Trapped in Paradise

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January 3rd 2022
Published: January 5th 2022
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Stranded at the AirportStranded at the AirportStranded at the Airport

American Airlines couldn't find people hotels and also couldn't reschedule flights, so we were stranded in the middle of the night at the airport for a few hours.
Flight cancellations have been surging around the country due to weather and the omicron variant hitting so fast. We suffered a flight cancelation, too, but it was due to maintenance issues. Because so many people have faced cancelations and been rerouted, it's taking days to be rescheduled...

It started on Saturday. We had to check out of Volcano House at noon. Our flight wasn't until 10:45pm. So, for about 10 hours, we had no place to go and needed to figure out something for restrooms, shade, etc. I looked into whether our old resort had day passes and couldn't find anything. We decided to head back there because it's fairly close to the airport, and they had the great waterslide and poolside food. We rented a fancy cabana, hoping that would work like a day pass, and hoping we wouldn't get kicked out! The fancy cabanas are $100. While we were there, I got my parents a few souvenirs as a thank you for taking care of our dog, and we bought dinner there, too. So, hopefully they don't care too much that we hung out at their pool all day!

The kids had a lot of fun at
Westin Hapuna ResortWestin Hapuna ResortWestin Hapuna Resort

We arrived around 2:30am and had to check out by noon, but they took good care of us for those few hours.
the pool. It felt like the perfect way to end our trip and say goodbye to Hawaii. We got out of the water around 6pm, after the sun had set and the wind picked up. We got dressed in long pants and set out to drop off our rental car. Everything went smoothly at the airport. We boarded our American Airlines on time and were ready to go. Then all the lights and air went off. Turns out, the computer malfunctioned. They worked on fixing it for about an hour before finally having us deplane. They told us there was no way the plane was taking off tonight and handed us cards to call the airline and try to get rebooked.

At first, they were working to get passengers set up at a partner hotel. Then they came on over the speaker and said their partner hotel was now sold out, and a lot of places nearby were booked. They basically told us to reserve what we could. We have some American Express points that are linked to Marriott Bonvoy, so we went online to see what we could book. The Westin Hapuna resort was available, so we booked
Mauna Kea Beach HotelMauna Kea Beach HotelMauna Kea Beach Hotel

Saturday overnight into Sunday was rough due to flight cancelations and having nowhere to go, but this maybe makes up for it! Two bonus days of vacation at a beach hotel!
it. In hindsight, we should have booked with dollars because maybe we could have gotten American Airlines to pay for our hotel. Oh well, at least we had a place to stay!

I sat on the phone trying to get through to American Airlines while the kids slept on the cement outside the airport. Andrew waited for our bags. It was really a difficult couple of hours. When I got through to American, she couldn't help me because the computers still showed we were on the plane. I asked her if we could at least leave the airport and get our kids to a hotel to sleep. She said no. She said because the flight is showing up as delayed, she couldn't let us leave the airport without losing our tickets. It took ages, but finally the computers updated. The next flight they could reschedule us to was Monday night at 10:45pm. That's 48 hours after our original flight. Fine. We booked it.

The next challenge was getting to our resort. It was about 1am, and there were no Uber or Lyfts available. Taxi numbers weren't answering their phones. There were hundreds of stranded passengers waiting for transportation. Every time a car or vehicle pulled up, passengers swarmed around to see if they could get on, too. It took us about an hour, but Andrew bolted for a taxi that pulled up. Some smart passenger had managed to book it online, and it was a van. They were heading north and would take extra passengers heading in the same direction. They told Andrew he could board. He frantically waved me over, and I struggled to wake the kids up. I think they heard desperation in my voice and dragged themselves up in a sleepy stupor. We ran over. I yelled to Andrew to get the kids on board while I got the luggage, and to just leave me behind if necessary. Thankfully, it wasn't necessary, and we all got on. We were the last stop, as we were the farthest north. Our driver was incredible and really psyched us up for our hotel. It was dark and late, so we couldn't see anything, but we could hear the roar of the waves. We handed our driver a pile of cash when we got off. He said our fare was $65 and later said $75. We didn't care. We made it. We handed him $80 and went to check in. Again, in hindsight, we should have paid with a card and gotten a receipt to try to be reimbursed. We didn't. Oh well. We had a place to sleep.

