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Airlines Create New Fee…Again!

Newest Airline Fee

You’ve got to hand it to the airlines, they are the kings of creating new fees to  bolster their bottom lines and frustrate the traveling public.  Lets recap the airlines’ progression on assessing us with new fees:

  • Baggage fee
  • Europe’s budget carrier, Ryan Air, experimented with charging a “restroom fee”
  • Do you remember when they wanted to charge us a convenience fee for buying tickets online?
  • Premiere seating upgrade fee, paying for a few more inches of leg room
  • Still a carrier or two charging a “carry-on luggage” fee
  • Where you once tipped a skycap for assistance at curbside, baggage drop-offs, there is now a fee to do so!

And, now, three major carriers will be implementing an extra charge to NOT be in the center seat!   Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and United Airlines will be putting this new charge into affect in the coming days.  The fee?  About $50 more to get a window or aisle seat.

Why?  Because they can!

Government Regulations?

Its not enough that the airlines want to shrink the space per seat even further than they already have.  Attempts to stop this latest move in Congress have failed.  The airlines crying foul and charging Congress with a move back towards regulating the air travel industry.  I, for one, would not mind having some government oversight on an otherwise out of hand industry.

I do believe in free enterprise and letting the buying public have the final say in what it considers to be “too far”, but at some point, where common-sense is replaced by the bottom-line, I think something must be done.  It took an act of Congress, literally, to simply get the airlines to post the total cost of a ticket, rather than the deceptive piece meal way they were doing it.

It wasn’t that long ago that what-you-saw-was-not-what-you-paid.  Airlines would post a low, misleading price to purchase a ticket and when you clicked to select that ticket, the price would miraculously increase significantly as all the various fees were added in…landing fees, airport security fees, etc.   And, that brought us back to “what you see is what you pay” ticket pricing.  That is, it is until you start to add in all the “optional” fees.

You know, the optional checked baggage fee, the upgrade fees for such things as “economy-plus”, where they let you opt out of the space saver seats into what used to be regular seats for an additional charge.  This latest fee falls into the same category of fees, where you will pay NOT to be stuck in the middle seat.  (Didn’t USAirways experiment with the same thing several years ago, where they charged extra to get an aisle seat?)

What’s different this time?  This time, it isn’t just one airline’s experiment.  This time, it involves three of the largest carriers in the country.  This time, you may have to just plan on spending that extra $40-50 per leg fee…unless you don’t mind the center seat.

Unintended Side-Affect

Here’s one side affect that has not been mentioned anywhere that I’ve seen.  I believe that there will be families that will take the center seats to save money (multiply that $40 by 4 or more seats and it adds up, quickly).  Then, once on the plane, they will start asking passengers in the aisle or window seats, if they wouldn’t mind swapping so that they can sit together.

This can be a hard for the all but cold-hearted person to refuse, especially if it involves young children.

In the past, I have accommodated such families, but it usually meant swapping an aisle for an aisle seat or a window for a window seat.  In the future, I’m less likely to be amenable to such requests to swap my extra-cost window or aisle for a discounted center seat, just so a family who chose to split themselves up to save money, can sit together.  Likewise, when the flight attendants ask for volunteers to swap seats to help  families out that the airlines split up, I don’t think they’ll find too many volunteers who will downgrade to a center seat.

Just my thoughts.  Feel free to share your thoughts on the matter.

New Flow Advances Towards The Northern Edge of Pahoa – 12/3/14


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Newest Pahoa Flow Moving Northeast

Large scale map courtesy USGS HVO

As of Dec. 2, 2014, the area where the two lines of descent (the blue lines) is approximately 400 yards from the current flow.  At the current rate of advancement, it should reach it sometime today.  So, tomorrow will give a better idea of which direction the flow will take.  It could follow the current line, which would take it toward the Pahoa Marketplace, it could take the more northerly track or split and take both.  On the other hand, as we’ve seen in the past, it could very well take a completely unexpected path or stop, like the original flow.

