Review: Hawaiian Business/First A330 Los Angeles To Kahului

Filed Under: Hawaiian

Our flight to Maui left from LAX Terminal 2 (Hawaiian Airlines now uses Terminal 5), and since we tend to be early risers anyway we arrived at the airport well in advance of our 9AM flight. We weren’t checking bags, and had mobile boarding passes, but the check-in area seemed relatively quiet at the early hour.

Hawaiian Airlines check-in LAX

The old Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge had lovely tarmac views, and there are worse ways to spend a morning than plane-spotting, so we spent an hour or so looking out the window, syncing inboxes for offline use, and just enjoying the views.

Hawaiian Airlines A330 Kaukamalama

Boarding was scheduled for 8:15, but started a chaotic few minutes later. The crowd was… as one would expect for Maui in August, and there was quite a bit of confusion surrounding boarding order. While I like to be one of the first ones onboard for picture purposes, I’m not going to crowd out retirees that are really excited about their vacation.

Hawaiian 33
Los Angeles (LAX) – Kahului (OGG)
Depart: 9:05AM
Arrive: 11:55AM
Duration: 5hr50min
Aircraft: Airbus A330
Seat: 2J (Business/First)

We were met at the door with big smiles from the Los Angeles-based crew, who seemed super excited for their day. At the time this frequency was being operated as a direct turn, which seems like a really long day to me, but at 8:45 in the morning everyone was in good spirits.

The cabin was really pretty, with a fun vacation vibe. The blues, creams, and whites seemed appropriate for Hawaii, with a slight throwback to Hawaiian Mid-Century design.

Hawaiian Airlines A330 First/Business

I’m not sure how well the white will hold up long term, and I have concerns about the functionality and longevity of this seat in general, but it is pretty.

Hawaiian Airlines A330 First/Business

As we settled in our flight attendant Josh offered us a choice of prosecco or a signature cocktail; we selected one of each, and both were good, though very sweet.

Hawaiian Airlines prosecco and cocktail

Printed cardstock menus were distributed, which were helpful in explaining the various dishes, though there wasn’t actually a choice of items.

Hawaiian Airlines brunch menu

Love the airplane detail!

Despite the delay in boarding, we pushed back on time, and enjoyed the always-beautiful climb out of Los Angeles. As soon as we reached altitude, the flight attendant assigned to the first class cabin started distributing the iPads for the in-flight entertainment.

Hawaiian Airlines IFE

This took an exceptionally long time.

For starters, Hawaiian really needs to staff more than one crew member for first. The cabin only seats 18 passengers, so I can see how it would seem reasonable to only have a single flight attendant. The IFE situation on these reconfigured planes is very labor-intensive, however, and the dual-aisle configuration means a lot of time maneuvering the cart.

Beyond that, everyone needed help, so it wasn’t just a matter of dropping off the tablets and moving on. The stands are tricky to deploy, things needed to be plugged in, people couldn’t find the headphone jacks, and then wanted help finding a certain program… it was exhausting just to watch, but Josh handled it with a smile.

Hawaiian Airlines iPads in action

An hour later (I kid you not), drink orders were taken, then delivered alongside some snack mix.

Hawaiian Airlines brunch starter

Shortly thereafter, both the first and main courses were delivered on a tray.

Clockwise from upper right: Cinnamon Swirl Danish, Baked Brie w/ Prosciutto Chips, Chicken Sausage, Poached Pear, Bread Pudding

To say brunch included an abundance of carbs would be an understatement. Fortunately/unfortunately, everything other than the sausages and the pear was borderline inedible, so we weren’t tempted to over-indulge. The phyllo dough was so crisp as to splinter when cut, the cinnamon danish was hard as a rock, and everything but the sausages was served chilled.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t really have a sweet tooth, and am particularly uninterested in super sugary packaged-tasting snacks, but the sweetness of the food items really did seem excessive. Even the savory-sounding bread pudding had been sweetened.

For those who hadn’t had quite enough sugar so far, a pineapple upside down cake followed the main meal, also served cold.

Hawaiian Airlines brunch dessert

The meal service was complete about two hours into the flight, at which point I decided to check out the lav. It was very basic, with a few orchids strewn around for local flair, but otherwise unmemorable.

