Kokua Line
June Watanabe

Airline acknowledges
late check-in confusion

Question: Earlier this month, I tried to check in at Hawaiian Airlines about 25 minutes before my departure. (I used to check in one and a half to two hours before departure, but since they generally board between 10-20 minutes prior to departure, I have been checking in later and later.) I was informed that Hawaiian Air has a policy whereby passengers who are not checked in within 30 minutes of departure time are automatically assessed a change fee and booked on a later flight. I asked when the policy went into effect and was told "for months now." None of my coworkers and friends had heard of the policy. When I inquired at Airlines Reservations and Information at 838-1555, I was told the person wasn't sure and that her supervisor suggested that I call "Legal" at 835-3700. When I called that number, I was transferred to ext. 3613. It's been about a week and I have gotten no response to my voice message. I am not objecting to the fee. If I don't agree with their policy, I am free to take my business elsewhere. What upsets me is the unresponsiveness of the employees, being transferred from one number to the next, and my inability to get a response. If their own employees are not familiar with the policy, how can they expect their customers to know it? Can you tell me how long it's been in effect and why no Hawaiian employees can provide me with a definitive answer?

Answer: The 30-minute cut-off for honoring passenger reservations has been an airline industry standard for years, according to Hawaiian Airlines officials, but the company instituted the change fee policy only recently: on Oct. 27 for interisland flights and May 3 for flights to and from the mainland.

However, the new policy apparently has not really been communicated to customers.

We could not find the new charge for late arrivals spelled out, at least on an e-ticket's list of fare rules, terms and conditions. A spokesman acknowledged that it wasn't clearly specified.

"Hawaiian appreciates the feedback," he said, adding that officials "are going to see how they can better communicate the change-fee policy."

Joyce Yen, the airlines' senior director of reservations, explained that if you arrive within 30 minutes before departure, you are considered a "late check-in."

Although you said you were told the change fee would be automatically assessed at a certain point, Yen said that, "in most cases," passengers arriving late can be accommodated if they can get to the boarding gate before the doors are closed.

But if a passenger has to be rebooked, she said a change fee will be assessed.

That would be $15 for interisland flights and $100 for mainland flights.

As for why you couldn't get an answer from employees, she said it sounded like "a result of unintended miscommunication" that apparently went along the chain.

Yen said she spoke with the reservations agent who recalled the conversation with you but who said she remembers you asking only what date the 30-minute policy went into effect, with no mention of the change fee policy.

"Because the 30-minute policy went into effect so long ago, the agent could not give the exact date," Yen said.

She pointed to Hawaiian Air being "the nation's on-time leader for the past 18 months" and said "we do appreciate our customers and do everything we can to serve them."

But customers are advised to check in two hours before departure for interisland flights and three hours before for trans-Pacific flights to the mainland and South Pacific.

Q: While walking by the Smith-Beretania Park and parking lot in Chinatown recently, I noted what seems to be an excessive amount of noise coming from the street-level ventilation structure on the makai side of the park. While the amount of noise may not be noticeable during the day with heavy traffic to drown it out, the noise is very noticeable at night when there is no traffic. Even if the noise is normal, could something be done to muffle it?

A: The noisy fans are due to be fixed as soon as possible, according to Laverne Higa, chief of the city Department of Facility Maintenance.

Even before your complaint came in, Diamond Parking, the contractor for the underground parking structure, was asked to repair the ventilation fans along Pauahi Street.

It is in the process of getting a bid for the work, Higa said.

Although Diamond Parking is in charge of maintenance, the cost of the repair will be charged to the city.


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