Last summer, I traveled to the Hawaiian Islands, where I had a wonderful time. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: United Airlines Dreamliner Business Class from Paris to San Francisco
- Review: United Airlines B777-200ER Business Class from San Francisco to Honolulu
- Review: The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Hotel (Honolulu)
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Lanai (Lanai)
- Review: St Regis Princeville (Kauai)
- Review: Four Seasons Maui at Wailea (Maui)
- Review: Travaasa Hana (Maui)
- Review: Andaz Maui at Wailea (Maui)
- Review: Hawaiian Airlines A330 First Class from Honolulu to San Francisco (today)
- Review: Swiss B777-300ER Business Class from San Francisco to Zürich
Today (January 10, 2018): Review of Hawaiian Airlines’ First Class in an Airbus A330 from Honolulu to San Francisco.
On August 20, 2017, I flew aboard the premium class cabin of a Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330 from Honolulu (in Hawaii) to San Francisco (in California). Hawaiian Airlines calls this premium cabin ‘First Class’ on domestic flights from Hawaii to the mainland USA, while the same cabin is designated ‘Business Class’ on international flights. I’ve always been intrigued by Hawaii’s flag carrier, especially by the stunning livery with Pualani’s welcoming smile on the tail of each aircraft, kind of overlooking the plane and keeping it safe. IMHO, Hawaiian ranks among the best carriers for domestic service in the USA, on condition that you are flying on one of Hawaiian’s A330 aircraft which all feature a new premium seat and cabin that is a massive improvement on the carrier’s current offering on its aging (and soon to be retired) Boeing 767 fleet. I suffer from a fear of flying, especially for flights over large bodies of water, so this flight was a challenge for me, although it was a comforting thought to know that Hawaiian ranks among the safest carriers in the world that have never had a plane crash.
- Trip: HLN-SFO
- Airline: Hawaiian Airlines
- Aircraft type: Airbus A330-200
- Aircraft registration number: N380HA (named Makali’i)
- Flight Number: HA12
- Date: August 20, 2017
- On time departure: yes (1.30 pm)
- On time arrival: yes (21.30 pm)
- Miles: 2399
- Flight time: 5 hours
- Seat: 2A
- Class: First Class (domestic)
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Hawaiian Airlines lounge at Honolulu airport
- Fact & figures about Hawaiian Airlines’ longhaul fleet
- First Class cabin
- First Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
- Onboard internet
- Other inflight experiences (views, crew, lavatory)
- My verdict (score)
*** Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Hawaii with my online Hawaii travel guide ***
1. HAWAIIAN AIRLINES LOUNGE AT HONOLULU AIRPORT
Hawaiian manages two lounges at Honolu International Airport. The Plumeria Lounge, located on the airport’s 3rd floor, is Hawaiian’s most upscale lounge and only accessible to passengers flying Business Class to one of Hawaiian’s international destinations, although a pass is also available for purchase for $40 at time of check in, subject to seat availability. Passengers flying domestic First Class have access to Hawaiian’s other lounge – the Premier Club – which is located near gate 56 in Honolulu’s Interisland Terminal (which is inconvenient when you depart from the overseas terminal since you always have to pass an agricultural inspection checkpoint between both terminals). The Premier Club is a glorified name for what is basically a uninviting albeit contemporary decorated room, without windows and with several seating areas. The main reasons to visit the lounge are the free WiFi and the complimentary beverage at the small buffet station, which offers soft drinks, coffee and tea (but no alcohol or spirits). When you’re not in need of the internet or drinks, you are better off spending your time outside the lounge, and enjoy the views of the appron and runways from the airport’s open-air walkways.
2. FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT HAWAIIAN AIRLINES LONGHAUL FLEET
Hawaiian Airlines currently operates a mixed longhaul fleet for its trans-pacific flights to Asia, Oceania, and the USA mainland.
- Since 2010, the mainstay of Hawaiian’s current fleet are its 24 Airbus A330-200s, which have an average age of 4,6 years (as of today). Each plane is assembled at the Airbus facility in Toulouse, France, then flown 16 hours and 6,600 miles to Hawaii, often non-stop. Upon delivery, each Hawaiian Airlines A330 is auspiciously named for a celestial body of particular importance to ancient Polynesian navigators, from Hokupaa (Polaris) to Hanaiakamalama (Southern Cross). Hawaiian’s Airbus A330 seats 294 passengers. That’s 30 more than the Boeing B767, which translates, over the course of a year, to 11000 additional seats per route.