Hawaiian Airlines A330 lavatory

I spent most of the flight playing with the seat controls and making notes (you can read more of my thoughts on the seat in this post). The remainder of my time was spent responding to emails in offline-mode and boggling at the comically horrific display of parenting coming from 1A and 1G.

And before the “you entitled Millennial, you don’t have kids, how dare you criticize children on a plane” crowd starts up, I would just like to ask three things:

  • Do you, as a parent, feel like Spiderman web-shooting guns are an appropriate airplane toy?
  • What are your thoughts on creating a landing pad out of pillows and trying to see who can jump the furthest off the ottoman?
  • If one parent is going to have their privacy screen up (separating them from the kids), with headphones and eyeshades on, how many cocktails per hour is appropriate for the other parent to consume?

The flight crew tried to talk to the parents and were snarled at, and eventually the copilot came out and spoke to the boys directly, which distracted them for a few blissful moments, but was otherwise ineffective.

So it was a spectacle, to say the least.

About an hour before arrival Josh came through the cabin with Mai Tais, and some (sweet, obviously) onion chips.

Hawaiian Airlines pre-arrival snack

There’s always a bit of turbulence when arriving in Maui, but we touched down smoothly, and taxied right to an open gate.

Kahului Airport

One thing about the timing of this flight that I hadn’t considered is that many flights arrive in Kahului in the early afternoon, and depending on the day a cruise ship could be docking nearby as well. The airport terminal was packed, and we were very grateful to not have to wait for luggage. As it was, we still had to wait for two trips of the rental car shuttle, so that’s something to keep in mind.

How to determine if a Hawaiian A330 will have lie-flat seats

Hawaiian hasn’t made this terribly easy, as both the old and new versions have the same number of seats in first. The Hawaiian website is also a bit misleading, as it only lists routes where every frequency has the new seats, even though some routes (like some flights out of Los Angeles) have lie-flat seats on one or two flights a day.

To determine which version of the aircraft you have, you actually want to look at the economy cabin. On the old version, you’ll see a row 13:

Hawaiian Airlines old A330

On the new version, however, Extra Comfort has been reconfigured in such a way that there isn’t a row 13:

Hawaiian Airlines new A330

Once you know what to look for, it’s pretty easy.

Bottom line

Despite, or maybe because of, the quirks, I did enjoy the flight. The crew couldn’t have been more friendly, and experiencing a brand-new aircraft interior is always fun for me. I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to fly this plane again (there are so many alternatives from the West Coast that it’s hard to justify), but it was nice to do once.

Have you flown Hawaiian’s new business/first class? What did you think?

  1. Thank god for this review from Tiffany as I’ve been missing her posts. Tiffany and Travis’ posts are high quality. Andrew also had a good comedic post today. I can’t stand Daniel’s posts and have experienced much revulsion and other negative emotions when reading them. Unfortunately, his seem to be popping up more and more lately, so it’s a relief to see Tiffany is back. I am grateful though that we can scroll through and clearly see the author of each post before we click. That is definitely appreciated.

  2. A surprisingly poor showing by HA on this flight – especially as their OGG A330 flights are supposed to be the cream of the crop (that was the first route they placed the new product on at a hefty premium). Their soft product isn’t the best – no meal choices, poor IFE selection, useless lounges – but I’ve always enjoyed my flights in first, especially as the service is usually very friendly. Maybe it’s the routing but breakfast used to be fresh fruits and a frittata and that was always phenomenal. Who eats bread pudding as a main?

    The new IFE looks unnecessarily clunky – perhaps they should pass them out during boarding or have 2 FA pass them out after takeoff. One hour for the first drink service is too long – said one lush 😉

    I will say inflight service is definitely HA’s strong suit, but you can only smile so much in the face of a lackluster product that doesn’t hold a candle to other carriers, namely Delta who I think have the best service to/from the islands and usually impressively consistent. Not to mention HA is almost always the most expensive option in first. I would gladly choose price, overall product, and frequency over a lie-flat, especially as narrow as those are.

    As an aside, usually there are tropical soaps and lotions in the lav; your flight seemed poorly catered in that respect (why else have 3 empty holders?)

