American Airlines Flight 1859 Made An Unexpected Stop On Christmas Eve

On December 24, the midday American Airlines Los Angeles – Honolulu flight cancelled. Christmas in paradise was at risk for its passengers.

So American Airlines decided to add a stop to its Los Angles – Maui flight 1859 to drop off passengers in Honolulu enroute to Maui’s Kahului Airport.

According to the airline, “American Airlines Flight 1859 from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Kahului Airport (OGG) has a planned diversion to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) to accommodate customers from another flight.”

This was a Christmas miracle for the Honolulu-bound passengers, whose trip was rescued albeit with a late arrival – and an inconvenience for Maui passengers. Instead of arriving on Maui at 9:30 p.m., they landed an hour and a half late around 11 p.m. That means after going through Covid-19 formalities at the airport and making it to a hotel or home rental, passengers finally hit their beds well after midnight – early Christmas morning.

The extra flying time wouldn’t have been comfortable either, on board aircraft N418AN, an Airbus A321neo. It’s a domestic plane in American’s new dense configuration, with less padded seats. Once everyone was in Hawaii, though, how they got there no doubt seemed less important.

If I were a Maui-bound passenger on American flight 1859, I’d like to think I’d show holiday goodwill towards my fellow passengers getting off before me in Honolulu. Would you?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. So the #s of passengers going to HNL was less than the # of available seats on the OGG flight, correct?

    Or was there some sort of lottery to figure out which HNL customers went and who didnt?

    Merry Xmas!

  2. Hopefully, American was at least serving booze and a meal on this flight, unlike Delta which won’t even serve Coke or coffee even on its most premium LAX-JFK flights in Delta One business-class.

  3. There was a potentially bigger problem for those OGG-bound passengers. Most of the car rental counters at OGG close by 11pm. Hopefully, the rental employees stuck around for the late-arriving flight to accommodate but being that it was Christmas Eve, that may not be a foregone conclusion.

  4. Gary, Thank you for your article regarding the Christmas miracle of American Airlines Flight 1859 with a planned diversion to Honolulu.

    As mandated by the Government of Hawaiʻi, it is heartwarming to hear that American Airlines demonstrated true Aloha Spirit when they accommodated stranded passengers due to their canceled flight to Hawaiʻi. I believe some other airlines would have said to the passengers on Christmas Eve, “Sucks to be you today. Would you prefer a voucher for a future flight?”

    From Chapter 5 of Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes:
    § 5-7.5 “Aloha Spirit.” (a) “Aloha Spirit” is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the self. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. In the contemplation and presence of the life force, “Aloha”, the following unuhi laulā loa may be used:
    “Akahai”, meaning kindness to be expressed with tenderness;
    “Lōkahi”, meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony;
    “ʻOluʻolu” meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness;
    “Haʻahaʻa”, meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty;
    “Ahonui”, meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.
    These are traits of character that express the charm, warmth and sincerity of Hawaii’s people. It was the working philosophy of native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaiʻi. ”Aloha” is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation. ”Aloha” means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return. “Aloha” is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence. ”Aloha” means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.
    (b) In exercising their power on behalf of the people and in fulfillment of their responsibilities, obligations and service to the people, the legislature, governor, lieutenant governor, executive officers of each department, the chief justice, associate justices, and judges of the appellate, circuit, and district courts may contemplate and reside with the life force and give consideration to the “Aloha Spirit”. [L 1986, c 202, § 1]

  5. Thank you for sharing good news … we so need more of that! We rescheduled our Kauai Christmas due to the mandatory 14-day quarantine on that island so we’re celebrating in Key West … it’s, not Hawaii, but it’s also not <30 degrees either! — Merry Christmas

  6. I speculate that both flights were not even half full and AA simply consolidated both. Also, there is no alcohol in coach on those flights. I did fly DFW-KOA in premium economy about a week ago and all the service included:
    1) A small “red” snack box served at the beginning of the flight.
    2) A single Biscoff cookie served at the end of the flight
    3) Beverage service
    4) No alcohol for free or for purchase in Premium or regular economy. Only in Business/First.
    Who knew that such simple measures would stop Covid on 8 h flight once and for all!

