Review: American Airlines First Class To Hawaii

Review: American Airlines First Class To Hawaii

FROM: LAX
TO: HNL
CABIN: First
DATE: March 2022
REVIEW RATING:
BEN SAYS: While a standard domestic first class product to Hawaii is pretty unmemorable, a great crew, a return of pre-pandemic service, and upgrades easily clearing, made this a great flight.
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After flying from Tampa to Los Angeles in American’s A321neo first class, and then spending the night at the Hyatt Regency LAX, it was time to fly from Los Angeles to Honolulu the following morning. Since this flight was also on the American Airlines A321neo in first class, I don’t think it makes sense to do a full review of the flight, since it’ll be very similar to the review I just published.

Rather I’ll just focus on some of my key takeaways from this flight, which departed LAX at 8:15AM, and got to Honolulu at 12:22PM.

The American Airlines LAX airport experience

It has been a couple of years since I’ve flown through LAX Terminal 4, and it was exactly as I remembered it. We got to the airport at around 6:30AM, and security took around five minutes to clear, so that was easy.

LAX Terminal 4

We visited the Admirals Club — access isn’t included with a ticket, but I’m a member thanks to the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® (review). The club was busy but not overcrowded.

LAX Terminal 4 Admirals Club

One nice thing about having access to the club is that we could get Hawaii PreClearance wristbands. While Hawaii is dropping all domestic travel requirements later this month, currently you still have to fill out a pre-travel form, and show proof of vaccination or a negative test. The Admirals Club agents were able to verify our documents and give us wristbands, allowing us to bypass any entry formalities on arrival.

American Airlines Hawaii PreClearance wristband

Boarding was scheduled to start at 7:30AM from gate 46B, and indeed that’s exactly when it started. Funny enough, this was exactly the same gate we arrived at the evening before, as we flew the same plane all the way from Tampa to Honolulu.

American Airlines departure gate LAX

The same old American Airlines domestic first class

It’s always hard to judge hard products to Hawaii, since airlines fly a combination of narrow body and wide body aircraft to the islands. Last time we flew to Hawaii on an American 777 with reverse herringbone seats, while this time we had the standard domestic configuration.

American Airlines A321neo first class
American Airlines A321neo first class

The only difference from the evening before was that there was some bedding. I believe this is the standard long haul premium economy Casper bedding, with a small pillow and a somewhat scratchy blanket. Still, it’s better than nothing.

American Airlines first class pillow & blanket

Obviously this wasn’t the ideal product for a 5hr55min flight (we had very strong headwinds, so the flight was a bit longer than usual), but at least it was a daytime flight, so we were wide awake.

A fantastic American Airlines crew

Service can make such a difference in terms of the experience one has on a flight, and this crew was lovely. I felt like I won the lottery, because this was my second American Airlines flight in a row with a good crew.

A special shoutout to the male flight attendant who was working in economy (I didn’t get his name), but still managed to entertain all passengers. Hawaii has travel forms that passengers have to fill out, and as usual, many people didn’t bring pens with them. This is often an issue, and typically crews proactively make announcements that they don’t have any extra pens.

That wasn’t the case here. The flight attendant proactively got on the PA to offer passengers pens:

“If you need a pen, you’re in luck. I brought my vintage hotel pen collection, so just let me know if you need one.”

He provided hilarious commentary as he distributed the pens. “Ohhhh, Ramada Las Vegas, you’ll love that one.” He also came up during descent to thank me and one other passenger for our loyalty, which was a nice touch. Since there were only 80 people on the flight he said “next time make sure you bring some friends too, we have empty seats.”

While the first class crew was great, this guy really stood out, and made the flight more memorable. Often little positive interactions like this can have such an impact on one’s perception of a flight.

American Airlines first class breakfast to Hawaii

As you’d expect, breakfast was served on this flight. There were pre-departure drinks of choice, and we both had water.

American Airlines first class pre-departure water

After takeoff warm towels were distributed. I think this is the first warm towel I’ve received on American Airlines in over two years, so that was pretty exciting?

American Airlines first class hot towel

Drinks were offered next — I had water and coffee.

American Airlines first class coffee & water

There were two breakfast options — either a fruit plate or an omelet. We selected one of each. Then there was the choice of a croissant, biscuit, or cinnamon roll.

I had the fruit plate, which consistent of melon, pineapple, strawberry, and blueberries. Then there was a side of greek yogurt, and some granola.

American Airlines first class breakfast

The omelet didn’t exactly have great presentation, but Ford said it was otherwise pretty decent. It came with a side of greek yogurt, plus a fruit plate.

