Review: Hawaiian Airlines First Class A330 Los Angeles To Honolulu

Filed Under: Hawaiian
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Our flight to Honolulu was departing LAX at 7AM, so we got to the airport at around 5:30AM. Not only were we checking a bag (BYOB), but we needed to stop by the check-in counter to add our Korean Air SkyPass numbers to the reservation. Oddly Hawaiian’s website only lets you add a HawaiianMiles frequent flyer number to a reservation, and not any of their partner frequent flyer numbers. Fortunately we were quickly helped at the first class counter.

Hawaiian Airlines check-in counter LAX

Hawaiian now operates out of Terminal 5 at LAX, so were quickly through security thanks to CLEAR. Hawaiian doesn’t offer lounge access to passengers traveling between the mainland and Hawaii, though there’s an Admirals Club in the terminal, which we could use since I’m a member (I have a membership thanks to the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®).

Terminal 5 LAX

Our Hawaiian flight was departing from gate 58, located at the end of the concourse. Boarding was scheduled for 6:15AM, though we headed there at around 6AM. A few minutes later our crew showed up, and then at 6:20AM boarding finally began.

Hawaiian Airlines departure gate LAX

Boarding began with wheelchair passengers, and then passengers who needed extra time boarding, including families with small children. On a flight to Hawaii, that’s about half of the plane. After that, Zone 1 boarding began, which includes first class. While most airlines have clear signage at gates nowadays, it’s interesting to me that Hawaiian didn’t have any sort of priority signage in the gate area, but rather everyone used the same boarding lane.

Hawaiian 1
Los Angeles (LAX) – Honolulu (HNL)
Thursday, October 12

Depart: 7:00AM
Arrive: 10:00AM
Duration: 6hr
Aircraft: Airbus A330
Seat: 3J (First Class)

We boarded through door L2, where we were greeted by the very friendly crew and pointed to the far aisle and then left towards first class. In front of the second set of doors was 1.5 rows of Economy Comfort (which is their extra legroom economy product), and then there was the first class cabin.

Hawaiian’s new first class cabin has 18 seats, spread across three rows in a 2-2-2 configuration. My first thought, especially when seeing the cabin from behind, was that it was beautiful. It wasn’t initially the most comfortable-looking cabin, but I thought the light blue and the “waves” on the back of the seats were perfect for an airline based in Hawaii.

Hawaiian Airlines first class cabin A330

The other sides of the seats told a different story, though. I couldn’t help but feel like the seats looked like ironing boards. They were so thin.

Hawaiian Airlines first class seats A330

We had assigned ourselves seats 3H & 3J, which are the aisle & window combination on the right side in the last row. The cabin felt pretty exposed overall, so I was happy being in the last row, since it meant we had the most privacy.

Hawaiian Airlines first class seats A330

While most airlines nowadays go for a generic type of seat common on other airlines, I had never before seen a layout like Hawaiian’s. The seatbacks in front were curved, and there was a small ottoman at each seat.

Hawaiian Airlines first class legroom A330

I figured the ottoman would be rather uncomfortable given how small it was, but there’s actually a lot of merit to it. It was close enough to the seat so I could rest my feet on it when the seat was in the fully upright position, which is a nice feature that isn’t possible in many other business class products. The ottoman also had a flimsy vertical barrier on the side of it. I’m not sure exactly what purpose it served. I suspect the intent was that if the seat is fully reclined, you can place your feet against it so you’re not constantly moving around.

Hawaiian Airlines first class legroom A330

There was a little storage area underneath the ottoman, but it wasn’t really big enough to hold anything.

Hawaiian Airlines first class ottoman A330

Between the ottomans and in the center section were storage compartments large enough to hold shoes, laptops, etc.

Hawaiian Airlines first class seat storage A330

Underneath the center armrest was a USB outlet, the reading light and flight attendant call buttons, and a small area where you could store a phone or pair of glasses, though it was “exposed.”

Hawaiian Airlines first class seat storage A330

Hawaiian Airlines first class USB outlet A330

Above that section was a circular knob that you could turn to either recline the seat or put it upright. Seat controls don’t get much simpler than this, though it does also limit the customizability of the seat.

Hawaiian Airlines first class seat controls A330

Then in front of and underneath the center armrest were more outlets, including a 110v and USB outlet.

Hawaiian Airlines first class seat power outlet A330

The tray table folded out from the center section of the seat. This was a single big tray, the major downside being that it couldn’t really be moved, so once it’s down there’s no way you’re getting out of your seat.

Hawaiian Airlines first class tray table A330

At our seats were pillows and blankets. They were both okay, better than most airlines have domestically, though not as good as you’d find in international business class.

