A tough road getting back from Hawaii on New Years, and Remember to add a free AA segment

We finally got back to Hawaii on Jan 4th, and the trip back was not fun at all. I made a few mistakes and learned some lessons along the way, which might be helpful to some of you. First, let me tell you what happened, and then I’ll tell you what I should have done.

We tried to fly back from Kona to San Francisco on New Years day, which seemed like a reasonable idea considering that there were about 7 open seats on the flight when I checked the night before. However, a flight the previous day was delayed overnight and a bunch or passengers were transferred to the SFO flight leaving it overbooked, and we didn’t get on. We elected to fly to Honolulu thinking that we would have more options, but again bad luck hit and a canceled flight to SNA plus a plane change resulted in 80+ denied boardings and us being stuck in HNL for the night.

While we were hanging out at the United Club, I decided to look at award redemptions on various airlines where I had enough miles, and where they offered a one-way award. Unfortunately all the airlines were sold out for Jan 2nd, and the only airline offering an itinerary where I could get back to Chicago by the 4th was AA. There were no seats available from HNL, so I did some searches from other islands and I found two “Economy AAnytime” awards for 45,000 miles each. Quite a steep price, but I was thankful to even find some open seats in our predicament. The only issue was getting to Maui, but after a quick search I found two seats to Maui on the morning of the 3rd for $80 each.

The flight back was fine, in fact we got exit row bulk head seats on the OGG to LAX leg, and exit row from LAX to ORD thanks to Chadsey’s AA Gold status (which she earned through AA’s elite status challenge program). Our flights left reasonably on time, but I was shocked that they did not offer drink service on the LAX-ORD red eye. The only drinks they offered was a tray of orange juice or water halfway through the flight. I don’t know if AA is trying to cut costs during their bankruptcy, or if the flight attendants were simply too lazy to come through the cabin with drinks, but I was shocked by this.

Now, here is mistake I made. AA allows you to do a free stopover on any award redemption, meaning that I could have added a segment to my itinerary on a different date free of charge! Since I was redeeming an AAnytime award I could have added a Chicago to Miami segment on an future date for free! Unfortunately I was so tired and stressed out by our situation that I didn’t think about this option when I booked our flights, but this would have been a great way to get a cheap weekend trip to Miami during the winter. Remember to keep this feature in mind when you are redeeming an award on AA. I have read that you can even make your free segment reservation up to 1-year in the future.

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