American Airlines first class breakfast

Before landing a snack basket was passed around, with a variety of snacks from brands you’ve probably never heard of.

American Airlines first class snacks

A long American Airlines flight without Wi-Fi

Usually one of the best parts of flying with American is the Viasat Wi-Fi, which is among the best in the industry. Unfortunately this doesn’t work over most of the Pacific, so most of the flight didn’t have Wi-Fi. Due to very strong headwinds we first flew up toward the Bay Area, before starting our Pacific crossing. So we ended up having about an hour of Wi-Fi, and usage of Wi-Fi was even free.

American Airlines free Wi-Fi

American also has streaming entertainment, though we just downloaded some of our own shows, and I did some (offline) writing for much of the flight.

Stunning views on approach to Hawaii!

When you fly from the mainland to Hawaii you’re over the Pacific for around five hours, so it’s exciting when you finally see land. Flying to Oahu you first pass some other islands. I think below that’s Maui… or maybe Molokai?

View approaching Hawaii
View approaching Hawaii

Soon enough we were over Oahu, and even flew past the airport, before turning back toward the airport.

View approaching Hawaii
View approaching Hawaii

Hi, reef runway!

View approaching Honolulu Airport
View approaching Honolulu Airport

Hi, Kalaeloa Airport!

View approaching Honolulu Airport

We ended up landing in Honolulu a bit behind schedule due to the strong headwinds, but fortunately the arrivals experience was otherwise quick. Parking across from a Japan Airlines Boeing 767 sure made me miss Japan!

Arriving at gate in Honolulu

As we deplaned we had a nice view of the American A321neo that flew us safely all the way from Tampa to Honolulu.

American A321neo in Honolulu

Thanks to the Hawaii PreClearance wristbands we had, we were immediately on our way to the Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina, which we were looking forward to visiting.

Bottom line

All things considered we were very happy American Airlines flyers on this trip. Our upgrades cleared on both segments in advance, we had friendly crews on both flights, and it was nice to see a return of American’s (admittedly not great) pre-pandemic catering.

Ultimately there’s a huge amount of inconsistency when it comes to the products offered between the mainland and Hawaii. On some routes you’ll find that airlines offer flat beds with direct aisle access in first class, while on other routes it’s just a standard domestic experience.

Lastly, while I of course prefer a routing where I can get a flat bed to Hawaii, I otherwise really enjoyed this routing. Flying from the East Coast to the West Coast in the evening, having a quick overnight, and then flying to Hawaii the next morning, really broke up the journey and made it more pleasant. I’d repeat a routing like this in a heartbeat.

If you’ve flown American first class to Hawaii, what was your experience like?

Conversations (53)
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  1. sir sach Guest

    The thing that bothers me the most is that if you buy a first-class ticket, you shouldn't have different planes flying on the same route. Keep it consistent and I don't think it's right for them to put you on a 321neo first class when the flight is that long. If someone is paying for first class, 1) they want to know what they are paying for 2) no one wants to pay first class for a sub-par looking first class

  2. Chris Guest

    Thank you for the thoughtful, detailed review. This was a great read as my wife and I are taking our first trip to Hawaii next year and decided to splurge for 1st class, to make the flight much more enjoyable.

    We are both excited to be able to take that journey and know that it will be a very comfortable flight.

    Thanks for taking the time to put this review out there!

  3. Sherrie Brown Guest

    We fly American to Hawaii every year First class, I get our tickets in Late Dec Price is awesome. We fly from from Phx To Honolulu, And are treated like Royalty!! We always get the same seats, We have great legroom, We are offered cocktail of your choice after take off, nice hot towel, Served Hot mixed nuts, Our lunch choice has been a bit different since pre covid but has gotten up to where...

    We fly American to Hawaii every year First class, I get our tickets in Late Dec Price is awesome. We fly from from Phx To Honolulu, And are treated like Royalty!! We always get the same seats, We have great legroom, We are offered cocktail of your choice after take off, nice hot towel, Served Hot mixed nuts, Our lunch choice has been a bit different since pre covid but has gotten up to where they use to be, We had the pasta meal with salad , a Roll, wine of your choice red or white, Dessert was awesome…. Hot Fudge sundae… was great, we settled in got our blanket n pillows had another glass of wine and watched a movie on my tablet,,,, Flight attendants were Great,,, It was on the 321 Neo I believe…. Was a Perfect flight including our overnight return flight a week later….
    Can’t wait to fly to hawaii this year!!!

