Today (November 17, 2017): Which airlines offer lie flat seats to Hawaii?
Although an exotic trip to the incredible scenery of Hawaii ranks among the ultimate holidays of a lifetime, getting there can be an exhausting experience. The Hawaiian Islands are located in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean and although they’re often wrongly labeled as the most remote landmass on earth – that claim to fame belongs to Chili’s Easter Island – the Hawaiian archipelago is still one of the islands farthest away from any continental land mass. Flights from the USA to the idyllic archipelago take at least 5 hours from the West Coast but the time in the air can add up to 12 hours when you are leaving from the USA Coast, and that’s only for when the USA is your point of departure. When I recently flew to Hawaii from central Europe, it took me more than 24 hours to get there.
To ease the misery of the journey, you can either spend big dollars on a seat in a carrier’s Business Class cabin or be smart and use miles to book one for free. It’s important to keep in mind that Business Class is labeled ‘First Class’ for domestic flight within the USA, such as from the USA mainland to/from Hawaii. Although different airlines offer different kinds of First Class seats, your comfort at 40,000 feet en route to Hawaii will not so much depend on the carrier but rather on the aircraft type. Yes, you read that right! These days, the market between Hawaii and the USA mainland is dominated by narrow body planes (e.g. Boeing 737s, Boeing 757s, and Airbus A320s) and that’s not a good thing for First Class travelers since all narrow body aircraft to Hawaii feature recliner seats or angled lie-flat seats rather than fully flat beds. So if you’re heading to Hawaii, make sure you book a seat on a wide body aircraft with lie-flat seats in First Class (e.g. Boeing 777, Boeing 767, or Airbus A330). It’s a bit complicated though since some airlines clearly state when a flight offer flat beds but some do not and in addition, some carriers operate a mix of wide and narrow body aircraft on the same route, offering different types of First Class products.
To help you, I have compiled a list a list of all airlines and routes that offer lie-flat seats between the USA mainland and Hawaii. My main advice though is to always check the aircraft type (on the airline’s booking website) and the seat map (on seat guru) to make sure that you will enjoy indeed the best seats en route to paradise.
Which airline do you prefer to fly to Hawaii? Leave a comment or take my poll below!
The Hawaiian Islands are an important part of United’s history. With the maiden departure of a United DC-6 Mainliner from San Francisco to Honolulu in May 1947, United played a major role in helping to make Hawaii an easily accessible destination for tourism and business. In fact, United’s West Coast hubs in Los Angeles and San Francisco remain the USA’s largest gateways for connecting passengers to Hawaii.
Currently, United flies from the following USA key cities to Hawaii with a mixed fleet of Boeings B737, B757, B767 and B777:
- From the East Coast: United offers direct flights from Newark and Washington to Honolulu with Boeing 767 planes.
- From the Mid West and South West: United offers direct flights to Honolulu (from Chicago, Denver, and Houston) and Maui (from Chicago) with Boeing B777 planes, in addition to a direct flight from Denver to Maui with a Boeing B757 plane.
- From the West Coast: United offers multiple daily flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to the major Hawaiian Islands (Ouahu, Maui, Big Island, and Kauai) with a mix of narrow body planes (which come with recliner seats) and B777s, although the latter only operate on the routes to Honolulu and Maui.
The domestic First Class product offered by United on its wide body fleet is quiet decent:
- When you’re flying on a United B777, you can be sure you’ll get lie-flat bed seats with custom-designed duvets and pillows provided by leading luxury specialty store and New York-bred retailer Saks Fifth Avenue. The seats are the same as United’s old Business Class seats and are quite comfortable for a domestic ride, although they are narrow and come in an awkward forward/backward 2-4-2 layout. I have previously reviewed United’s B777 First Class product here.
- United’s B767s also offer lie-flat beds, albeit in a different layout than the B777 (2-1-2 configuration) with all seats facing forward. These First Class seats are similar to the Business Class seats that United installed on its dreamliners, which I reviewed here.
- United B757s are narrow body planes (not wide bodies) but I mention them here since some of these aircraft feature flatbeds (those flying between Denver and Honolulu), although most come with ordinary angled seats (those flying between Hawaii and the West Coast).
Recently, United announced a considerable increase of service on several routes connecting the continental U.S. and Hawaii (beginning December 20th, 2017), offering customers more flights between the mainland and the Hawaiian Islands than any other carrier:
- Service between Denver and the Big Island (Kona), Lauai (Lihue), and Maui will increase from seasonal to daily year-round service. The airline will continue its year-round daily service from Denver to Honolulu.
- Offering already daily nonstop service between Chicago and Hawaii, United will also increase its current once weekly service to Maui to five times per week.
- United will also increase service between the West Coast and the Big Island (Hilo and Kona), Maui and Kauai.
