Review: Hawaiian Airlines A321neo First Class (HNL-KOA)

Review: Hawaiian Airlines A321neo First Class (HNL-KOA)

FROM: HNL
TO: KOA
CABIN: First
DATE: March 2022
REVIEW RATING:
BEN SAYS: Hawaiian Airlines' A321neo offers a pretty standard domestic first class experience, though it's a far cry from the carrier's A330s. These planes have streaming entertainment but no Wi-Fi.
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To get from Oahu to the Big Island, we managed to fly Hawaiian Airlines’ A321neo first class. This is a plane that Hawaiian Airlines also flies between Hawaii and the mainland, so I was looking forward to experiencing it on a shorter flight.

I’ve reviewed Hawaiian Airlines’ Airbus A330 first class and Boeing 717 first class, with the latter generally being what’s offered between islands. However, select frequencies are operated by the A321neo, and I specifically sought out one of those flights.

How I booked our Hawaiian Airlines first class tickets

I booked first class tickets on the following Hawaiian Airlines flight for $143 per person:

03/07 HA370 Honolulu to Kona departing 1:30PM arriving 2:20PM

For reference:

  • This was around $50 more expensive than economy; it’s debatable whether the premium is worth it for such a short flight, but I wanted to review the A321neo first class seats, so it seemed worth it
  • There aren’t many good award options for these kinds of flights; for example, HawaiianMiles charges a minimum of 15,000 miles one-way for inter-island first class flights, so it wasn’t worth transferring points to book that way, even if there were availability

Hawaiian Airlines first class boarding

We used Priority Pass to visit the Hawaiian Airlines Plumeria Lounge during our time at the airport. The lounge is quite lackluster, so we decided to head into the terminal, where there was great plane spotting of all the planes in Hawaiian Airlines’ fleet. Note that Hawaiian inter-island first class passengers otherwise get access to the Hawaiian Airlines Premier Club, which is even more lackluster than the lounge we visited.

Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 717 Honolulu Airport
Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330 Honolulu Airport

We eventually headed to gate A17, where our Hawaiian Airlines A321neo was parked. I sure do love Hawaiian’s livery!

Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A321neo Honolulu Airport

Boarding was scheduled for 12:55PM (35 minutes before departure), but ended up starting around 10 minutes after that. Those needing extra time were invited to board first, followed by first class passengers.

Hawaiian Airlines departure gate Honolulu Airport

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo first class cabin & seats

Hawaiian Airlines’ Airbus A321neos have a total of 16 first class seats, spread across four rows in a 2-2 configuration. If the cabin looks familiar, that’s for good reason — Hawaiian has the same types of first class seats that American has on its A321neos, but with different finishes.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo first class

During boarding I also briefly glanced into the economy cabin, and specifically the Extra Comfort section in the front, featuring extra legroom.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo Extra Comfort

Legroom is pretty decent for first class, and I like some of the cabin finishes, like the patterns on the seats and rear bulkhead.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo first class

Unfortunately there are no personal televisions, and unlike on American, there’s no holder for a personal device on the seatback. Hawaiian does have footrests in first class, which is a nice feature.

Hawaiian Airlines first class seat A321neo
Hawaiian Airlines first class seat footrest A321neo

Between the literature pockets on the seats in front were two USB outlets.

Hawaiian Airlines first class seat USB outlets A321neo

Across from that, between our seats, was an exposed storage compartment.

Hawaiian Airlines first class seat storage A321neo

Armrests could be lifted to reveal another storage compartment, as well as an AC power and USB outlet.

Hawaiian Airlines first class seat storage A321neo
Hawaiian Airlines first class seat power outlets A321neo

The tray table extended from the far armrest, and could be folded in half.

Hawaiian Airlines first class tray table A321neo

The tray table had a feature whereby you could place your personal device holder onto the tray while also having something on it, which is a useful feature.

Hawaiian Airlines first class tray table A321neo

There was also a small tray area on the center console.

Hawaiian Airlines first class center tray A321neo

Each seat had an individual reading light and air nozzle.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo overhead console

As you’d expect from the latest generation A321neos, there was mood lighting, and overhead bins were large.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo mood lighting

There was a bathroom at the front of first class, which was pretty basic and no-frills.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo first class lavatory

So yeah, I’d say that Hawaiian offers a pretty standard domestic first class hard product on its A321neos. Minus the lack of personal televisions it’s perhaps marginally more comfortable than what you’d find on some other airlines, but the difference isn’t huge.