- Hawaiian is currently phasing out its Boeing 767 fleet. The carrier is still operaring 8 B767-300ER aircraft but the last one will be leaving the fleet by the end of 2018. It’s quite remarkable, since its B767 planes are not that old, with most of them being assembled in the 2000s. Neither too big nor too small, the B767 was just right for some of Hawaiian Airlines’ most popular trans-Pacific routes. Since 2008, the carrier’s B767s have been retrofitted with vertical winglets at the end of each wing. They may look small from the window, but they’re actually 11 feet (3 m) tall and help the airline save 300,000 gallons in jet fuel annually per aircraft.
- Hawaiian is currently replacing its Boeing 767 with 18 brand-new narrow-body Airbus A321neos. The 767s currently seat 252 to 264 passengers, while the A321s will seat just 189, which is a significant reduction in the number of seats, but this is a perfect choice for the carrier’s expansion plans in low-density markets on the USA West Coast. Hawaiian has already taken delivery of its first Airbus A321neo, which will be operated on non-stop service between Maui and Portland later this month. This will be followed by A321neo service on the Kaua’i-Oakland and Kona-Los Angeles routes as Hawaiian receives additional aircraft.
- Hawaiian has also shown interest in the Airbus A330-800neo. Three years ago, the airline ordered six A330-800neo airliners which are slated for delivery in 2019 and will give the airline the ability to fly even farther to points as far as India, western Australia, London or even Moscow. It’s clear that the airline wants to court leisure travelers from the other side of the world to Hawaii, although it’s not sure what airplane it wants to use since they have recently expressed doubts about the A330-800neo program in favor of its competitor, the Boeing 787.
3. FIRST CLASS CABIN
Hawaiian’s A330 aircraft feature one premium cabin, located in front of the plane. This cabin is designated ‘First Class’ on domestic routes to the USA mainland and ‘Business Class’ on the carrier’s international routes. With only 4 rows of 18 seats arranged in a 2-2-2 layout, the cabin feels quite intimate and remarkably open (no private suites here). While this open and suboptimal 2-2-2 layout is not ideal for solo business travelers, this configuration is ideally suited for the carrier’s leisure guests, as most of Hawaiian’s premium passengers travel to Hawaii as couples, families and honeymooners.
The design of the premium cabin – the result of a collaboration between Hawaiian and the West Coast-based design firm Paul Wylde – feels modern and stylish. The cabin decor incorporates flowing curves evocative of Hawaii’s winds and ocean, while marrying organic textures, pops of bright saturated color, and luxury materials like leather from Poltrona Frau. Subtle design elements reflect the natural colors and forms of the island landscape, such as the wave-inspired seatback shells, the privacy dividers of natural reeds embedded in resin, and a ‘constellation panel’ at the back of the premium cabin. The latter features the constellation Makali’i – rendered in subtly twinkling fiber-optic lights – which is is the cluster of stars appearing in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter months. This is significant to Hawaiian Airlines, as Makali’i is the constellation that was high in the sky when the carrier’s first airplane took off on November 11,1929.
For a seat map of Hawaiian’s A330 plane, click here.
4. FIRST CLASS SEAT (+ BEST & WORST SEATS)
I was seated in 2A for the 5 hour trip to San Francisco.
Each seat in the premium cabin is located in its own shell – with curves depicting Hawaii’s ocean waves – and slightly angled towards either the window or aisle. The seats are not very private – and definitely a sharp contrast with the enclosed suites that you now find on many airlines – but that was a well-thought-out choice of Hawaii’s flag carrier, since couples and families outnumber solo travelers among its premium passengers. So the seats are perfect for companions to experience the flight together, although a divider screen between two adjoining seats can be raised in case you are traveling on your own and seated next to a stranger.