  7. That was a kind gesture on the part of AA. I would think that if I were one of the delayed passengers I’d just grin and bear it. Nice that the HNL folks got there.

    I find it interesting to read about the experiences on the flights these days. I bought my own company 15 years ago so I could quit flying but with a new location in the future I’m going to have to start flying sometime early next year, 4 – 8 segments a week. I’ll have easy access to UA, AA, and DL. International trips I’ll have a 3.5 hour drive to avoid flying the domestic airlines. I’m a lifetime platinum with AA but I’m so disgusted with them I was seriously considering DL because they didn’t lay anyone off, but it doesn’t seem like they are doing much to win the hearts and minds of customers.

    Keep posting folks, I’m going to have to make a decision in the next 90 days or so.

  8. Thanks for sharing a story full of the spirit of Christmas and Aloha. Thank you @KenA, for the wonderful lesson. Gary, the answer to your question is a resounding Yes! Wishing all love and grace for ay season and hope and healing for 2021.

  9. Was the HNL flight cancelled due UI mechanical problems (out of AAs control) or was AA just being cheapskates and combining two half full flights. If the latter is the case I would think call it goodwill on Americans part.

  10. First of all, thank you for the flagstop, AA. The goodwill they earned will far outweigh the cost to AA.
    Most likely the car rental outlets were advised, Jonathan. As an airline supervisor, I used to call them when our flights were late and they would have someone stay.
    Well done, AA. Happy holidays and Aloha.

  11. That’s the way it used to be done back in the ’60’s & ’70’s , take another plane going the same basic route, set up a “Flag Stop” on the flight not scheduled to stop there and load everyone from both flights on the 1 plane. Swing by, drop the load and keep on going, it’s a win-win everyone gets to their destination, the further destination is just a bit later. What were the HNL people going to be doing that late at night in HNL anyway, most business would have been closed by the time they got there normally. I worked many a Flag Stop flight over my 43 years with AL/US & US Airways.

  12. Kudos to AA thinking outside the box to reaccommodate the passengers from the canceled flight.. Although an inconvenience for the Maui passengers, im sure they would have been grateful for the same customer service.
    Thanks for posting a feel good story.

  13. What is your problem? AA can’t do anything right? Seriously your bias is too much!

    @OneXMarine what about Delta cancelling hundreds of flights again (did it Thanksgiving, and now again Christmas eve and Christmas) and AA only cancelled ONE flight? AA also did a solid to their furloughed employees by bringing them back to work with pay and benefits without the PSP2 Bill signed by the “president” who is too busy moaning about losing the election?

  14. A lot of Covid testing likely would have timed out if they didn’t combine flights. One wonders how flexible Hawaii is for IRR, especially when it delays travellers for a day.

  15. Very kind of AA. I wonder, though… Geographically it would make more sense to stop at OGG first, then continue west to HNL, rather than backtracking east from HNL to OGG. It would also be less of an inconvenience for the OGG passengers, who were most likely the majority on this flight. Hmm… What are we missing?

  16. After many years flying for Big British Airline, I’d have made sure that everyone who wanted one had a drink. We used to regularly. Turbulence can wreak havoc with glass and whatever. It’s Christmas. If we can’t be kind to each other the , when can we be?

    As for the diversion, good on American. We did it all the time if needs must. 90 minutes delay is peanuts in the great scheme of thing

  17. @Ron What you’re missing is that the plane obviously needed to end the day in OGG for the following morning’s flight back to LAX.

  18. @FNT Delta Diamond – there was definitely beer and wine in D1 and C+ between JFK and LAX. However, I don’t think there were any other soft drinks or coffee.

  19. Hub flight. AA couldn’t call out a reserve crew and plane, or didn’t want to on Christmas Eve?

  20. I’m not willing to call it a good deed until I learn the reason for the LAX-HNL flight was cancelled. In my experience, AA has a history of canceling an undersold flight to consolidate with another undersold flight to the same destination. This may have happened here.

  21. FNT Delta Diamond – BYOB Coke

    Sanantha – Your response to AA helping pax return home/visit Honolulu for Christmas is its a super-spreader? Great at parties.

  22. Well done to AA! I have flown them many years even before US Air merger. No airline is perfect but this is like airlines used to be – please the customer to keep them coming back. Again Well Done!

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