The original flow, shown in pink above, advanced at an average rate closer to 100 yards or less daily.

This video is from the Dec 1, 2014 update and has some great video shots, as well as good information on what’s happened.

The community of Pahoa and its surrounding subdivisions has been threatened by advancing lava since June 2014.  To date, as far as I know, only one residential property has been completely lost to the lava.  A few other properties have been affected with the lava entering and covering part of their property, but otherwise, damage has been minimal to this point.  Of course, there was ranch/cattle land covered along the way, as well.

The Civil Defense, Hawaii Volcano Observatory, Hawaii County, the state of Hawaii, and the utility companies have all made great efforts to keep the public aware of on-going activity while trying to maintain as much of the utilities and road access available to the residents of Pahoa.  The Federal government and FEMA has been somewhat slow to provide much assistance.  Lava, and its unique properties, is not something national emergency procedures address well.

I’m sure FEMA would act quicker had the entire community of Pahoa disappeared under a massive advance of lava, but the fact that this is a slowly developing situation and with unknown properties affected, they seem to be at a loss as to what to do.  Even President Obama, who likes to claim Hawaii as his birthplace, was slow to declare a State of Emergency which provides access to federal aid to affected families and small business owners.

The problem with not only federal aid, but with homeowners’ insurance, is that they don’t kick in until and unless your residence or business has been destroyed.  They do not consider you’re leaving or evacuating in advance of the lava, as their problem.  In fact, homeowners’ insurance goes so far as to punish those who evacuate by declaring your home as vacant, therefore limited in coverage if covered at all.  The other problem that the state is looking into is the cancellation or non-renewal of policies on properties in the affected areas by insurance companies.

 

Pahoa Lava Flow Unlikely to Affect Vacation Plans – 11/5/2014

Recent Pahoa Volcanic Activity

The news/media seem to be overstating the impact of recent Hawaii volcanic activity.  I thought I would write this post to un-dramatize the recent volcanic activity and its impending impact.  While it is true the current lava flow is moving towards the village of Pahoa, located to the southeast of Hilo, and fairly unpredictable, there is little chance that the whole town is in jeopardy of being covered over.  The most likely impact would be to split the town in half.

I don’t mean to understate the seriousness of the situation, but due to the lay of the land…the topography, the lava is more likely to continue its unrelenting path to the coast, rather than expand wide enough to impact the entire town, as some news reports have stated.

Its also a very slow moving flow, usually advancing less than 50 yards a day, so residents of Pahoa have had ample warning and opportunity to move their belongings and find alternative living arrangements.  The temporary shelter set up by local authorities has had very few occupants as residents have found places to move to.  They understand that this is not like a hurricane or tornado where the impact is comparably immediate and you can assess your losses and move on.

Pahoa will continue to be under the threat of approaching lava for at least the next few months, if volcanic activity continues as it has for several years.  For those who may be planning a Hawaiian vacation which includes a visit to the Big Island of Hawaii, there will likely be no noticeable impact to your plans.

The largest majority of tourists base their stay in the Kailua-Kona area of the Big Island, which is on the opposite side of the island.  As a matter of fact, Pahoa is located off the main highway that circles the island, so most of the residents of the Big Island don’t feel any impact from this latest development either.  Very few locals and tourists alike ever take Highway 130 through the area affected.

If you are curious and want to keep up to date with the most recent developments, you can “Like” and Follow my Facebook page, My Hawaii Food Fun.  You can also “Like” and Follow Big Island Video News, who posts daily (and sometimes more frequently) updates and warnings issued by the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the Hawaii County Civil Defense, and the U.S. Geological Service.

Lava Flow Caveats

Hawaii has passed Emergency laws which make looting a felony and also limits access to the affected areas.  What this also means is that curious people will not be permitted close to the lava flow.  The National Guard has been monitoring traffic in and out of the area, assisting local law enforcement.

Not surprisingly, these new laws are being tested and challenged.

