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Bad experience with Island Hoppers: canceled my flight...

Toronto, Canada
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494 posts
7 reviews
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Bad experience with Island Hoppers: canceled my flight...

It's been 3 weeks since we got back from our Hawaii trip. The overall experience was wonderful. However, during our cruise port stop at Hilo, Island Hoppers cancelled my flight lesson.

I checked their web site again:


It is supposed to be a one-hr flight lesson at $199, can bring 1 or 2 passengers no extra cost. The description says:

"Your one hour flight lesson will combine basic flight instruction with a fantastic aerial panorama of our special island. You will view the active volcano on the slopes of Kilauea, soar across pristine rainforests, and circle majestic waterfalls (Hilo location). "

I also called and confirmed my booking, and was told the flight path is actually the same as their volcano and waterfall tour. So my wife and a friend were looking forward to riding with me while I take the "lesson".

When we got to their location, nobody was there, until our flight time (we were told to get there 30 min. before, we actually got there 1 hr before). The pilot came back with 2 passengers, but still had us wait a while. Then finally when he opend the door for us, he said he does not have my flight lesson on record, but rather my earlier reservation of tour for 2. I told him I had emailed and then called to confirm that my booking is changed from a tour for 2, to the 1-hr flight lesson.

The pilot then said the flight lesson is only flying around the airport and not to the volcanoes (contrary to what I was told on the phone, and what is on their web site). He also said since I am Canadian, a foreigner, he cannot give me a lesson because there are TSA regulations that the reservation lady should have told me.

I asked to speak to the office manager, the lady said the pilot can give us a volcano/waterfall tour for 3, but for $115 (+tax) more, but no lesson. I told her I had originally booked for a lesson, whereby we would fly over the volcanoe/waterfall, with 2 passengers, and if they cannot give me such a lesson, then don't do lesson, but just fly us over the same path, for the same price. She insisted on charging us more. She then talked to the pilot. The pilot then told us the weather is turning bad and he will have to cancel flight indefinitely.

We were upset, as there are 3 other friends waiting outside in a van for us to finish our lesson/flight, before we drive to the Volcano National Park. So we left unhappily.

We still have a good drive to the Volcano National Park, drove the Crater Rim road, and saw many places, before getting back on the ship.


It is still upsetting that the pilot would say their flight lesson does not fly over to the volcanoes/waterfall. This after I confirmed both with their reservation lady, and their web site even to this day still says "will view the active volcano on the slopes of Kilauea, soar across pristine rainforests, and circle majestic waterfalls..."

If anyone is thinking of dealing with this company, because of what they advertise on the web site and even after phone confirmation, may not be what they will actually provide.

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Palm Springs...
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1. Re: Bad experience with Island Hoppers: canceled my flight...

Sorry for the problem but it illistrates a few points that anyone who wants a lesson in a Helo, big enough to carry you, the Instructor and a passenger. shold consider

Current rates for such a Helo are in the $1000 to $1700 per hour... the rate of $199 for an hour should be a red flag. I do not think any novice could handle their power and complex systems.... as a first flight.

Little Roberson helos that do the most of the lessons strain at a pilot and a student and fuel. run around $400 an hour as I remember

If you want to learn and do it right.... call Mauna Loa Helos 334-0234 or Tropical Bird 895-4753. If you have a log and currnet FAA medical cert, bring it .

Also be aware that flight instruction to non US citizens after 9-11 is very restricted or prohibited...... its a security thing.

Sorry again for the experience hope others will not repeat it in error

But be an informed visitor

Toronto, Canada
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494 posts
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2. Re: Bad experience with Island Hoppers: canceled my flight...

Thanks Hawaiidan.

Well I wasn't really expecting to get a real lesson in one hr. It was more for the flight over the volcanoes and waterfalls, and cheaper than helicopter tours. The lady at the booking office said the pilot give a briefing and does the take off and landing, and while on the air I could try some of the controls. I wasn't expecting to be able to do much, and would be more interested in the scenery.

They charge $89+tax/person for a tour, and the $199+tax lesson which allows 2 more passengers sounded like a good deal for 3 (myself + 2 passengers), for the same flight path as the tour. So that was the reason.

What upsets me is I did call them to confirm the lesson, and that it is the same flight path as the tour, and asked if I need to bring any medical clearance. I also asked other than my Canadian passport if I need any other IDs. So that'll definitely tell them I am not U.S. citizen. I understand the security concern after 9-11, but I did let them know I am Canadian and they did not say it's an issue.

They certain have a disconnect between the booking people, web site advertisement, and their actual flight office and "office manager".

Well, at least I did still drive to the Volcano National Park and saw a few things.