Review: Hawaiian Airlines First Class 717 Maui To Honolulu

Filed Under: Hawaiian

We arrived at Maui’s Kahului Airport at around 12:30PM for our 2:15PM flight to Honolulu.

Maui Airport exterior

While the airport has one big check-in hall, Hawaiian’s check-in is located at the far left of the building.

Maui Airport check-in area

We still had to add our Korean Air SkyPass numbers to our reservation and check a bag, so we needed to see an agent. While there was a first class check-in line, it was longer than the other lines.

Hawaiian Airlines check-in Maui Airport

Hawaiian Airlines first class check-in Maui Airport

Fortunately it moved quickly, and within about five minutes our bag was checked and we had our boarding passes. Security was just a short walk from Hawaiian’s check-in, and as I usually find to be the case at Hawaiian airports, the Pre-Check line was outrageously long. Given that Hawaii is a leisure destination you’d think there would be fewer eligible Pre-Check passengers, yet somehow I’ve never found that to be the case. The Pre-Check line was actually longer than the regular one.

Maui Airport TSA Pre-Check lane

Maui Airport TSA Pre-Check lane

Security took about 20 minutes, and the TSA agents there were the first non-friendly people we interacted with during our time in Hawaii.

While the central part of the terminal past security was nice enough, the rest of the terminal was a dump. Not like Honolulu Airport, which is charmingly past its prime, but actually just a dump.

Maui Airport airside concourse

The airport seemed to be an active construction zone, and had way more passengers than it should reasonably handle.

Maui Airport airside concourse

Maui Airport airside concourse

Our flight was scheduled to depart from gate 15, though as we quickly found out, there was another flight to Honolulu departing from the gate before our flight (and another one had just left). So you had nearly two full planes worth of passengers in the gate area.

Maui Airport departure gate

While our boarding passes indicated that boarding was supposed to start at 1:35PM (40 minutes before departure), the previous flight to Honolulu only pushed back at 1:50PM.

Hawaiian Airlines 717

Hawaiian Airlines 717

Then a couple of minutes later our plane arrived (you can even see it in the above picture waiting for the previous plane to push back). They were quick to have passengers deplane, and by 2PM they started boarding wheelchair passengers, and by 2:05PM started boarding others. Hawaiian had two separate boarding lanes — one for first class and elite passengers, and one for main cabin passengers (in my opinion the writing on the premium sign is way too small).

Hawaiian Airlines boarding lanes

Hawaiian Airlines boarding lanes

Hawaiian 585
Maui (OGG) ā€“ Honolulu (HNL)
Friday, October 20

Depart: 2:15PM
Arrive: 2:55PM
Duration: 40min
Aircraft: Boeing 717
Seat: 2A (First Class)

Hawaiian has cute little ramps from the jet bridge to the plane that say “Aloha” on them as you board. At the door we were welcomed aboard by two friendly flight attendants.

Hawaiian Airlines 717 entrance

Hawaiian’s first class cabin consists of a total of eight seats, spread across two rows in a 2-2 configuration.

Hawaiian Airlines 717 first class seats

Legroom was about standard for domestic first class, though the seats were thicker than you’ll typically find nowadays.

Hawaiian Airlines 717 first class seats

Hawaiian Airlines 717 first class seats

We were in seats 2A & 2B.

Hawaiian Airlines 717 first class legroom

There was a tray table that could be removed from the far armrest, and could be folded in half. Given that the 717 only operates very short flights between the islands, that has to be one of the least used first class tray tables in the sky.

Hawaiian Airlines 717 first class tray table

The overhead console had individual reading lights and air nozzles, which were needed, since the cabin was hot.

Hawaiian Airlines 717 first class overhead console

While every seat on the plane was taken, boarding was efficient, and by 2:25PM the door closed and we pushed back.

Hawaiian Airlines 717 first class cabin

Hawaiian Airlines 717

Pushing back

As we taxied out the crew did a manual safety demonstration. After that the lead flight attendant came around to take drink orders for after takeoff. Given that this was such a short flight, I wasn’t sure if they were offering a full bar or not. So I asked what they had, and he said “juice, coffee, water, soda, etc.” So I just ordered some water.