Hawaiian Airlines first class pillow & blanket

So all around I’d say the hard product was way better than you’d find on most other airlines, given that most US airlines fly domestically configured aircraft to Hawaii. These seats aren’t ideal for business travelers, but I think for couples traveling together, these are great seats.

However, what really made Hawaiian awesome was the crew and local flair to the service.

Moments after settling in, our flight attendant, Jasmine, came by our seats to introduce herself and welcome us aboard. She also informed us that was Kim was working with her in the galley. She offered us pre-departure drinks, with the choice between pog, mai tais, and prosecco (or anything else we wanted).

Ford had a mai tai, while I had pog (passionfruit, orange, and guava juice). They were served in proper glassware.

Hawaiian Airlines first class pre-departure drinks

On most flights I find that first class passengers arrive throughout the boarding pass, while in this case all 18 seats were taken within minutes (likely given that this was a leisure crowd), and Jasmine took her time welcoming aboard each passenger and offering them drinks.

Hawaiian Airlines A330 first class cabin

Once that was complete, Jasmine came back through the cabin to present us with the menus for the flight. She explained that there wasn’t a choice of options (or rather the way she described it was “you’ll get everything that’s listed”), and she’d come back shortly to check on us. Sure enough, a few minutes later she returned to see if we wanted to have breakfast, and to confirm if we wanted to be woken up in the event that we were sleeping.

Hawaiian Airlines first class menu

Adding to the local flair, Hawaiian has some great Hawaiian boarding music, which I really liked.

At 7:10AM the door closed, at which point Captain Todd added his welcome aboard, and informed us of our flight time of 5hr47min. He apologized for the slight delay, and said we’d be waiting a few more minutes due to the amount of traffic in the alleyway.

After that Kim, the “first flight attendant,” introduced herself over the PA and screened the safety video. Hawaiian refreshed their safety video a couple of years ago, it does a lot to showcase their home. Here’s the video for those of you who haven’t seen it:

In terms of traffic in the alleyway, we waited for an Alaska 737 in the Disneyland livery to taxi past us, and then a Spirit A321 to pull in next to us.

Alaska Airlines 737 LAX

Spirit Airlines A321 LAX

At 7:20AM it was our turn to push back, and a few minutes after that we began our taxi.

Taxiing LAX

We had a fairly long taxi, given that Terminal 5 is on the south side of the airport, but we were taking off from runway 24L, on the north side of the airport. So we taxied west, and then turned right to taxi past Tom Bradley International Terminal, where all the early morning Australia arrivals were parked.

Taxiing LAX

Virgin Australia 777 LAX

One thing that I found interesting was that during the security checks, flight attendants requested that passengers raise all window shades. I think this is a smart safety policy, though they’re the first US airline I’ve been on to enforce this (it’s common for foreign carriers to have this policy as well).

At 7:40AM we were cleared for takeoff, and had beautiful views of the California coastline on our climb out.

View after takeoff from LAX

View after takeoff from LAX

We had a smooth climb out, though the seatbelt sign stayed on for 30 minutes. One thing I found a bit annoying is that the crew requested that all window shades be lowered after takeoff. Personally I don’t like sitting in darkness for 5.5 hours, but I know others have different opinions on that.

View after takeoff from LAX

About 20 minutes after takeoff the crew passed through the cabin distributing personal iPads. Hawaiian doesn’t have built in IFE, so instead they have little IFE holders at the seats, and then they come around with the iPads.

Hawaiian first class entertainment system

As far as airlines with portable IFE go, I found Hawaiian to be the best. The IFE was fully charged so there was no need for a charger, and it simply slipped right into the IFE holder. There was no latching, or anything, required.

Hawaiian first class iPad entertainment

The IFE selection was quite good. There were a few dozen movies, as well as a good number of popular sitcoms.

Hawaiian first class entertainment selection

Hawaiian first class entertainment selection

Hawaiian first class entertainment selection

Hawaiian first class entertainment selection

Hawaiian first class entertainment selection

Hawaiian first class entertainment selection

I decided to watch “Hot Pursuit,” starring Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara, which was… about as good as you’d expect a movie to be that’s starring Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara (as much as I love her in “Modern Family”).

Hawaiian first class entertainment selection

Just under an hour after takeoff warm towels were distributed.

Hawaiian first class warm towel service

After that tablecloths were brought out and the meal service began. The menu read as follows:

The beverage list read as follows:

Service began with drinks and macadamia nuts. To drink I ordered a combination of mango juice and prosecco, which was surprisingly delightful.

Hawaiian first class service — macadamia nuts and mango juice with prosecco

It seems that Hawaiian Airlines is really on island time. The crew was fantastic but they took their time with the service, which I guess is fair enough. The meal was finally served 1hr45min after takeoff.

Hawaiian Airlines first class breakfast

The main course was a cheese, spinach, and fresh herb omelet with sausage and potatoes. It was one of the better airplane omelets I’ve had, and the presentation was good too.

