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You Can Have Your First Class, I’ll Take the Cessna, Thanks…

I’ve written before about how I don’t understand the First Class fetish that is shared by many other bloggers (God bless them, etc) because most of the “amenities” found in First Class are simply (excuse me) shittier versions of other things. The bed that everyone raves about is not a great “bed” – it is a great airplane bed. Which is not the same as a bed. Every single other bed in the universe located in a bedroom is more comfortable than an onboard bed where you are seatbelted in to a bed the width of a cot in a homeless shelter. That is not a great bed. It’s better than a coach seat, absolutely. Thousands of times better. But it’s a crappy version of an actual bed. Airplane food is, nearly without exception, simply a crappier version of actual real-world food, in part because you can’t taste food as well while you’re 7 miles in the air. And so on…I’m sure 3 minutes in a Porsche being driven up to a plane is also amazing inasmuch as 3 minute in any car is amazing. Et Cetera. Driving a Yugo is better than sitting on the back of a pack mule. But “better than awful” does not equate to “good.”

Anyway, I mention all of that because on our way home from Maui I decided to book a flight on Mokuele Airlines from tiny West Maui airport near Kapalua to Honolulu rather than fly from the main airport in Kahalui. I thought that the girls would get a kick out of flying in an 8-seat Cessna (assuming they didn’t vomit while on the tiny plane).

It was one of the best parts of the vacation, and one of (if not the) coolest flights I’ve ever taken.

There is no security at West Maui Airport (it is an “unsecure airport” – that’s different than an “insecure airport” which is an airport that thinks it’s not as good as another aiport), so you simply drop off your bags at check-in and walk on the plane. No security, no nothing.

The airport has what I would argue is the most beautiful view from any airport I’ve been to, as seen here:

View from the entrance to West Maui Airport.

View from the entrance to West Maui Airport.

The flight takes off over the coast near Kaanapali and continues between Molokai and Lana’i and 30 minutes after takeoff you’ve got a world-class approach over Diamond Head into Honolulu. Flights start at $49, and while you can’t use miles to pay for it, we used part of the $400 credit from the Barclays Arrival card – can’t argue with that.

My kids (well, one of them – Scarlett left a toy in the airport and spent 25 of the 30 minutes crying, so she didn’t really notice the flight) – so Sage was blown away by the experience. She loved walking onto the plane from the tarmac, seeing how the pilots flew the plane, flying so low over the islands, and the general excitement of it. Don’t get me wrong – she loved being up front on United with the lie-flat seats and the 2 billion channels of entertainment. That said, she has a comfy couch and cable TV at home – that was just a slightly different version of that. But she was truly blown away by the flight on the Cessna – she had never experienced anything like it. And for those who like in-flight service, they did hand us a 4-ounce bottle of Costco (Kirkland) water before the flight. So don’t worry – they took care of us.

May I recommend if you’re flying back from Maui – fly out of West Maui. It’s not even 10 minutes from Kaanapali and Kapalua, and it’s just an extra 20-25 minutes from Wailea (vs. flying out of Kahalui) — but it’s not really, because you don’t need to get there 2 hours early. For our 11:25 flight I showed up at 11 o’clock.

If you love flying and airplanes (and not just airport lounges and glasses of champagne), you will not be disappointed, and I promise you’ll be telling your friends about it.

A few photos from the trip…

Another view from the airport entrance

Another view from the airport entrance

Luxurious first-class lounge with assortment of beverages and snacks available for just one dollar!

Luxurious first-class lounge with assortment of beverages and snacks available for just one dollar!

Gratuitous family shot in front of Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Gratuitous family shot in front of Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Takeoff over Kaanapali

Takeoff over Kaanapali

Over Diamond Head

Over Diamond Head

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  1. Pretty awesome flight Jared. It seems like it would be smarter to fly back and forth a few times on the small plane than take a helicopter tour of the islands (probably hundreds of dollars cheaper too). I’ve always wanted to takeoff and land in a small plane and I guess HI is one of the best places to do it.

  2. That takeoff photo doesn’t even look real, it is so beautiful. Loved it.

  3. Great post. As somebody who wants to take the Cessna and fly international first class, I’ll disagree with you a little. I think it comes down to the uniqueness of the experience. For somebody who spends 99 trips out of 100 squeezing into economy, that trip up front is something to really look forward to. Same thing for the opportunity to take such a unique flight on a small plane in Hawaii. Its part of a memory you’ll cherish.

  4. Thank you for this. Especially the first paragraph. But really, I can always count on you taking a unique and refreshing perspective on travel. This is definitely an idea I will consider in the future.

  5. The thrill of landing at West Maui aiport, on the the side of a mountain, in a crosswind, at a landing strip carved out of a Pineapple field is/was a memory of a lifetime. I am thrilled the next two generations have had the experience. Nice writing too, Jared.

  6. Poor Scarlett!!!Can I replace the lost toy?

    • The toy is a whole other story. The airport called the people at HNL so they knew about the lost toy when I arrived. They actually sent it ahead on the next plane, but that plane was delayed so I couldn’t get it. I left $10 and my address with a gate agent and my fingers are crossed that they mail it. If not, I hope she bought something nice with the $10 I left her.

  7. The Masked Poster

    And not a single shot of the plane’s interior, nor the tray tables, nor the restroom waiting line, nothin’ else. Refreshing.

  8. Nice jorts you are sporting there JB

  9. Great post! We just completed our Hawaii trip thanks to the Icelandair promo you wrote about August 2012-THANKS! Family was split up into 2 groups due to award availability on Alaska Airlines, but fortunately it would mean a chance to do Maui-Kona on a Cessna, which I booked on Pacific Wings Airlines. Then unfortunately, Pacific Wings Airlines discontinued Interisland Hawaii service a month before our arrival, and so I rebooked on Mokulele instead. Until the night before our Maui arrival when a rep from Mokulele called me to tell me the plane broke down, and they would rebook me on Hawaiian Airlines. Kudo’s to Mokulele Airlines for being so proactive and not waiting until I arrived on Maui (and likely wouldn’t be able to score a seat over to the Big Island on such short notice). All turned out well though, but flew on a HA 717 instead of the Cessna – maybe next time. Thanks for sharing the cool pics !

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