  4. Bols59 New Member

    I'm glad to be telling you this long after your flight, but Southwest serves Brownie Brittle as one of their inflight snacks on their... wait for it... 'enhanced' flights. 'Enhanced' meaning the flight is over three hours, or something like that.
    And to say the omlette lacked presentation is an amazing way to break the awful truth to anybody who saw the pic. Truly, an omlette only a hungry person could love.

  5. John Patrick Guest

    We flew on a night flight on the A321neo and found first class to be horrible. The seat was nearly upright and so uncomfortable I went to coach and found a row of 3 open seats to lay across.

    On a positive note, this was the first plane in 1.4M miles flow that was actually held so my wife, 12 others and I could make the connection.

    On the trip home we paid more to get a first class ride in a 787. SO MUCH BETTER!

  6. henryLAX Guest

    @lucky : funny how u paint a picture that the wrist bands at admirals club make AA so wonderful, as if they’re going “above and beyond”,

    and yet, willfully ignore the fact that UA offers wrist band pre clearance to all passengers - all class of service, all status levels. what we’ve been taken for granted for eons, apparently requires a gold star at AA to commemorate their ingenuity

    and this is me speaking from my own EWR-OGG nonstop experience

  7. Alan Guest

    Love Corn is a British snack company - they're very tasty and I'd definitely recommend!

    Looking at the breakfasts it looks like the omelette is a better option as you get most of the fruit plate on the side anyway and everything else is the same!

  8. Susan Guest

    We had a great crew on our way to Kauai we went out of Santa Ana Airport to Phoenix then to Kauai we had a nice meal, cocktails and we arrived on time. I was surprised that they took away the TVs and you needed to use your phone, for any entertainment.
    On our way back, it was a late return so we were offered soup, crackers and grapes.
    I can’t sleep on...

    We had a great crew on our way to Kauai we went out of Santa Ana Airport to Phoenix then to Kauai we had a nice meal, cocktails and we arrived on time. I was surprised that they took away the TVs and you needed to use your phone, for any entertainment.
    On our way back, it was a late return so we were offered soup, crackers and grapes.
    I can’t sleep on a plane, so for me I was uncomfortable the seats in first class didn’t have any leg support, what happened to that?
    It’ll be awhile before I fly again, but I’m definitely going to fly during the daytime.

  9. Steven E Guest

    I get the difference in US carriers calling their Premium Economy First Class compared to the rest of the world - Flying over the Pacific in a narrow body wouldn’t thrill me at all but looks better than my recent “filthy” Polaris on UA from Sydney to LA - the worst EVER and crew were appalling.

  10. Grey Gold

    So basically the breakfast choice was omelette or no omelette? I would have been irritated if I chose the fruit and then saw that the omelette people also got a similar portion of fruit.

  11. Aussie Guest

    It’s a travesty that this cabin is allowed the label of “first class”. It’s barely fit for a dog.

  12. UnitedFlyer Guest

    As a United flyer, I am jealous of that catering. Decently healthy. Good presentation too.

  13. Nikojas Guest

    Where did all the intelligent comments go?! Pre pandemic the comments could be as helpful as the review. Now it's full of angry peoole who think they are experts because they once took a flight in 2016!

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Nikojas -- Hah, I've got the same question...

  14. Gustov Guest

    I find many of these flight reviews totally useless. What exactly did You expect on a Domestic Flight within the USA? Hawaii is a Domestic destination and No One should be expecting an International Inflight Product (which many of you would still have issues with) and need to cease that train of thought. The travelling public has some Very Lofty expectations (delusions) of what they feel they are entitled to but I for one would...

    I find many of these flight reviews totally useless. What exactly did You expect on a Domestic Flight within the USA? Hawaii is a Domestic destination and No One should be expecting an International Inflight Product (which many of you would still have issues with) and need to cease that train of thought. The travelling public has some Very Lofty expectations (delusions) of what they feel they are entitled to but I for one would like to see what type of Fare you are paying or better yet the amount of FF Points you may be redeeming. It is called a REALITY Check....many of You are very unrealistic with your expectations and have Nothing to stand on. pathetic.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Gustov -- Huh? Unrealistic with my expectations? I gave this flight a four star rating!

    2. Old curmudgeon Guest

      When I flew with my wife on united to Honolulu in October and dropped $5k + on two first class seats I expected and got a lie flat seat both directions. Comfort costs money. If American charged me $2.5k to fly in an upright seat to Honolulu I'd pass. who cares about catering. It's about the sleep and avoiding blood clots.