While helicopters provide the best viewing of this latest lava activity, their access has also been limited for both safety and as a courtesy to residents still living in the area.  The helicopter tour companies have been very cooperative with local authorities in limiting their flights below 4000′.

Having said that, this is a serious situation, especially for those who have called Pahao home for years…if not generations.

Please send your thoughts and prayers to the residents of the Pahoa area!

Mahalo!

A Must See Theatrical Performance…Ulalena

Ulalena

If you’re spending time on Maui and still have some energy left in you after a day full of sight-seeing, snorkeling, and shopping, you may want to plan an evening attending Maui’s premiere theatrical performance held at the Maui Theatre in Lahaina, called Ulalena.  For over 10-years, this first-class stage production has received rave reviews from everyone who has seen it.  This is not your typical luau dinner show, but a full blown, professional theatrical show that would hold its own in Vegas or Broadway!  But, this uniquely Hawaiian live performance can only be seen at the 680-seat Maui Theatre.

___________

Reviews

  • “Voted ‘Best Way to Learn About Maui’” –Maui Magazine
  • “It truly represents our oral history, which totally will entrance the viewer with
    the beauty of our past.” –Maui News Opinion, submitted by Hawaiian Cultural
    Advisor Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr.
  • “‘Ulalena, a show about Hawaiian mythology and history, proves there’s a life
    beyond the luau.” –Travel+Leisure Magazine
  • “I go out of my way to not call ‘Ulalena (at Maui Theatre) a show. It’s theater.
    It’s art. It’s wonderful. ‘Ulalena is one of the most brilliant pieces of theater
    I’ve seen in Hawai‘i in more than 40 years.”
    –Honolulu Star Bulletin Columnist Dave Donnelly
  • “There’s nothing like it in Hawai‘i.”- Frommer’s, Maui Edition
  • “…we recommend seeing the ‘Ulalena show, a total departure from the often mindless
    “Hawaiian” productions aimed at tourists.” –The Boston Globe
  • “…the buzz of the millennium and a yardstick by which future productions are
    measured.” –Honolulu Advertiser Entertainment Columnist Wayne Harada
  • “…an evocative experience that often leaves the audience speechless. It is
    interactive, with dancers coming down the aisles, drummers and musicians in
    surprising corners, and mind-boggling stage and lighting effects that draw
    the audience in.” –Frommer’s
  • “…’Ulalena has been bringing down the house.”
    –Conde Nast Traveler
  • “Awarded ‘Best Show’ & ‘Best Attraction’”
    –Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau

Tickets for Ulalena are $59.99, $69.99 and $79.99.  The $79.99 VIP is for seating in the first 7-rows center or first 5-rows side wings and includes a 20-minute behind the scenes session with the cast.  Children 6-12 are $30 less per ticket.  https://www.mauitheatre.com/_

Given the theatre’s 8-channel, 20-speaker, state-of-the-art surround sound system, you may want to pass on the standard seats and spend the extra $10-20.  Speaking of sound systems, the Maui Theatre was designed specifically with this show in mind.  Special lighting and stage hydraulics add to the special efforts that went into giving audiences a great experience.

Performances of Ulalena are held Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and  Friday, starting at 5:00 pm.

 

Aloha Oi International Marketplace

International Marketplace of Waikiki Closed!

While the many vendor stalls and wagons may still sit in their usual spots, the vendors and merchandise that once made the International Marketplace a favorite of many visitors and locals alike – are gone.  December 31,  2013 marked the last day  for this iconic location and while there are a few storefronts still open along Kalakaua Avenue, they too, will close their doors for the final time at the end of January.

For those who may not have been aware, the Queen Emma Foundation, owners of the land, has opted to replace the International Marketplace with an upscale mall, anchored by Saks.  Viewed from a strictly economic view, this decision makes sense in terms of the increase in dollars that will be generated which can be put to use towards the Queen Medical Center’s west facility.  You can read more about this controversial decision here in an earlier post.