Hawaiian Airlines first class breakfast — cheese, spinach, and fresh herb omelet with sausage and potatoes

There was a side consisting of three pieces of melon and one strawberry.

Hawaiian Airlines first class breakfast — seasonal fresh fruit

Then there was the lemon poppy slice.

Hawaiian Airlines first class breakfast — lemon poppy seed slice

While completely unnecessary for breakfast, there was also salted caramel cheesecake for dessert. This was served off a cart, and on that same cart the crew had coffee, tea, and spirits.

Hawaiian Airlines first class breakfast — salted caramel cheesecake

The meal was done about 2hr30min after takeoff. I would have preferred if the service were a bit quicker so that we could have gotten more use out of the flat bed, but I think this is how they train the crews. Like I said, the crew was fantastic, and we had the same experience on the way back in terms of meal timing.

After the meal I visited the lavatory, located at the front of the cabin. There’s a single lavatory in first class for all 18 passengers, and the crew, including the pilots, so there was often a wait for it.

Hawaiian Airlines A330 first class lavatory

After finishing the movie I spent a while working. The crew constantly passed through the cabin to offer drinks.

Hawaiian Airlines first class water

During the flight I tested out the flat bed. I wasn’t expecting it to be all that comfortable, but I was impressed. The seat was spacious and didn’t feel confining at all. My only complaint was that it was a bit on the hard side.

Hawaiian first class flat bed

Hawaiian first class flat bed

About one hour out the crew came through the cabin with more of a “formal” drink service, which included the choice of rum punch, mai tais, water, etc. That was served with sweet maui onion chips.

Hawaiian Airlines first class pre-landing service

After that agriculture forms for Hawaii were passed out — it’s a nice touch that the crew filled in the flight info. Then again, I’ve never really understood these forms, because they seem entirely voluntary — our forms were never collected.

Hawaiian agriculture form

Shortly before beginning our descent the crew did their credit card pitch. Interestingly the crew pitched an offer for 50K miles, which is better than the offer publicly available online (you can get it online sometimes by doing a dummy booking on Hawaiian’s website). Still, it’s impressive that they actually have a better offer inflight than online.

At 10AM local time we began our descent, where we got our first views of Hawaii.

View approaching Hawaii

The seatbelt sign was turned on about 20 minutes before arrival.

View approaching Honolulu

View approaching Honolulu

View approaching Honolulu

We touched down in Honolulu at 10:30AM, about 30 minutes behind schedule.

Taxiing Honolulu Airport

We had a very quick taxi from the runway to our arrival gate, as we basically just rolled off the runway and to our gate, as we passed a Jin Air 777 (I didn’t realize they had 777s).

Jin Air 777 Honolulu Airport

We bid farewell to the crew, and were excited to be in Hawaii. From there we just had a short hop over to Lanai.

Hawaiian first class bottom line

Overall Hawaiian Airlines really impressed me. On the plus side, the crew was fabulous, the service had some flair to it, the food was excellent, and the seat was far superior to what you’d usually find between the mainland and Hawaii.

In terms of areas for improvement, I do wish the service were a bit faster. It would also be nice if they had built-in entertainment, because you can’t easily store away your iPad when you’re not using it. Lastly, it would have been nice if there were a choice of meals (on our return flight dinner was served, which had a choice of appetizers and a choice of main courses, so this solely seems to be a breakfast thing).

Still, all around Hawaiian exceeded my expectations. There’s something that feels special about their service, and I really like that.

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  1. Something I’ve always been curious about. Why don’t you bring your own content on an iPad? You always watch (mostly) bad TV shows and movies. Any method to the madness? I feel like you could try the IFE to review it, and then watch a good movie or binge a TV show of your choice.

  2. Ben, glad to hear you had a pleasant flight on Hawaiian. As a local, my experiences with them vary greatly. I’ve had some great crews and some awful ones, though I usually get mediocre ones that just go through the motions. And, in my experience anyway, 50% of the flights I take with them are delayed by at least 30 minutes.

    That being said, it’s interesting that the agriculture form wasn’t collected from you or Ford. One for is required per household, and by law, the airline isn’t allowed to let passengers disembark until the forms are turned in. The purpose of the forms are to help control what enters into Hawaii, as many many plants, animals, etc. are prohibited in an effort to protect our delicate ecosystem. The backside of the form is optional, though, and is used by the government to get visitor statistics.

    The forms are irritating, especially since I never seem to remember to travel with a pen, but they serve an important purpose. Oh, and regarding a previous post, you’re one of the few people I know from out of state that actually likes Honolulu/Waikiki! Yes, it’s a crowded big city, but there’s so much more to it than that. And if you decide to come back for a longer visit, I’d love to share some local information with you.