In front of the seat is a small ottoman, with a side panel that prevents your feet from dropping off the footrest while you move around. There’s a tiny storage area underneath the ottoman to stow away your shoes in-flight. It’s surprising that Hawaiian didn’t make these footrests a little larger since there’s plenty of room to do so. Both the seat and ottoman are of high standard of quality as they are covered in fine dark-brown leather from Poltrona Frau, a renowned furniture-making company based in Tolentino, Italy, that also has Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and Maserati among its clients. The shared arm rest between two seats hides the tray table (which needs to be pulled out) and a adjustable, telescoping in-seat arm, which is used to fix the large screen tablet (distributed the crew shortly after takeoff) and which can be adjusted to optimize viewing angle and comfort.
The seat doesn’t have a lot of fringes, except for two USB ports, a full AC power, and a reclining wheel in the arm rest that allows you to set the exact amount of recline you like. The seat does goes fully flat into a 76-inch (193 cm) flatbed at 180-degrees, which is a massive improvement over the old-recliner seats that you still find aboard Hawaiian’s B767 aircraft. The flat bed is quite comfortable, although a little on the hard side (and duvets are not provided on domestic flights).
What are the best First Class seats on Hawaiian’s A330? For a seat map of Hawaiian’s A330, click here.
- All seats in the premium cabin, except for the first row, are quiet good, especially for couples and friends. Make sure to prebook your seat online (which can be done free of charge) to avoid disappointment at the airport, since Hawaiian’s flights are mostly fully packed.
What are the worst First Class seats on Condor’s B767? For a seat map of Hawaiian’s A330, click here.
- The 2-2-2 First Class layout does not make the cabin very attractive for solo travelers, since you will always end up sitting next to a stranger. There is a large divider though between seats that can be raised for added privacy.
- Window seats don’t offer direct aisle access.
- Passengers seated in the first row may be bothered by the noise of the galley and passengers going to or returning from the lavatories.
Although taking 5 hour, an amenity kit was not provided during this domestic flights. First Class passengers only receive a blanket and pillow, both of mediocre quality. Noise cancelling headphones are distributed by the crew after takeoff (and collected again before landing).
It has to be noted that Hawaiian does offer amenity kits on its international flight, with a selection of soothing products, including a hand and body balm, lip balm and hydrating mist, dental kit, a bamboo comb, and socks with a playful slipper. An eye mask, plush mattress pad and pillow are provided for added comfort and a restful sleep.
During this afternoon flight, one lunch was served shortly after takeoff. Lunch service started with the distribution of a hot towel, the menus, and an aperitif with a dish of salted macadamia nuts. I choose the following items from the menu, which was created by Chef Sheldon Simeon of Tin Roof Maui restaurant:
- Starter: Kim Chee shrimp poke with salted cucumber and pickled Maui onions
- Entree: Shoyu roast chicken with sweet corn relish and creamy mushroom rice
- Dessert: passion chocolate cake
The starter and entree were brought to your seat, while the crew rolled a cart down the aisle for the dessert and coffee. I have to admit that I did not expect a lot from the meals (as I never have high expectations for meals offered by an American carrier) but I was utmost surprised by both the presentation and the taste of the meals. All dishes were delicious!
A small gift was offered with the lunch tray: a photobook by Sutterfly. A nice gesture!
The seats don’t feature an in-seat inflight entertainment system. Instead, in-flight entertainment is provided via large tablets that are distributed by the crew shortly after takeoff and attached to an in-seat metalic arm. Hawaiian Airlines’ inflight entertainment comprises a decent selection Hollywood releases, TV shows, games, and more. It’s offered free of charge to First & Business Class passengers, while passengers in coach have to pay for it (packages start at $7,99 USD for movies on demand or unlimited TV shows).
8. ONBOARD INTERNET
Hawaiian Airlines is the only USA airline that does not offer inflight WiFi so far.
9. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
# CREW: The crew on this flight was young (most of them seemed in their twinties) but they offered great and efficient service.
# LAVATORY: There is one lavatory aboard the A330 plane for First Class passengers, located directly behind the cockpit.
# VIEWS: We enjoyed clear weather all the way from Honolulu to San Francisco, and while there was not much to see except for the vast ocean, the views of Oahu island during takeoff were quite spectacular.
10. MY VERDICT (SCORE)
- Seat comfort (upright): 8/10
- Seat comfort (bed position): 8/10
- Seat privacy: 5/10
- Food (quality): 8/10
- Food (quantity): 8/10
- Inflight entertainment : 8/10
- WiFi: 0/10 (not available yet)
- Service: 9/10
- Cabin design: 8/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8/10