Our check-in was wonderful. She offered to give us salads so we had something to eat, but we were so tired we just wanted to sleep. She gave us leis as a welcome, and gave us the last hotel room they had available. It was a bit of a hike, but the room was beautiful and the beds were comfortable. We crashed out until morning. When I woke up, I got showered in a glamorous rain shower. I found laundry facilities that were free to guests (including free laundry soap!). I did two loads of laundry to ensure we had clean clothes for two days, and to get rid of the funk from our towels that were smelling like old sea smells. Andrew was busy on the phone to Marriott, trying to extend our stay. They could not extend our stay with points due to lack of availability, and it would be $1,200 to stay another night. If we'd been confident our airline would pay for it, we would have booked. Instead, we used points to book at the sister hotel next door, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Our Westin was so nice. They offered to drive us over with our luggage on a golf cart. We used the pool until noon, and then we hopped on a golf cart to head over to Mauna Kea. We rode past golf courses and beaches to find that Mauna Kea was just as nice of a hotel, but very different. It was older, but the rooms were even bigger. We were upgraded to a beach view. We had an enormous balcony that overlooked the beach, and Oliver basically sat out on that balcony every free moment he had. We had a big room, and it was connected to a walk-in closet. There was a luxurious bathroom that had an enormous tub, a rain shower, and its own balcony. We loved our room. The thought of being "homeless" again for 8 hours on Monday weighed heavily on us, so we called and used even more points to book an extra night at the hotel. So, we booked for Monday night, even though we'd have to leave around 7:30pm. Honestly, it was the best use of points.

So, from 12pm on Sunday to 7:30pm on Monday, we lived a life of luxury! We alternated playing at the beach with swimming at the pool, and we also spent plenty of time up in our room, relaxing in the AC. Oliver sure loved the balcony! Andrew and I each had a few work things we had to take care of, but, for the most part, we really enjoyed our bonus days of vacation.

Reflecting on our trip, it seemed to take place in four chunks: The first part of our trip was an adventure. We played on water slides, went on a night snorkel to see manta rays, and went horseback riding in Waipio Valley. The second part of our trip was all about volcanoes, and we did a lot of hiking to see lava and steam vents. The third part of our trip was a bit of chaos, having nowhere to be and getting stranded at an airport. The last part of a trip was all about relaxation. Thankfully, it was so perfect, that it seemed to cancel out the stresses of Saturday and Sunday morning.

Monday night, our taxi got us to the airport without issue. We went through the same routine we went through Saturday night. Unfortunately, we couldn't get boarded on time. I started having flashbacks to Saturday and feared our flight would be cancelled. In fact, a lot of flights were cancelled. It seems there was an issue with cargo, and they couldn't get fuel from Hilo on the other side of the island. Flights that had enough fuel to get to Honolulu flew there first to fuel up, and then continued on their routes. Flights that didn't have enough fuel to safely get to Honolulu were cancelled. American Airlines had one flight fully fueled. It had no passengers and was set to go to Dallas. They took the fuel from that plane to fill up ours. It took about an hour, but our flight wasn't cancelled, and we didn't have to stop in Honolulu and wait in a fuel line there. Finally, finally, we took off, 1.5 hours late. I was suddenly grateful for our 3 hour layover in Phoenix. A lot of passengers weren't so lucky and missed their connecting flights. Our flight went smoothly, and I slept about 2 hours on the plane. Joanna slept about 4. We weren't seated with Andrew & Oliver, but I take it they each got a couple hours of sleep as well.

Phoenix was crazy and mobbed. There were people coughing everywhere, and, in terms of the pandemic, it was the most dangerous part of our trip so far. There was nowhere to go to avoid people because it was just so, so busy. We avoided eating to keep our masks on and just hoped for the best. Our flight didn't have a pilot because he or she was sick. My aunt has a condo in Phoenix, and she'd texted us to let us know we could stay there if anything happened. It was reassuring to have a safety net, but I was glad we didn't end up needing it! They found another pilot, and we managed to take off just 30 minutes late. Our new pilot made up most of the missed time in the air, and we landed just 1 minute late in Des Moines. I couldn't believe we'd made it home. There have been thousands of flights cancelled every single day this week in the U.S., and making it home felt like a gift.


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