  3. Tiffany, welcome back! Love your trip reports! I feared you left the firm. If your boss is working you too hard & keeping you from traveling, please send me his phone number.

  4. Great review! We considered taking Hawaiian when we flew JFK-HNL back in March but couldn’t get confirmation that we’d end up on the new lie-flat interior. We also found a super cheap Delta fare for First and decided to do that instead. I’m really surprised at how crummy that food looks… I thought for sure they’d have been head and shoulders above Delta on that front.

  5. Great post Tiffany and I usually do not comment on any posts other than Ben’s. You make for a great second place, I do not enjoy reading much from the others.

  6. Great post Tiffany. Just feel I need to answer @Lucky’s Reader: I’m sorry to hear that. Next time, just avoid the revulsion and skip my posts – your emotional health is too important!

  7. Great review Tiffany! I can speak out of experience that on HA there are normally at least two flight attendants working first class. It leads me to suspect that someone called in sick at the last minute, and rather than delaying the flight, they operated it with a reduced crew (HA puts on more FA’s than legally required). Regarding their first class brunch, you’re experience is about what I have experienced, although happily on all flights with lunch/dinner service there are menu options for both the appetiser and entree. I’m not sure when this changed, but on all my recent flights in F on the updated planes, the iPads are delivered without the sleeve and charger, charger being handed out only if needed, so that also probably speeds things up a bit.

    On a side note, for everyone in case it wasn’t clear, HA routes with guaranteed lie flat seats (the list is still growing, but almost done) are listed on HA’s website and when booking, it is clearly stated both on the seat map and with a banner at the top of the flight choice.

  8. Thanks for the review Tiffany! I enjoyed your first impressions report, as well.

    It really makes me wonder what HA was thinking when they designed/installed these seats. The “aisle-access” is not ideal, not to mention the lack of storage space. Given that the rest of the plane has AVOD, it really seems silly that they’re forcing premium cabin pax to deal with an inferior system (as in, cumbersome), regardless of the actual entertainment options. I’m also surprised that they only had 1 FA for the whole cabin; correct me if I’m wrong, but all the others have a maximum crew to pax ratio of 1:16 for *short-haul* flights, right? And, it’s also pretty surprising that they only had 1 meal choice. Since they also serve meals in Y, you might as well just fly in the back… :-\ As an aside, I do wish you had recorded the antics of the parents/kids; it would have made for a nice video shaming them (and a guide for what NOT to do when traveling with kids). :-p

    @Daniel: With time (and experience), I think your reviews/posts/contributions will improve. Keep working at it, and I’m sure your colleagues (as well as readers) can provide you with feedback to help. 🙂 I think one issue I’ve noticed is that you often contradict yourself in your reviews. Perhaps a bit more time spent on editing (or someone proof-reading) prior to publishing would be a big help.

  9. Huh. I flew Hawaiian first SFO to OGG this past June. Same new interior but afternoon flight. Had two dedicated flight attendants and choice of meals (lunch). There was zero confusion about how to operate an iPad (who has not seen a tablet in 2017?) and the iPad holder could not be more straight forward (you press it, it pops up and folds into place, done). The tray tables did cause some a little confusion though. Food was good, not great but certainly not bad. So a very different experience overall.

  10. I’m with you, I’m much prefer savory over sweet, and especially dislike sweet breakfast food. Nothing in that meal looked appetizing at all. But agree with everything else you said about the cabin, totally not functional or particularly well-thought out, but fun! A great way to get you in the mood for a Hawaii vacation.