  3. Seconded Neil. My iPad is a gamechanger on longhauls. Smaller footprint than a laptop for work (though I usually have my laptop anyway) and great for personal IFE. I only use the built in IFE for the flight show. Can understand though your nature of work (blog formatting and also reviews featuring IFE) you would prefer a laptop.

  4. FYI — if you want to put a different airline FFP # on your HA ticket and don’t want to have to worry about going to the check in counter (especially for early morning departures like this one), you can also call them to add the number, which is a bit of a hassle but the agents are always friendly and I’ve never waited more than a minute or two on hold.

  5. Oh, and it’s also worth noting that on international flights and the long flight to JFK, they do actually offer mattress pads which are pretty comfortable, along with a much better pillow and blanket, an amenity kit, and a slightly better meal service.

  6. The spirits selection is weak. Johnnie Walker Red Label is vile, and Koloa rum is even worse, though it is a Hawaiian product (the sad part is that there are actually good Hawaiian rums, like Ko Hana). And having only Jack Daniel’s for an American whiskey is unfortunate, when the other big US airlines offer Buffalo Trace or Woodford Reserve. Even Wild Turkey on Southwest is way better.

    It seems like whoever designed this spirits menu doesn’t actually like distilled spirits, especially aged brown spirits.

  7. @lucky it may just be the perspective, but is there a reason that the Jin Air 777 wing has such a weird angle? It appears to be pointing upward at 30+ degrees.

  8. The food didnt look that bad. I like the array of fruit on their flights. Thanks for posting this. Defly worth considering flying them in F using their miles, instead of a flight on United or Southwest.

  9. The pillow and blanket are what’s used in international business-class, or at least they were on my last Hawaiian international business-class flight in late 2015. Very disappointing. I don’t know why Hawaiian didn’t go with a more upscale product, especially for the longer international flights to/from Asia.

  10. Strange that the forms were never collected. In many many trips to Hawai’i, never had that happen.

    So @Lucky, what did you do regarding the window shade? I am with you on window shades, especially on a daytime flight.

  11. Flew them 6 months ago on an early morning flight from HNL to BNE and thought the service was good early in the flight and not so good later on. No amenity kit was offered and the prosecco was 4th rate at best. The pre-arrival meal was unrecognizable as food.

  12. @Kyle The forms do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to protect Hawaii’s fragile ecosystem. Many trees have died needlessly to produce these forms because the state lacks an effective enforcement and inspection system. There is no penalty for failing to complete the form and no accountability regarding who completed it. And those amnesty bins at the airports are only there to scare first-time visitors.

    Ironically, it’s more difficult to leave the Islands with an apple purchased at Costco which acquired it from California in the first place.

  13. Thanks for the review.

    Although having done first class SYD-HNL a couple of times with the old seating but mostly we’ve flown extra comfort, my wife & I are flying SYD-HNL-JFK-HNL-SYD in December and are looking forward to flying in the new first class seating.

    Can the IFE holder take a regular iPad or only the devices being provided?

  14. lucky in the paragraph about boarding you write “everybody boarded thru the same boarding plane” which I believe should be “lane”

  15. Solar powered Lucky didnt get discharged on this flight due to the lack of sunlight 🙂 🙂 LOLOLOL
    Nice to see you take a break though. All the best

  16. In mid October I flew Hawaiian between Haneda and Honolulu. This was a red eye flight and I was very impressed with the first class cabin. Simple but refreshing design; comfortable seats with plenty room; a comfortable mattress pad, a large and comfy comforter a small but comfortable pillow that slips over the seat to hold in place. What impressed me the most was the flight attendants. They were all phenomenal. Extremely friendly and constantly looking out for client needs. The true Aloha and Ohana spirit. In my opinion, they beat the major Asian carriers in service and all the US carriers should take lessons from them. This going to be my go airline for this route from now on.

  17. Loved reading your HA review. My husband and I fly HA as often as we can because we enjoy the notion that our vacation begins the moment we step foot on the airplane. Glad you mentioned the Hawaiian music being played as we both love that specific touch and ambience. We fly again to HI on 4Nov and can’t wait! Happy to report we’ve never experienced an unpleasant flight on HA and even with so many other carriers offering service to HI, we always try to book HA. They have won our repeat business.

  18. HI, do you know if this first class product exists on PHX to HNL route, or if not, when/if it will? We fly PHX to HNL in late December. Hope it’s lie flat…

  19. @ben (or anyone): Any insight as to differences between the F seats themselves on the A330s vs B767? SeatGuru indicates the seats on the B767 are a bit more narrow with less pitch than on the A330.

  20. Great Review.
    You probably already know this however, you can your frequent flyer details updated for another carrier over the phone.
    This way you can spare some time at check-in.


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