Hawaiian Airlines departure from Honolulu

The flight was packed, with almost all seats on the plane occupied. Boarding finished around 12:25PM, so only took around 20 minutes. During the end of the boarding process, drink orders were already taken in first class, given the short flight time. I like how Hawaiian Airlines plays relaxing Hawaiian music during boarding (I think it’s the track below?), which I wish more airlines would do.

The main cabin door closed at 1:25PM, at which point the captain made a welcome aboard announcement, informing us of our flight time of 29 minutes. A few moments later the crew performed a manual safety demonstration with a pre-recorded announcement.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo first class cabin

We pushed back at 1:30PM, and five minutes after that started our taxi.

Pushing back from gate at Honolulu Airport
Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 717 Honolulu Airport
Taxiing Honolulu Airport

We were departing from the reef runway, which is quite a long taxi from the terminal. So despite taxiing really fast, it took around 15 minutes to get to the runway. On the plus side, the views are pretty awesome even during taxi!

Taxiing Honolulu Airport
Taxiing Honolulu Airport

We were cleared for takeoff on runway 8R at 1:50PM.

Taking off from Honolulu Airport

We had stunning views of Honolulu on our climb out!

View after takeoff from Honolulu
View after takeoff from Honolulu
View after takeoff from Honolulu

Hawaiian Airlines first class inflight service

About five minutes after takeoff the inflight service began.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo first calss cabin inflight

We were first offered our choice of three snacks — lemon berry cookies, snack mix, or Biscoffs.

Hawaiian Airlines first class snacks

A few moments later we were brought the drinks we had ordered. I ordered a Moloka’i Mule, while Ford had a Mai Tai. The drinks were served in plastic cups, and tasted pretty decent, given that I believe these are pre-mixed cocktails.

Hawaiian Airlines first class drinks

Impressively enough, we were offered a drink refill around 10 minutes before landing, but we declined. The two flight attendants working first class were super friendly.

For context, below is the drink selection from the inflight magazine. I believe this is also the selection available in first class, though on a complimentary basis.

Hawaiian Airlines drink selection

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo inflight entertainment

Obviously inflight entertainment doesn’t matter on a flight this short, but keep in mind that Hawaiian also flies this plane to the mainland, where something like this matters a lot more. Unfortunately Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t have Wi-Fi on its A321neos (or any aircraft, for that matter).

The airline does, however, have a portal with streaming entertainment. So you can choose from dozens of movies or TV shows to stream to your device.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo Wi-Fi portal
Hawaiian Airlines A321neo streaming entertainment

There’s even a flight tracking feature, which I appreciate.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo map

The only other entertainment is the inflight magazine, which you don’t see on many US airlines anymore. Apparently it’s for sale at newsstands for $3.99? Hah…

Hawaiian Airlines inflight magazine

It’s a bit disappointing that Hawaiian Airlines chose not to install TVs on these new jets. There’s no Wi-Fi, so on a flight to the mainland your only option is to stream entertainment to your device.

Hawaiian Airlines arrival in Kona

The 163-mile flight from Honolulu to Kona is one of the longer inter-island flights, and affords some incredible views. Below is a map of our flight, to give you a sense of just how much there was to see. I’m happy we selected seats on the left side of the aircraft, which offered all the views.

Credit: Flightradar24

I’ll let OMAAT readers chime in on exactly which islands those are below. I think that’s Lanai and Kaho’olawe, though I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong.

View on approach to Kona
View on approach to Kona

Eventually the Big Island was in sight, and the cabin was prepared for landing.

View on approach to Kona
View on approach to Kona

One of the things that makes the Big Island unique is all the black rocks, which you won’t find to this extent on other islands. It was especially cool to see from above (I know a lot of people do helicopter tours to see this stuff — I’m terrified of helicopters — so I was happy to have the chance to see this from a plane).

View on approach to Kona
View on approach to Kona
View on approach to Kona

We touched down on runway 17 at around 2:20PM, with a Hawaiian Airlines 717 and United 737 holding short of the runway.

View on final approach to Kona

From there we had a short taxi to our arrival stand. There were five other planes on the ground, including two Southwest 737s, one American A321, one United 737, and one Alaska 737.

Taxiing Kona Airport
Taxiing Kona Airport

Kona Airport doesn’t have any gates, so a ramp was pushed up to the forward left door of the plane.