However, I heard someone else order a mai tai, so we both changed our order to that. šŸ˜‰

The taxi to the departure runway was short, and by 2:30PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 2, right behind an Island Air prop.

Island Air plane

Taking off from Maui

The views on the initial climb out were beautiful, though there was a pretty thick cloud layer, so there wasn’t much of a view starting a couple of minutes after takeoff.

View after takeoff from Maui

View after takeoff from Maui

View after takeoff from Maui

As we climbed out the crew announced that in the main cabin they were serving complimentary water or juice, though wine and mai tais were available for purchase.

Once it was safe for flight attendants to get up, the flight attendant came to us to apologize that they only had one mai tai left, and asked if one of us instead wanted a lychee vodka martini or gimlet. He presented us with all three of the bottles, as all the cocktails come in pre-mixed plastic bottles.

So I instead had a lychee martini, and Ford had the mai tai. Both were about as good as you’d expect from a pre-mixed cocktail.

Hawaiian first class drink service

Hawaiian first class drink service

We were both also offered tiny bags of snack mix.

Hawaiian first class snacks

By the time we were served our drinks we were already beginning our descent, so we had to basically chug. Despite the short flight time, the crew had time to do a detailed credit card pitch for Hawaiian’s credit card, and then came through the cabin with applications.

View approaching Honolulu

At 2:50PM one of the pilots announced “we have been cleared for the approach, thank you for flying with us. Flight attendants, prepare for landing.”

View approaching Honolulu

View approaching Honolulu

View approaching Honolulu

View approaching Honolulu

At 2:55PM we had a smooth touchdown, and then we had a 10 minute taxi to our arrival gate, at the inter-island terminal.

JAL 777 Honolulu Airport

Hawaiian 767 Honolulu Airport

Island Air plane Honolulu Airport

Arrival gate Honolulu Airport

Hawaiian 717 first class bottom line

Ultimately there’s not a huge difference between economy and first class on Hawaiian’s inter-island flights, but then again, the price difference isn’t huge either. First class is often only $50 more than economy, and comes with a free checked bag, so the premium is minimal. For that you get priority boarding, a more comfortable seat, and a drink (that you have to chug, and that isn’t actually that great).

So is Hawaiian first class worth it? Not really(ish), but it’s not a terrible deal either. Like I said, we paid an extra $50 for first class, and for that got a free checked bag, so in reality it cost an extra $25. At that price it wasn’t a bad deal.

Perhaps my bigger takeaway is that Kahului Airport is a mess, and doesn’t have any sort of lounges. On top of that, the inter-island gates seem to handle a crazy number of flights, so expect the gate areas to be chaotic. Don’t arrive at the airport too early, but also don’t cut it too close, since security lines can be bad.

  1. My observation from my last Hawaii flight was HNL precheck lane was a mob scene. I think this has to do with the fact there are so many DoD folks on the island but I found that even thought it was long it was among the most efficient precheck lanes I had ever been in as everyone was a pro. On the flip side leaving KOA on a Sunday afternoon to the mainland precheck was empty.

  2. You missed it: there is indeed a lounge that you could have visited at OGG with your HA F inter-island ticket.

  3. Yes, there is a lounge in OGG for Hawaiian F passengers. Turn left at the Central part of the terminal, and then the lounge is off to your left. It is unstaffed. You simply scan your boarding pass to gain entry, and there are complimentary non-alcoholic drinks and wi-fi and packaged snacks available.

    I agree with your other observations. OGG needs serious improvement.

  4. Next time try Mokulele for inter-Island flights. They run Cessna Grand Caravans from the commuter terminal – no TSA security for these flights. And a 1-1 seating configuration!

  5. Another option on Maui instead of OGG for inter-island flights is Ka’anapali airport. Obviously not convenient if you’re staying in Wailea, but Hawaiian and Mokulele are both increasing frequencies from JHM

  6. @AdamH:

    My sentiments exactly. There are way too many DoD folks on Oahu and with the locals discount (kama’aina) discount at a lot of the resorts around the islands, it’s a quick weekend getaway for many, me included. Especially when you consider that all you need nowadays is your DoD ID number and you essentially get Pre-Check automatically. But…it’s usually people that know how to read, know how to follow rules (servicemembers), and/or have an actual need for Pre-Check that you actually move a fair bit quicker than a shorter non-Pre-Check line. Same here in San Diego. It’s infuriating to see such a long Pre-Check line at first, but then you realize it’s deceiving how quickly it moves.

