HONOLULU – That was fun.
Air Canada rouge celebrated the return of non-stop service between Toronto and Honolulu on Wednesday with celebrations in both cities.
As a winter storm started to develop near southern Ontario (damn, I hate to miss those), the crew on the first Toronto to Honolulu Air Canada rouge flight was gathering at Pearson International Airport with plastic flower leis, papier mache pineapples and other Hawaiian-inspired goodies to get ready for the 3:55 p.m. departure.
They cut a ribbon to celebrate the occasion and generally fussed and fawned, catching a few folks by surprise.
“We didn’t know it was the first flight (to Honolulu),” said Anna Karatcheva, who was travelling with friend Andrea Conforti. “We just saw it was a good deal and we thought, ‘Let’s take it.’”
Up until yesterday, the only way to get to Hawaii from Toronto was by stopping at another airport, usually Vancouver or Los Angeles or San Francisco. That’s a hassle, so the new Air Canada rouge is a great thing. It’s a 10-hour flight, sure, but it’s direct. It arrives at night but you can probably get a little sleep on the way, and then you have a full day on Oahu or wherever you’re headed. On the way home, the flight leaves late at night, which means you can spend the day at the beach or hiking or shopping and have a nice dinner before heading to the Honolulu airport.
The flights are being offered on Wednesdays and Sundays. Of course, if you need to go or return home earlier you can always book an Air Canada ticket and stop over in Vancouver or perhaps California.
The crew on the flight to Honolulu gave everyone of age a free alcoholic drink. Passengers also got goodie bags that included sun block, lip balm, a blow-up beach ball and a shoe horn so they could get ready for sandals and open-toed shoes at Waikiki Beach. There also were macadamia nut chocolates and other goodies, and a couple kids got their faces painted.
I was lucky enough to fly in the business/premium cabin, with wide seats, lots of leg room and a free iPad to watch movies and TV shows. Good food (they ran out of chicken but the pasta was fine) and attentive service and nice wine, too.
Near the end of the flight they gave away gift certificates for John Fluevog shoes, the official shoes of Air Canada rouge, and also $250 for a shopping spree at the local Premium Outlets in Honolulu. Nice.
The real Hawaiian party was at the other end. When we landed in Honolulu, all passengers were serenaded by a lovely Hawaiian duo with guitar and ukulele singing songs about beaches and mountains and swaying trees and little grass shacks. They also had two girls doing the hula, which went over rather well, and all passengers and crew were presented with stunning, purple and white flower leis; always a huge treat for first-timers (or second or third or 23 rd timers) to Hawaii.
Passengers heading into the storm in Toronto (sorry about that, guys) were treated to orange juice, coffee and some Air Canada rouge cake at the gate, along with more music and dancing. The best part, to me, was the blessing of a Hawaiian priest, Kahu Kordell.
Kordell presented a gorgeous, deep green lei made of maile leaves woven together and had it laid across the gangway prior to the flight. He also blessed the crew with the water and chanted a Hawaiian prayer, which was very moving.
Prior to the flight, Kordell took his polished, wooden bowl filled with water and a thick layer of maile leaves and went out to bless the plane, sprinkling the water and touching the aircraft with the leaves and chanting prayers to keep everyone safe. He touched the tires and the engine and the cargo bay as he went along, then clambered inside and walked up and down the aisles sprinkling more water and saying his prayers in the magically romantic Hawaiian language.
Hawaii is a deeply spiritual place, and they take care to bless things and people before special events. At the Kapalua Ritz Carlton hotel a few years ago, I went on a nature hike and the guide took time prior to our entering the forests to thank the gods for their trees and life-giving water. Some might find it hokey but I think it’s a marvellous testament to the way Hawaiians feel about life and the spirits and the land that has blessed them and that makes the rest of us so envious.
If you’re ever in Hawaii on a Sunday morning or a special religious holiday like Christmas or Easter, I highly recommend taking in church services in a local place of worship. I’ve been lucky enough to witness Sunday morning mass on Easter and Christmas on Maui and found it deeply moving and joyous, especially at the lovely Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina. The music alone is worth the price of admission. Or it would be, if it cost anything to attend.
Anyway, it’s great to see Air Canada rouge and Air Canada in general flying directly to paradise from Toronto. They certainly have my blessing.
CELEBRATE TORONTO TO VAIL FLIGHTS WITH A GREAT DEAL
Of course, many of us prefer to take winter holidays and get in some skiing. To celebrate the return of Toronto’s non-stop flight to Vail, Colorado you can get a great deal at the Sebastian-Vail. Bring your boarding pass and flight number at check-in from a flight from YYZ to Vail/Eagle Arport (EGE) and book a stay at the hotel and they’ll give you a $500 credit for the Bloom Spa, Leonora restaurant, the Frost bar and for Base Camp ski rentals. A five-night minimum stay is required in a Luxury Plaza Room or above, and other conditions apply.
A GREAT PLACE TO DO BUSINESS
Meeting folks for vital business in coffee shops isn’t exactly confidential. And not always professional. So here’s a great concept for business folks and business travellers. You can earn free coffee around the world and business lounge access, too, with Regus, which calls itself “the world’s largest provider of flexible workspaces.” They have 2,000 locations in 104 countries around the world, including Toronto and southern Ontario (First Canadian Place, Brookfield Place, Toronto Pearson, Liberty Village, plus Burlington, Mississauga and more).
Buying a Regus Businessworld Gold Card will give the frequent business traveller in your life access to those 2,000 plus lounges, as well as free coffee and free “business class” Wi-Fi, as well as 10 per cent off meeting rooms and day offices at any Regus centre. To buy the gold card, visit www.regus.ca .