Arrival stand Kona Airport

I always love getting these kinds of plane views!

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo Kona Airport

From there we were directed into the terminal, which is entirely open air (and kind of awful, though I’ll save that for the report of our flight departing Kona).

Kona Airport terminal
Kona Airport terminal

We headed to the arrivals area and then the rental car shuttle, and were at our hotel in less than 30 minutes.

Bottom line

I’m happy I had the chance to fly Hawaiian Airlines’ A321neo first class on an inter-island flight, because this way I won’t have to go out of my way to review it on a flight to the mainland.

Ultimately Hawaiian’s A321neos are awesome for inter-island flights, and even offer a competitive product to & from the mainland, at least compared to other airlines flying domestically configured planes. However, the planes don’t offer nearly as good of an experience as the A330s the airline has, which have flat beds in first class, plus personal televisions.

So I’d say Hawaiian’s A321neos are totally fine — they’re not worth avoiding (unless there’s an option for a flat bed), but also not worth seeking out.

What do you make of Hawaiian Airlines’ A321neos?

Conversations (18)
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  1. Erickson Guest

    You are wrong about inter-island flights not offering lounges. First class inter-island actually gets access to Premier Lounges which are, not surprisingly, even more underwhelming.

    https://www.hawaiianairlines.com/our-services/at-the-airport/hawaiian-airlines-lounges

  2. Lisa Guest

    I love love love that our airport is open air!!! So healthy! Wow! Your comment is dumb.

  3. Bud Guest

    In flights to the mainland, in first class they do offer an apple iPad to use along with headphones.

  4. Dino96720 Guest

    On non-interisland flights, first class guest receive an Ipad and headphone to view the entertainment offered.

  5. Sam Guest

    Anyone know if there is lounge access at Austin airport if flying Hawaiian first class? Thanks in advance.

  6. Dan Paris Guest

    Only A Taurus would be in awe of Black rocks.

  7. Peter Guest

    A couple of years ago on an interisland flight on Hawaiian, I found it cheaper to pay the difference for first class (and get two checked bags free) than to pay the baggage fees for my two suitcass.

  8. Pam Guest

    I flew first class to Kona & the food sucked!

  9. pbmchenry Member

    I assume the map has a zoom feature, since as pictured it's pretty much next to useless.

  10. Asdf Guest

    Two big thumbs up to the beaches in Kekaha Kai State Park pictured in your "on approach to Kona" photos. Not only is there good swimming on calm days and a feeling of being away from almost everything (BYO drinks and lunch...) they offer excellent planespotting.

    The road in the last of those photos to Mahai'ula Beach is passable to regular cars, and you can hike across the lava flow to Makalawena. Our 4 year old did the hike just fine.

  11. Tennen Gold

    @Lucky, "While inter-island flights don’t offer lounge access..." is wrong.

    Hawaiian First Class (both inter-island and mainland) gets access to their Premier Club. Granted, it's inferior to the Plumeria Lounge you visited, but it still would've been nice if you had reviewed that as well.

  12. Sam Guest

    The open air element & lack of jet bridges are are the only two good things at KOA

  13. iflyfar Guest

    @SC Ever been to Kona? Its completely dry unlike the other side of the island (Hilo). No need for AC, etc.

  14. Motion to Dismiss Member

    On The Rocks is my favorite brand of pre-mixed cocktails. If at home of course I’ll make my own cocktails but I’ve taken OTR cocktails to friends’ gatherings before. I first had it on Acela First Class during the pandemic; the old fashioned and margarita are both pretty good!

  15. SC Guest

    i understand why they would make the airport open air but also, why??
    like I can't see any reason why this would be practical

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      You've obviously never been there.

      KOA is an underwhelming airport, but being open air is not one of its many downsides.

    2. Eric Guest

      They hand out iPad Pro for first class on A321 to mainland, so you actually do have personal entertainment.

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Eric Guest

They hand out iPad Pro for first class on A321 to mainland, so you actually do have personal entertainment.

1
Never In Doubt Guest

You've obviously never been there. KOA is an underwhelming airport, but being open air is not one of its many downsides.

1
Erickson Guest

You are wrong about inter-island flights not offering lounges. First class inter-island actually gets access to Premier Lounges which are, not surprisingly, even more underwhelming. https://www.hawaiianairlines.com/our-services/at-the-airport/hawaiian-airlines-lounges

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