Delta – officially known as Delta Air Lines – also flies from multiple getaways on the USA mainland to the Hawaiian Islands:
- From the USA East Coast: Delta has a seasonal direct service from New York City to Honolulu, flown by a Boeing B767.
- From the Mid West, South Eats and South West: Delta offers direct flights to Honolulu using its Airbus A330 with international Business Class configuration from Minneapolis/St Paul, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City, although the flights from Minneapolis/St Paul and Salt Lake City only operate on seasonal basis. Delta is considering though offering its Minneapolis/St Paul-Honolulu route year round (they already extended this service last summer). Starting next month, Delta will also fly a Boeing B767 from Salt Lake City to Maui on seasonal base.
- From the West Coast (Los Angeles and Seattle): Delta offers multiple daily flights to the major Hawaiian Islands with a narrow body fleet. Only one flight between Los Angeles and Honolulu is operated by a B767.
Delta operates a not so consistent domestic First Class product on its wide-body fleet:
- When you fly onboard a Delta A330, you will get the excellent international Business Class lie-flat seat which are configured in a reverse herringbone 1-2-1 layout, with aisle access for all passengers.
- Delta’s refurbished Boeing B767 feature a staggered layout, similar to the ones you find on Swiss and Austrian. This is basically a 1-2-1 seat configuration, whereby the foot compartment for each seat is located between and under the seat(s) in front.
- There are still some old Delta Boeing B767 planes flying around that feature recliner seats and worn interiors.
So basically, when you want a lie-flat seat, you’re safe on Delta’s A330 but the carrier’s B767 are a more risky choice. However, Delta makes it very easy to search for flights with lie-flat seats by adding a bed icon as an amenity in the search results (although there’s always the risk of course of a last-minute aircraft change).
The Boeing B757 used to be the workhorse for the USA’s largest carrier on Hawaii bound routes, especially for flights departing from the West Coast. However, that era came to an end since American replaced its aging B757 fleet by brand new Airbus A321 planes, capable of flying the non-stop route between the West Coast and Hawaii, although the carrier messed up at the start of the A321 operations by accidentally flying a non-ETOPS certified and thus unsafe plane to Hawaii. Unfortunately, the A321s operating on the Hawaii route are not the same as the A321s that fly the transcontinental route between Los Angeles and New York, featuring American’s excellent First Class seats. If you want to fly in a lie-flat seat of American Airlines to Hawaii, you only have three options:
- You can start your journey in Dallas, from where American flies a Boeing B767 directly to Honolulu and Maui.
- Occasionally, American operates one of its international long-haul B777 widebody aircraft on the route between Los Angeles and Honolulu.
- One of the two daily flights from Phoenix to Honolulu is operated with one of ex-USA Airways’ A330s which all feature lie-flat seats.
The variation in hard product offered onboard American’s wide-body fleet is a bit similar to what you find on Delta (cf above):
- American Airlines’ Airbus A330 fleet features lie-flat seat in a reverse herringbone 1-2-1 layout, with aisle access for all passengers.
- American Airlines’ Boeing B767 aircraft feature a staggered layout in a 1-2-1 seat configuration.
- American Airlines’ Boeing B777 planes feature a 1-2-1 seat layout, with aisle access for all passengers, although there are some subtle differences in layout between the B777-200ER and B777-300ER aircraft. You can read here my trip report onboard an American Airlines B777-300ER.
The goods news is that – contrary to Delta – all of American’s B767s that are still in operation have all been refurbished (the older planes with angled seats have been retired), so as long as you fly in one of American’s wide body aircraft to Hawaii, you are sure to get a lie-flat First Class seat.
Hawaii’s flagship carrier offers flights between the tropical islands and New York-JFK, Oakland, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle. At the moment, Hawaiian only flies wide body aircraft to/from Hawaii, although that will change soon since they have ordered several A321 planes to be operated on these routes. Despite its current all wide body aircraft operations to/from the Hawaiian islands, the product offered by Hawaiian Airlines is a mixed bag at best:
- Hawaiian’s A330 planes have all been recently refurbished with excellent First Class cabins, which offers fully lie flat seats in a 2-2-2 configuration (and are probably the best product to be found on any route to/from Hawaii). I will soon publish my review of a Hawaiian Airlines A330 Business Class flight between Honolulu and San Francisco.
- All of Hawaiian’s B767 feature recliner First Class seats, which are huge downgrade from the experience described above (and should thus be avoided). Hawaiian will begin retiring its small remaining 767 fleet next year, replacing it with next-generation A321 and A330 aircraft.
Alaska Airlines, Virgin America, and Allegiant Air also offer direct flights between the USA mainland and Hawaii, but these carriers only operate narrow body aircraft that feature recliner seats in their First Class cabins.