    And LOL at all the Daniel hate that is literally in the comment section of every non-Lucky post now (though it’s not that funny, some of you are just jerks.) Yes, I love also love Tiffanys posts. She is my favorite contributor here because she is obviously very intelligent and a really well-thought out, great writer (though to be honest just love hearing from a women!!!)…the aviation blog world (and aviation world in general really) is so over represented by men. Nevertheless, Daniel I also really love your posts, particularly because you seem to be the only one willing to review economy! 😉 which is super helpful for people like me who do in fact fly economy. I am sooo excited for your etihad vs emirates vs Qatar reviews. This is literally something I talk about with people all the time, so it’s fun to see it documented and officially compared. With that said, I would LOVE to see more posts comparing economy on certain routes, is this something you are planning to do more of in the future? For instance, I live in Australia but am from the US so fly MEL-LA at least once a year…I’ve only flown Qantas and United (virgin pulled out of direct flights from MEL a couple years ago but I believe are coming back/are back), and while I choose Qantas every time if I can afford it simply because I love the a380 above as else, Qantas flights are always completely full, and I really find the food to usually be inedible. Last time I flew United (787) I had an empty seat or two both ways, really enjoyed the food, and obviously the Dreamliner is a new plane with personal IFE at every seat and they now (as of starting service with the 787 I believe) serve free beer and wine in economy. Anyway, sorry for the rambling off topic post, but something like a qantas vs United vs American vs virgin Australia in economy across the pacific would be awesome!!!

    But thanks both Tiffany and Daniel for your great posts!

  11. Love your post, Tiffany, particularly your observations about parenting. Some parents should never have been granted a license. Please write/travel more.

  12. I own a place in Hawaii and fly there often. I HATE taking flights from Hawaii to west coast of mainland back to the mainland at night, which almost every airline does, except Hawaiian, with a few scattered ones that stop in Oahu on the way back and leave at the crack of dawn typically, unless you are in Oahu. My house is in Kona, so I don’t have a ton of options on the way back that aren’t departing KON at 10 p.m. typically back to the west coast (where I live, primarily). I usually fly American over as they have a direct flight from PHX and then fly Hawaiian on the way back, stopping in Oahu. Personally, I think the service is amazing on Hawaiian. The crew is awesome, but the buck stops there. The food in the premium cabin is really sub-par and they really need to kick up the whole 1st class experience, IMO. It’s the same damn food all the time on Hawaiian. I love the service and I wish they would just kick it up a bit. On the way to KON, I always take American as it is a non-stop. The service is crappy and the plane is crappy and the food is, well, whatever. I would prefer to fly Hawaiian both ways but the non stop from Phx is always the sticking point with me. I have not flown in economy to Hawaii in a very long time, so I don’t know how that is, but I would say the overall service in 1st is pretty lame compared to international flights on American. I am interested to see how their service is to TYO as I plan on going from PHX to TYO in the near future via Hawaiian.

  13. Great review Tiffany. I have to say even before I go to your narrative about the food I thought the menu was awful sugar sugar sugar carb sugar. Started off with a sugary cocktail. Sorry thats just unacceptable as is not giving people the option to opt out of the diabetic inducing menu for one with maybe some vegetables and maybe a protein other than sausage (don’t get me wrong love the stuff, but hey how about some eggs that aren’t in a f&%king bread pudding?) I know eggs for breakfast radical right? 😉

    I like all the reviewers here and read them all every day. I don’t fly economy, but found Daniel’s Emirates post really interesting. I hate how mean people can be in the internet , maybe try therapy or Yoga? 😉

  14. I flew SEA-OGG recently – for a lunch service. The food was vastly superior to the breakfast service. I think HA’s onboard food has gone downhill a bit, but that service was unacceptable.

    With you on the kids! Every HA flight I’ve experienced has had miserable kids ruining the experience.

    For everyone who has an issue with Daniel – it’s Ben’s prerogative to hire who he pleases. If you dislike Daniels content, avoid it. There’s plenty of amazing content here, and a great community. Let’s try to keep it respectful, even in disagreement.

  15. I actually JUST flew JFK-HNL aboard the newer version A330 that you took and had a remarkable different experience.

    Yes, the flight was longer, but there were also 18 seats in first/business, and yet we had THREE flight attendants serving us. iPads were distributed quickly and efficiently, and without chargers, which kept things simple (mine lasted the entire flight). And in the bathroom, there were products in the place where you saw an empty holder.

    Strange to see this level of disparity…

  16. I flew Hawaiian Business class BNE to HNL in May with the new interior.
    There were 3 cabin crew who were absolutely fantastic. Distribution of i pads couldn’t be faulted and NO kids. Returned LAX BNE on QF premium economy. Meal was better than Hawaiian which was OK but not international business class such as SQ EK or QF.
    CREW were the oustanding feature of the flight.