My kids used to always look forward to spending a couple of hours navigating the carts and stores, looking for hidden bargains away from the glitz and glamor of Waikiki.  I think that was the attraction of the International Marketplace for the majority of people.  With its demise, we lose another uniquely Hawaiian experience.

There may even be a small number of people who would say that the removal of the aged International Marketplace is a good thing from an aesthetics point of view.  And, yes, many of the structures were long over do to be replaced, but the true value of this iconic shopping area is probably more nostalgic than practical.  It represents a simpler time before Waikiki became a concrete, metal, and glass jungle, when the Pink Castle (aka Royal Hawaiian Hotel) was a visible landmark…from the street, not just the ocean.

If its any consolation, it is my understanding that both the Monkeypod tree and the International Marketplace sign will be spared and will be incorporated into the new mall landscaping.  I wonder it they’ll also keep the koi pond?

International Marketplace Sign

International Marketplace Sign

I guess this is more of a personal loss for many of us who will miss this Waikiki landmark, but I do believe that more people will miss this more laid-back venue than those who are eagerly anticipating the arrival of Saks.  The cost of progress seems disproportionately high, but economics rule.  It just seems Waikiki has turned into just another shopping mecca, similar to many of those found throughout the US…except, of course, for the tropical setting.

I guess we should be happy that the Pink Palace and the Hilton Rainbow Tower still stand as Waikiki landmarks.  Hopefully, they will remain recognizable for the foreseeable future.

Aloha oi International Marketplace!  You can look for the new mall and Saks sometime in 2015.

Update:  The new projected opening date for the new upscale mall is spring 2016.

Goodbye USAirways…Welcome to the New American Airlines Dec 9 2013

Effective December 9, 2013, the new American Airlines becomes the largest airline in the United States.

Even after challenges from the government and consumer groups fearing reduced competition will lead to higher prices, American Airlines Group emerged from bankruptcy today, months after announcing the intention of merging American Airlines and US Airways.  Why the concern?  With the creation of this newer, larger, and hopefully stronger airline, four airlines will control over 80% of the domestic market.

This is just the latest of several airline mergers as they continue to maneuver to maintain profitability and competitiveness since the industry was deregulated decades ago.  Continental and Northwest Airlines being among the more notable airlines having disappeared in recent years.

Affect on Mainland-Hawaii Airfares should be negligible

US Airways has never served the Hawaii-Mainland routes, so this merger should have no effect on seat availability and pricing of tickets.  However, as route consolidation and the two airlines get fully integrated, it may have an impact in some markets on the mainland.  As a matter of fact, many of those in Hawaii may not be familiar with US Airways since they are strongest along the eastern seaboard.

The question now is, how smoothly they can pull of this merger.  If you recall, the merger between United and Continental Airlines back on October 1, 2011, took the better part of a year before they got their two separate systems integrated.

Hopefully, this latest merger will bring some stability to the airline industry.  Congratulations and best wishes to the new American Airlines!

A Drive Around The Big Island, Part 3

When you leave the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you will be turning to the left to continue your circle the island drive.  Just a few miles down the road, if you turn right at the sign that directs you to the golf course, you will find the Volcano Winery.

I doubt that this little winery will ever make the top 20 of wineries to visit, but its a nice break and the wines are pretty good and better yet, affordable.  If nothing else, you may want to consider a bottle or two as gifts, rather than the anticipated pineapple you might have been considering!

About 30 minutes further along Hwy 19 (aka Mamalahoa Hwy), you will come to Punaluu Beach Park, black sand beach.  Its just a short mile off the highway and odds are excellent that you will also be able to view some Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles sunning themselves on the black sand or feeding in the shallows.

Punaluu Beach State Park, Big Island

Endangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle

Its a nice place for a picnic, but make sure you bring lunch with you because you won’t find any food vendors in the area.  If a picnic fits in your timeline, you may want to plan on stopping at Pahala, a small town about 6 miles back towards the Volcanoes National Park, to pick up some sandwiches or something.