  7. I have also had serious issues with OGG security including TSA PreCheck. Even with PreCheck, they started tearing apart my computer bag wanting me to ā€œexplainā€ every single item in it (including cables, chargers, USB drives, etc.) and generally being quite nasty about it (ā€œthat’s how WE do security, too badā€). And they didn’t repack my bag! Several of them seemed to have a real attitude and to be on a real power trip. It is the only time I filed an official complaint with TSA over their agents.

  8. I’m curious. You’re usually quite specific in identifying planes, for example in this post, “JAL 777” and “Hawaiian 767”. But the Island Air aircraft was twice referred to as just a “plane” and once as a “prop”. Am I reading too much into this? I’d be surprised if you as an avgeek couldn’t identify it as a Q400.

  9. I was about to make the same observation – the Q400 is, of course, a Bombardier product made in Canada (hush) and Boeing doesn’t like Canada despite their awful ads on TV. (We love you – just not the C100 which will eventually cost us sales on non-existent aircraft (717) in the future.)

  10. On flights this short, you wonder why they don’t simply hand out small bottles/cans of beverages to people. Or they could do like Southwest did in the old days, and put a cart with iced cans of soda and small bags of chips in the jetway, so people can take what they want and not even need an in-flight beverage service.

  11. Sad to see a plastic drink in First Class on any flight.
    Reminds me of Alaska Air thinking they invented First Class.

  12. 1) I’m not sure, but I think that’s the back of my head. Was the gentleman reading medical journals on Surface tablet?

    2) I’m surprised you have no complaints about the wildlife that seems to roam around OGG. Having a lizard fall on my mom while waiting to check-in several years ago is still a classic story in my family.

  13. @Mark – for real? Hawaiian has about 175 flights a day within the islands. Using glassware for flights that are incredibly short with short turn times would be logistical mess. FWIW, drinks are served in proper glassware for all the other flights, including PDB’s. Appreciating the challenges, I think I can handle plastic for 20 minutes.

  14. @Matt
    I think you mean the Kapalua airport (JHM). The Ka’anapali airport (HKP) closed in 1986 to make way for the Westin Maui.

  15. I was a kid when the current terminal at OGG opened in 1990 – before that, today’s baggage claim building was the ENTIRE terminal, with ticket counters on one wall and boarding via stairs. Because they were integrating the old terminal into the new one, they designed everything to match it architecturally, which meant lots of concrete, smoked glass and steel. Of all the airports in Hawaii, it probably makes the least effort to give a sense of place. If it weren’t for a few open-air walkways here and there, you’d think you were in Omaha or Raleigh.

    Like the rest of the airports in the state, it’s in need of some serious updating. Security lines are out of control all day long, there’s very few places to eat and drink, and everything just looks weathered and tired. I was really shocked on my last trip through there, because in my head I still picture it as shiny and new.

  16. @adamr said – ā€œand with the locals discount (kamaā€™aina) discount at a lot of the resorts around the islandsā€

    Really? Are there still Kamaā€™aina discounts for hotels anywhere in the State? If there are any, please share them because I donā€™t run across them anywhere. And they would make my mattress running a lot more affordable since the majority of my stays are leisure-based and not for work.

    Not criticizing you, but I thought the Kamaā€™aina travel discount went away years ago (at least with the hotel/air market). I wouldā€™ve saved a bundle while renewing my Globalist status.

  17. Many of the OGG to mainland flights are red eyes. Hanging at that airport waiting to board a delayed flight at 11pm really stinks. Plus everyone is in a bad mood because their vacations are over. But it’s all good if I’m in Hawaii! I just love it there!

  18. I like how they had Mai Tais for purchase in the main cabin, but only ONE left in First Class.
    No time to walk back to the aft galley, but plenty of time for a credit card pitch.

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