  17. As many others said, great review Tiffany, I always thoroughly enjoy your writing skills and sense of humor 🙂 . I’m very intrigued by their first class product, I’ve never flown it but I think it looks stunning. From the East Coast, that might still be our best shot to travel there in comfort.

  18. I have used Hawaiian several times but never the new business class. One area in which they always excelled to me is the friendliness their FA’s exhibit. Easily the most genuinely friendly domestic flight crews (or they are REALLY good at faking it). I have never had a bad experience in that regard.

  19. Ok, so the food was inedible, even by airplane standards. That’s good to know. Either eat a good meal before boarding, or BYOF. And everyone here seems to agree that the FAs are uncommonly friendly, which is a definite positive. But probably also true in economy. Having to wait an hour for your first in flight drink on a vacation is indeed “sad”, but apparently this flight was understaffed, so that won’t be a regular problem.

    But the main reason to pay a premium for this flight is the seat, not the food, nor the ‘$7 a bottle at Trader Joes’ red wine. SeatGuru has a slew of complaints about that seat: hard, difficult to adjust, with a terribly cramped foot cubby.

    The consensus of most blog posts is that it’s just not worth the extra $/points for “FC” (sic) on any of the other Hawaii flights. The only reason that might be different with this plane is the comfort of the seat. Maybe you could comment on that?

  20. @ Robert Hanson — Gosh, I think it depends on circumstances. Hawaii is such a leisure market, and many of the passengers are once a year flyers (or less), so for folks on a special occasion trip maybe it makes sense? From New York it’s probably worth it, not as much from California, but I don’t know that I’d pay a significant premium for this first over another carrier’s first.

    Also keep in mind that SeatGuru reviewers tend to not be as frequent of flyers, which can change the perspective of the reviews. So while I agree with the general criticisms of the seat, it’s still one of the best products in that particular market. We can’t expect the same of flights to/from Hawaii as we would Europe, realistically.

  21. Nice review but I stopped short at this – “Even the savory-sounding bread pudding had been sweetened.” Have you never had a good bread pudding? Me, I would be shocked (to the point of blind rage) if bread pudding wasn’t sweet. Maybe it’s a deep south thing, but bread pudding is always either dessert or a sweet breakfast/brunch dish.

  22. @ William — Yeah, but since it was described on the menu as “butternut squash and onion” it didn’t really sound like something that would be sugar-laden.

  23. Tiffany, im here again addressing the same issue I noticed months ago where you also replied to me. This particular article was not in yesterdays email newsletter nor on todays email, and yet its here on the website. You said last time that whatever is published after like 3 pm will be on the next days newsletter, yet yours was in neither of them. I randomly came across it while searching for an article from yesterday I wanted to check again. I hope this gets fixed because I dont wanna miss out on an article just because it wasnt in the email newsletter!

  24. @ Tiffany – dear lord, I didn’t even see the onion part, I apologize – where I grew up that sort of thing wasn’t legal and I’m sure it’s at least frowned upon today.

  25. I’m going to fly this route (LAX-OGG) in First class in December. Now that DL has taken over terminal 2 and HA is in terminal 5, what lounge (if any) will I have access to? AFAIK, the only lounge in 5 is AA. I have the AMEX Plat card but the DL lounge has moved to 2.

  26. As a Xennial with no kids, but who likes kids, you are spot on. I have no problem with kids on planes and usually find them to be very well behaved and even sometimes add to a monotonous experience (400,000 miles a year will do that to ya). When they act like this, they really reinforce unfortunate stereotypes about kids travelling and detract from a flight. Good on you Tiffany, for calling this out, and it sounds like the HA crew was cognizant as well.

    I enjoyed the review and I’m pretty disappointed by the meal service. They are obviously trying, and even spending money, but they really need to 1) offer options at breakfast and 2) not bang up everything with a bunch of sugar.

    On the seat, however, I’m not so critical. HA’s bread and butter will always be longish medium hauls and their seat product needs to reflect both a need for density and one for comfort. Given that their competition tend to offer a garbage domestic F seat on the Neighbor Island routes, HA is offering an upgraded service, while still being competitive on long hauls.

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