HICSS24: reaching the other end of the World

This was my first trip of 2024 (and on January 2nd!), and my first time to Hawaii. Traveling to Hawaii (specifically, to Honolulu) is exhausting. From ZRH, there are no direct flights. The best option I found was to make one stop in LAX: the overall flight time is 12h from ZRH to LAX, and 6h from LAX to HNL.

Issues for this trip began one month before the trip itself. Early in December, I received an email stating that one of the flights (LAX-HNL) was going to be delayed by 20m. Given that I was to land in HNL at around 22:30, this would mean that any chance of me having dinner in HNL was basically 0. Annoying, but I’ve gone through worse.

On the day before the trip, I received an email from United Airlines, saying that I could do the check-in online—which I promptly tried to do. Unfortunately, I was not successful: I couldn’t complete the check-in from the United Airlines website, and not even from SWISS (which was the operator for the ZRH-LAX flight). I even called SWISS, but the operator simply said “you cannot do it online, you need to do it at the check-in counter”. This was troublesome: the check-in counters at ZRH are being renovated, and for passengers in the Economy class (which I always take) I had to go further away; plus, this would require that I reached the airport earlier than usual. Fortunately, I was able to fix the issue by myself 12h later: the online check-in option became available on the SWISS website.[a]I conjecture this was due to a bug of SWISS’ website, in that I could not do the online check-in because my second flight (LAX-HNL) was “further away” than 24h from the time in which I attempted the online check-in for the whole trip—which is funny, since it was United Airlines that wrote “It’s time to check-in!” In summary: I was able to fix the issue, but this put some unnecessary stress on me, as well as making me lose 1h (for the call, and the various attempts at fighting with the check-in system—such as using different browsers and devices).

On the first leg, my ZRH-LAX flight was scheduled for 13:30. I woke up at 7:00 to ensure I was at the airport by 10:30, which I did. However, at around noon an announcement said that the flight was going to be delayed by 1h. This is annoying: I had ~2.5h of time to go through the border control at LAX, and arriving 1h later would mean less time to do it; plus, going from Terminal B to Terminal 7 at LAX takes a good 30m on foot. Still, I did not have any problem after I landed in LAX: the queue at the border control was short, and I was able to reach the gate 1h in advance; the only downside was that I had to consume dinner extremely fast. I arrived at my hotel room shortly after midnight (local time). This means a total of 28h of travel time (door-to-door).

For the return trip, things went differently. When I received the email 24h before my HNL-LAX flight informing of the “online check-in”, I was told that the LAX-ZRH flight was going to be delayed by 2h40m—from 7:20pm to 10pm. This was very annoying for my trip back home: there are only 2 trains that allow me to reach Feldkirch from ZRH after 6pm (my new ETA in ZRH): one at 6:15pm, and another at 7:40pm; given the already long trip (for which I was going to wake up at 5am on Jan 7th), the idea of reaching my house no sooner than at 8:30pm on Jan 8th was not very enticing (plus, all shops close in Feldkirch after 7pm). Eventually, the LAX-ZRH flight took-off at 10:20pm,[b]Funnily enough, the flight attendant delivered my “special” meal (I always request a “special” meal when flying) to the passenger next to me while I was asleep. ☹ and landed in ZRH at 6:17pm. Of course this did not allow me to catch the 6:15pm train, so I had to wait until 7:40pm.[c]During the wait in ZRH, I went to the toilet. Of course, I had to pick the one with no toilet paper in it. But things did not end here. To reach Feldkirch by train (from ZRH), I have to make one stop: typically, this stop is Bregenz; there are ~10m to make the change, and the train I took was 4 minutes late. However, once I got onto the SBB train to Bregenz, I was not able to reach my seat that… the train abruptly stopped: someone pulled the emergency brake. This caused the train to be delayed by 20 more minutes—inevitably leading to me missing the train that would bring me to Feldkirch. I arrived in Bregenz at 21:30, and I had to go onto the 9:40pm train to reach Feldkirch. After taking a taxi, I entered my house at ~11pm. This means a total of 30h of travel time (door-to-door).

At least the weather in Honolulu was wonderful, and – besides attending a surprisingly good conference – I had the opportunity of seeing landscapes which I would never have expected to witness (especially on January 3rd! Proof: [1,2,3,4]). For this, I deeply thank my co-authors: Fiona and Kathrin.