moment later, it all came crashing down again. I found Alex’s bag about two seconds before I heard:

“Paging United passenger Alexandra … Sohr-ee”.

They always fuck up the last name. It’s not rocket science, people. Sowrey. Sow-ree. Say it with me … SOW-REE.

My bag, which had gone on the plane at the same time as Alex’s, hadn’t made it from Denver. I was clothes-less. Sandal-less. Toothpaste-less. (Alex, as I had her makeup bag in my bag, was toiletry-less.) But United did provide us with two “temporary” toiletry kits, containing the smallest damned toothpaste I’ve ever seen, and a deodorant stick that … well, let’s just say I was pretty surprised that it worked. My bag, so they say, will arrive tomorrow.

We went over to Aloha Airlines in the Interisland wing and booked in for our next flight. Badda-bing, badda-boom, and we’re standing in front of Gate 52 for out last flight of the day.

We’ve flown Aloha before. Nice, easy, fast. Just like WestJet, only smaller. And no pre-assigned seats.

The plane backed out from the gate, and slowly spun so we could nose forward under our own power. Then something went … bad. It felt sort of like the nose gear suddenly spun sideways — something it’s not supposed to do. At first, it was just curiousity why we were sitting there. Then the pilot came on, telling us that we might have to go back to the gate.


Sure enough, 20 minutes later, we’re back at the gate, filing out to line up at Gate 53 for another plane, yet to arrive. A little over an hour after we were to depart, we finally left Honolulu airport (successfully) for our 45 minute jaunt to Kona.

Kona’s a neat little airport — doesn’t even look like a traditional airport, it’s all little huts, and most of the operations are outside. Funky.

Got Alex’s bag, hopped on the Budget bus to pick up the rental car, and nearly got lost getting to the hotel. We missed the sunset. The Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort ain’t exactly the ritz, but at 3.5 stars (according to Expedia), I felt it should have been better.

Mind you, I could just be in a really sour mood given the day I’ve had.