  15. Brian Guest

    How ironic, earlier today I looked up Ford's email from an exchange back in 2018 so I could send hi a question about a hotel booking for an upcoming trip to NYC. Then a few minutes ago I realized it was no longer the current address so I resent the mail, and now I just saw this post and realize you both are on Oahu, where i live. Small world! I hope you have a great trip - and looking forward to working with Ford again!

  16. Kelcy | Passport by Design Guest

    Hot towels! The instant relief, followed by it becoming icy cold in under 3 seconds.

  17. D3kingg Guest

    Ben you’re giving out too many 4 stars. Don’t be afraid to throw a few 3 stars out there.

    I flew KOA PHX last year on the red eye and slept the entire way. The a321neo is quiet and good cabin pressure . Still deep in the pandemic I cleared an upgrade as gold status lol. Bought my dad a last minute one way ticket on Delta KOA SEA BOS for something like $216. He still non revs and I don’t but although unlikely I don’t want to risk him being stranded he’s 76.

  18. JeffS Guest

    I’m bummed you didn’t go into Flagship, I thought you did the Finnair deal a few months back. Wanted to hear about the entry experience.

  19. Bridget Guest

    The one time we flew in American we had a terrible experience. I vowed I would never fly with them again. That was in 2011. I’ve flown quite a few times since and usually on United. My daughter has flown on American quite often over the last few years and has had really good flights. So who knows why ours was so horrible! And it was a trip to and from Hawaii!!!

  20. Doug DeNunzio Guest

    The American Airlines first class product is somewhat fun to experience.

  21. Pam Guest

    Next time fly to DFW & cash out Marriott points at either the Hotel Bin or Drover. Best selection of planes to HI from DFW!

    1. Pam Guest

      ^Vin (but both will want you wanting to more than overnight!)

    2. Robert Fahr Guest

      Roughly twenty four hours to Hawaii on a non wide body, non true F class experience except that you flew technically F class by AA standards. So many better options IMHO.

    3. D3kingg Guest

      @Pam @Robert

      Getting upgraded to first class out of LAX or PHX on the narrow body is a safer play. The competition for an upgrade out of DFW with the lie flat seats is tough. I have platinum pro and an SWU so I’m going to try next month. Also fare differences. Going through PHX or LAX would have been $150 less.

  22. Alex Guest

    I also flew to Hawaii from TPA a couple of weeks ago but chose to route via DFW. Even in economy I think this route is better due to bigger plane on the long leg. I paid about 200pp OW. I kept watching C space and at some point they opened up C7. Asked my EXP friend to upgrade me and flew in a lie flat. Service was nothing much and food not too good but comfort level was perfect.

    1. FlyerDon Guest

      C space? C7? EXP friend? What the hell are you talking about?

    2. Steve Rubery Guest

      Yea C Space is an opinion polling site and never heard of C7? And having an EXP friend doesn't do anything unless they book your ticket for you... If anyone can enlighten us that would be great?

  23. Eric Reg. Guest

    You are an experienced flyer, and you fly AA often. I would like to come upfront and clearly state that you ***know*** Hawaiian flights from/ to LAX and PHX are ***sold**** as regular domestic first class. That's what you pay, and that's what you get. And it is the route of choice for many due to the increased chances of Upgrading for free from economy.
    Currently the only AA Hawaiian Flagship route is from/to...

    You are an experienced flyer, and you fly AA often. I would like to come upfront and clearly state that you ***know*** Hawaiian flights from/ to LAX and PHX are ***sold**** as regular domestic first class. That's what you pay, and that's what you get. And it is the route of choice for many due to the increased chances of Upgrading for free from economy.
    Currently the only AA Hawaiian Flagship route is from/to DFW. Lie flat seats, menus , 3- 4 choices of meals etc etc... chances of upgrading on the dfw flight are slim to none, and you know it. You should be a little more transparent with that.

    1. morgan Guest

      i just upgraded 100 hours out, on the HNL > DFW flight.

    2. Eric reg. Guest

      Lucky you. But stand by what I said. Why didn't he choose the dfw flight? He can clearly see the equipment at booking..

    3. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Eric Reg. -- What should I be more transparent about? Correct, I knew all of those things...

    4. Super Gold

      I'm with Ben on this... I'm not sure what you're trying to say here.

  24. Leigh Gold

    @Lucky....looks like you were sitting on the right side, so the island you saw was just the windward/northern side of Oahu. If on the left side, you might sometimes get to see Molokai, but it would have to be very clear. It's more likely that you'd see Molokai from the right side on departure.

    I have flown the AA LAX-HNL route in F several times last year, and most recently in January. I remember lovely...