Further along Hwy 19, you will come to the town of Naalehu, “The Southernmost Community in the USA, is their claim to fame.  You will also find the Punaluu Bakery…it got its start at Punaluu, but moved to Naalehu years ago.  You may have even seen some of their baked goods, particularly their sweetbreads, in stores around the island.  My favorites are the regular and guava flavored sweetbreads.

About 15 minutes further along and you will come to the turn off that will take you down to the coast at Ka Lae (aka South Point).   Its about 8 miles down and most of it through some pretty barren, windswept grasslands.

You have now reached THE southernmost point of the US!  Next stop…Antarctica!  I have an article located elsewhere on this blog on South Point, so I’ll leave this description brief.  I will mention that Papakolea, the green sand beach is located nearby, requiring a 4.5 mile rd-trp hike to get there, so you want to make sure you’ve planned ahead and brought water, sunscreen, and a hat, if you plan on going.

South Point looking towards the northwest, Big Island

Papakolea (Green Sand) Beach, Big Island, Hawaii

Once back on Hwy 19 and headed back northward, you have about an hour’s drive until you reach Kailua-Kona.  This drive includes some of the twistiest and narrowest roads you have been on so far.  Locals will try to blow-by you as you maintain the 35 mph speed limit, but its much safer to go slow, especially when you’re not familiar with the roads.

There are places to stop and visit along the way as you get closer to Kailua-Kona; coffee outlets, Puuhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge), and I’ll be posting another article with more things to see and do in the Kona area in the near future.

As you can see, its a huge mistake to try and make this trip in one-day!  I would encourage you to plan on spending at least a full-day exploring the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park!  There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world!

As a matter of fact, if you only visited ONE PLACE on your entire visit to Hawaii…this should probably be it.  Think about it.  Where else can you see an active volcano/lava flow, lush tropical rainforests, innumerable birds found nowhere else on earth, Hawaiian petroglyphs, and find hiking trails ranging from easy to challenging, all in one locale?

I also strongly suggest you visit my website at www.myhawaiionline.com to learn more about the activities and places to go, as well as find links to several of the more popular ones.

Does It Snow In Hawaii?

In 2010, during one of the cold and snowy stretches that hit the US, 49 out of 50 states had snow on the ground…Hawaii was the exception.  During the winter of 2009-10, Hawaii had virtually no snow to speak of.   With yet another cold and snowy winter on hand, on January 11/12, once again 49 out of 50 states had snow on the ground…Florida was the exception.

I recently saw a question on Yahoo Answers that asked about where one should go to see snow.  Although the asker was open to taking a trip to the mainland to do so, its really not necessary.

With Haleakala on Maui at 10,023′ above sea level, Mauna Loa at 13,679′ and Mauna Kea standing at 13,796′, both on the Big Island;  all three are subject to getting snow during the winter months.  This is especially true in January and February.

As a matter of fact, most years Mauna Kea receives enough snow that there is a ski club that takes advantage of the snowfall.  I don’t mean to imply its ever going to challenge Aspen as a ski destination since Mauna Kea probably only averages about a foot and a half of snow a year, but they do ski there.

Hawaii had snow on Haleakala, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on January 11-12, 2011.  In fact, the weather service issued a winter storm warning for all three areas that day.  As you might imagine, Hawaii doesn’t actually spend a lot of money buying snow removal equipment, so they close the roads down until the snow melts off the roads, which usually only takes a day or two.

However, what that also means is, if you are planning on catching sunrise on Haleakala or visiting the summit of Mauna Kea to observe sunset or stopping at the Onizuka Visitors Center for their nightly star-gazing program during the winter months, you should check the weather reports and make sure the roads are open.

Snow on Mauna Loa as seen from the road to South Point, Big Island.

The owner of this website, Randy Yanagawa, is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking My Hawaii Food Fun to Amazon properties including, but not limited to, amazon.com, endless.com, myhabit.com, smallparts.com, or amazonwireless.com.