The original meaning of the word “aloha” goes way beyond “hello” or “goodbye.” It is a one word summation of the way of life taught from birth to Hawai‘ian natives. It is an attitude of peace, love, joy, and existing in harmony and custodianship with the natural world of which we are an integral part. I believe the two photos accompanying these notes perfectly sum up “aloha” and our holiday. Unfortunately our holiday ended upon our arrival at the Lihue airport for our return stateside via Delta Airlines. The following letter to Delta will explain it all.
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Folks at Delta,
They say time is like a river, flowing inexorably toward the sea. Once lost, it’s gone forever. My wife and I, part of the fiasco that was Delta Flight 1840 out of Lihue, Kauaʻi, Hawaiʻi on Thursday, January 1, 2015, feel like our river of time is flowing faster now that we’re in our seventies, and said fiasco cost us an entire day of our lives that we won’t be getting back. No one died of course, Happy New Year for that, but we’re fairly certain Delta won’t be able to give that day back to us, so you can rest assured that neither we nor anyone we know and tell about this will be flying Delta ever again.
I would just like to send you our unhappy version of the events which transpired over the twenty-four hour period that should have seen us home in Arizona at noon January 2 and actually saw us arrive there, nearly sleepless and mighty hungry, at noon on January 3. Mechanical failure is certainly understandable. Let’s call it an Act Of God, and the faulty gauge light which originally grounded Flight 1840 certainly is not to be held against Delta. What we’re holding against Delta is the total lack of contingency planning and concern for customers which followed the original announcement that we might not get off Kauaʻi on schedule. What we’re holding against Delta is the complete absence of “Aloha.”
While the flight crew and the powers-that-be dithered about the options of repairing the part that night, flying in a new part from Honolulu, or flying in another plane from Honolulu to take us off Kauaʻi to LAX, passengers sat and stewed, half of them already seated in the plane. Once the decision was made that no one was getting off the island that night, here is the sequence of events which led to the chorus of woe to which I’m adding this letter.
1/1—-11:19pm—Scheduled departure time.
1/2—-12:30am---Initial decision to overnight the passengers on Kauaʻi.
1/2----1:15am—Passengers told to proceed to gate area for hotel, transportation, and breakfast vouchers. Oh, wait a minute, no Delta personnel were at Delta’s departure gate to give out those vouchers, our luggage was the very last off the plane, so we were at the back of a line snaking through the open air departure area, shivering in fifty degree temperatures as intermittent rain and a cool ocean breeze swept through.
1/2----2:15am---Delta personnel (only two representatives and two computers open for all the passengers on the plane) finally arrive at departure area with the announcement that they have secured hotel accommodations for everyone, but we will have to arrange our own transportation because no taxis or buses are running this late. Okay, so how would we be able to arrange transportation if that’s the case? Aloha indeed.
1/2----3:15am---My wife and I (last in line, remember?) finally receive our hotel vouchers and are told to catch the hotel shuttle curbside. We are not given transportation vouchers presumably because we won’t need them for the hotel shuttle, right?!
1/2----3:45am---No hotel shuttle appears and, as it turns out, the hotel to which we were sent does not run airport shuttles, so the last 8 of us pile into a 7-person taxi, with the driver, for the half hour ride to the hotel.
1/2----4:15am---The taxi driver asks to which of the two hotel properties we would like to go. Who knew this hotel had two properties? Apparently not the contingency experts at Delta.
1/2----4:30am---The taxi driver informs us he knows nothing about a Delta transportation voucher and we’ll have to pick up the cab fare ourselves. Much grumbling ensues as everyone pays up and gets a receipt.
1/2----5:00am---My wife and I (last in queue again) finally receive our room assignment and are taken there in a hotel golf cart on a cement path two inches wider than the cart itself by a driver who is training for racing the Indy Car circuit. Oh, and the lady at the hotel desk informs us that Delta has told her nothing about breakfast vouchers and we’ll have to spring for our own breakfast.
1/2----5:30am---My wife and I stumble into bed after being told we need to be at the hotel entrance at 9:30am for a bus ride (not the hotel shuttle—remember the hotel doesn’t have a shuttle) to the Lihue airport for a 12:45am departure.
1/2----9:30am---We get on the bus for a ride to the Lihue airport wondering why Delta chartered a 9:30am bus for a 12:45pm departure when the travel time to the airport is only 30 minutes. Perhaps our math was a bit off, functioning as we were on three hours sleep and food deprivation (last meal at 6:00pm the previous evening).
1/2----10:00am---Arriving with our three large suitcases, which we had to schlep to the hotel and back again, we receive new boarding passes, finally at least brunch vouchers, (we sure hope these brunch vouchers didn’t bankrupt any of Delta’s shareholders) and a reminder not to be late for departure. Really!? We are also told we have been rebooked out of LAX for the following morning and that we will get hotel and food vouchers at the Delta desk in LAX for our extra night in LA.
1/2----12:45pm---The part has been flown in from Honolulu, the gauge has been repaired, the plane is sitting there on the tarmac, both it and all its disgruntled passengers are ready to go, but . . . there’s an announcement . . . I am not making this up, THE CREW IS LATE! Alright then, they spent the night on the island like us, probably got a lot more sleep than any of us, couldn’t have had any flight hours restrictions (or if they did, why wasn’t this explained to us as part of the announcement). Given what had already transpired, this is beyond comprehension and for sure the most ludicrous misstep of our day from hell.
1/2----8:30pm---Arrival at LAX, met at the gate by a Delta representative who never smiles or opens his mouth, simply hands everyone a piece of paper and tells us to report to the Delta help desk for hotel vouchers. What about those food vouchers we’d been promised in Lihue? No, we are now told, Delta NEVER gives out food vouchers. At the help desk (again only two representatives and two computers open for all the passengers on the plane), we are given a print out that tells us to scan our boarding passes into a computer and the computer will issue our new boarding passes for the following morning. When we do this the screen on the computer says “proceed to Delta help desk.” This would be slapstick comedy Catch 22 if it were in a movie script.
1/2----9:30pm---After an hour wait, we finally secure our hotel vouchers, (remember, no food vouchers) and are given our boarding passes for a 9:30am flight into Phoenix.
1/2-----10:30pm---Arrival at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (oh, the hotel restaurant was closed for the night). Gotta be on the Crowne Plaza shuttle bus at 6:30am, so again no breakfast.
1/3----9:30am---Delta announces that our departure for Phoenix will be delayed because the crew for our plane, which is sitting on the tarmac, is waiting on a crew coming in from Seattle (No, seriously, this really happened!)
1/3----10:00am---Our plane for Phoenix departs. We have peanuts and pretzels, only our second “meal” since 6:00pm in Lihue on 1/1.
That about sums up our excellent holiday adventure with Delta Airlines. If we’re up high enough on a promontory, we can see where our river of time flows out into the sea. We won’t be flying Delta to get there. But wait. Maybe we should book Delta for that trip, betting the destination would never arrive
* * *We once were a day late departing Alaska in stormy weather because the instrument runway out of Nome was torn up by construction, the result of the discovery of gold ore under said runway during previous repair work. We spent the night in sleeping bags in the belfry of a local church. It was really no problem because Alaska and gold go together, right, and we understood the irony. Every time we glance at our Kauai photographs, we smile and figure we may return for another holiday there. Aloha. But since Aloha and Delta don’t go together, did I mention we won’t be flying Delta to get there?