    @Lucky....looks like you were sitting on the right side, so the island you saw was just the windward/northern side of Oahu. If on the left side, you might sometimes get to see Molokai, but it would have to be very clear. It's more likely that you'd see Molokai from the right side on departure.

    I have flown the AA LAX-HNL route in F several times last year, and most recently in January. I remember lovely crews, but absolutely nothing else about the flights...and almost everything in the HNL terminal has been closed, maybe because I usually take the late red-eye flights on the return, so the ground experience has been a bit dreadful.

  25. Ely Guest

    Did this trip recently and originally booked on a lie flat F ticket, paying a bit more for it, only to find that our flight was subsequently changed to regular F. No refund of course. Later we rebooked at a good price anyway. Spy versus Spy ... (btw, the crew were excellent, but not comics)

  26. Jim Ash Guest

    The LAX flights in years past used 767-300's and 757's on and off, which was a lot more comfortable.
    DFW-Hawaii has thankfully had widebody aircraft for decades, and it is worth it to fly through that hub if you can. ( plus, now Flagship Lounge access is granted flying First on widebody aircraft to Hawaii )
    Crew can be hit or miss, similar to many flights.

  27. KyleEP Guest

    I just flew first (Flagship Business) to HNL from DFW this past Sunday (787-9). The service was phenomenal and meal selection was well above average for a domestic flight. Overall, an incredibly comfortable way to get to Hawaii.

    I'm glad American rebranded this route as a "Flagship" route but it's unfortunate that the PHX or LAX markets don't get this designation. It's definitely nice to have the lie flat bed on a route that...

    I just flew first (Flagship Business) to HNL from DFW this past Sunday (787-9). The service was phenomenal and meal selection was well above average for a domestic flight. Overall, an incredibly comfortable way to get to Hawaii.

    I'm glad American rebranded this route as a "Flagship" route but it's unfortunate that the PHX or LAX markets don't get this designation. It's definitely nice to have the lie flat bed on a route that long. For the return, I'm still waiting to see if my SWU clears from LIH to LAX. This will be a lunch flight and curious what the catering options will be.

    1. ORD Flyer Guest

      Do you get access to the Admiral’s Club in HNL in this case? We are doing that flight in Nay and it sure would be nice to be able to go in the Admiral’s Club before the flight.

    2. ORD Flyer Guest

      Sorry, read this wrong. I am doing the reverse from HNL to DFW. Wondering if I can use Admiral’s club in HNL?

    3. LarryInNYC Diamond

      Flagship first and business include AAdmirals club access.

  28. Scott Guest

    Does the streaming entertainment work when the internet is out? Or are you left with nothing for much of the flight?

    1. KyleEP Guest

      Streaming will still work for most entertainment- just no internet/data. I'm unsure about live TV but would assume that to be out as well.

    2. Never In Doubt Guest

      I can’t speak for every plane/airline, but all that is stored locally on the plane.

  29. Jimmy’s Travel Report Gold

    I’ve traveled to Hawaii from the east coast a couple times, and completely agree on breaking the trip up (unless you can get a lie flat seat). 11 hours plus in a recliner is a lot. We usually try and go through LAX and have dinner in the Manhattan Beach area.

  30. West Coast Flyer Guest

    Who vomited on that omelette?

  31. Alonzo Diamond

    Wow, AA is pathetic in so many ways.

    1. Steve Diamond

      then what is delta united and southwest?

    2. John Guest

      @Steve

      Not as pathetic as AA.
      You're welcome.

    3. G Aguiar Guest

      United is pathetic. Evidently, no longer their "Little Corner of the World". Delta is no better and Southwest, well, you get what you pay for. Want fab service to Hawaii? Fly Hawaiian - it's the best service in either F or Y, the flight attendants are not snarly (like UA), tawdry (line WN) or wanna-bees (like DL). United is the biggest disappointment. BIGGEST.

    4. sh Guest

      I've heard Alaska Airlines does good service to Hawaii.

  32. Peer Member

    I actually think that the AA snack basket is the best of all US airlines. Those Brownie Britles are especially awesome. Never heard them before flying AA, but already bought a couple of bags after trying them.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Grey Gold

So basically the breakfast choice was omelette or no omelette? I would have been irritated if I chose the fruit and then saw that the omelette people also got a similar portion of fruit.

2
Nikojas Guest

Where did all the intelligent comments go?! Pre pandemic the comments could be as helpful as the review. Now it's full of angry peoole who think they are experts because they once took a flight in 2016!

1
John Guest

@Steve Not as pathetic as AA. You're welcome.

1
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