Hawaiian Airlines A330 First Class In 10 Pictures

Hello from Hawaii! Yesterday I flew from Los Angeles to Honolulu in Hawaiian’s new first class, which they began rolling out a bit over a year ago. Tiffany flew the product recently and also wrote a review, though in this post I wanted to share my initial thoughts on the experience.

I was curious about the flight not just in terms of the soft product, but also in terms of the hard product. When most airlines introduce a new first or business class product they usually choose one of the common seating varieties already out there with slight customizations, but Hawaiian installed a product I’ve never seen before.

Hawaiian’s A330s have a total of 18 first class seats, spread across three rows in a 2-2-2 configuration. I’ve gotta say, it’s a nice-looking cabin, and is perfect for a Hawaiian airline. Between the light blue finishes and the interesting “shell” around the seats, it’s a beautiful product.

However, it’s also a rather unusual product. The seats are super thin and lack padding, and almost look like ironing boards to me.

The seats also have small footrests which become part of the bed when a seat is fully reclined. These footrests feel super flimsy and small.

When I first saw the product I wondered what Hawaiian was thinking, as it doesn’t really look comfortable. Hawaiian is in a unique position given that they’re competing with US airlines on mainland flights, most of which operate just a standard domestic configuration. However, they also operate flights to Asia, Australia, etc., where they’re going up against premium international competitors. So it’s tough to standardize a product across the fleet.

In the end I was impressed by the seat. No, it’s not the world’s most private seat, but most people traveling to Hawaii are doing so as couples, so that’s fair enough. There were some things I really loved about the seat:

  • The footrest was small, but was close enough to the seat so that you could rest your feet on it when in the upright position, which is rare
  • When the seat was fully reclined I could comfortably sleep on my side with my knees bent, which is a challenge in many other configurations

So I’m not sure I’d love this product if flying alone on an ultra longhaul flight, but for an airline like Hawaiian, this is a solid product. The seat also has a fair bit of storage, though it’s all exposed. There’s a thin compartment along the center of the seats, plus a compartment in front of the seats.

There was no built-in IFE, though after takeoff the crew brought out iPads, which could be placed in a holder. I’ve never seen an airline with a better system for portable entertainment, as you just place the iPad directly into a latch, and that’s it. It couldn’t have been easier. The entertainment selection was good, though it’s not a full substitute for built-in IFE, since there’s no airshow.

There were no amenity kits, though there was a pillow and blanket. The pillow was on the small side and blanket scratchy, but then again, I guess most airlines don’t offer great bedding on flights between the mainland and Hawaii.

What really impressed me though was the soft product. The crew was Honolulu based, and couldn’t have been nicer. They were friendly and attentive, and the entire service was provided on “island time,” which I guess is fitting.

I loved all the unique touches during the service, like the choice of mai tais or passion orange guava juice as a pre-departure drink.

This was a breakfast flight, so after takeoff there were macadamia nuts and drinks. I had a combination of prosecco and guava juice, which was tasty.

There were menus for the meal, though no options, which I found a bit odd. On one hand it would have been nicer if there were an option, but on the other hand they almost always run out of the first choice, so I guess this helps manage expectations.

Breakfast consisted of a mozzarella cheese, spinach, and fresh herb omelet with Portuguese sausage and roasted potatoes, seasonal fresh fruit, and a lemon poppy seed slice.

There was even a dessert, which seemed unnecessary for breakfast. That consisted of a salted caramel cheesecake.

The crew constantly passed through the cabin to offer drink refills, and before landing they offered sweet onion chips.

Bottom line

I was sort of expecting to be disappointed by Hawaiian’s first class product given the unusual configuration and lack of a meal choice in first class. However, I found the seat to be surprisingly comfortable (especially when most airlines don’t offer flat beds between the mainland and Hawaii), the service to be exceptionally friendly, the food good, and loved all the little Hawaiian touches they added to the service.

Hawaiian is a great airline, and I’m happy I had the chance to fly them.

If you’ve flown Hawaiian first class, what was your experience like?

Comments

  1. @Lucky – the inflight crew were nice to you because they knew who you were.

    Whether I’m flying HA First or Economy, the inflight crew are about as cold as any carrier I’ve encountered. HA is not known for having the happiest employees.

  2. Lucky: I really think you should have tried to fly on an international flight (or JFK) for the full experience. Those flights see elevated soft touches like a mattress pad, bigger and more plush blanket/pillow, a neck pillow, amenity kit and a more elaborate meal service. There are also amenities in the lavatory with lotion and face mist. FWIW, lunch/dinner sees meal choices domestically and 3 choices internationally. As a boutique carrier, I think overall HA did a great job customizing a seat that meets their needs and fits the demographics of their guests.

  3. You mention that they are competing against other airlines offering a premium international product, but I think their new hard product combined with their excellent soft product enables them to go head to head with all of them. I know that from living here, almost everyone I talk to would choose HA over other carriers, especially if price or status isn’t a consideration.

    On their Australia routes they compete against Qantas with their A330 business class. While they are rolling out a new seat, I’d take the new HA seat against the existing QF seat.
    For service to AKL, I think it’s a toss-up between HA and Air NZ.
    For service to PEK, the HA seat and soft product is way better than Air China’s A330
    For service to ICN, KA in first or biz on the 747 has them beat hands down, especially since HA is still operating their 767 with recliner seats on this route. Even the angle lie flats on Asiana would be better.
    For service to Japan, I think it really depends on what plane you get from JAL or ANA, as they operate so many different aircraft and configurations.
    The HA hard and soft product is way better than the DL or UA biz seat to NRT in my opinion.
    I do think the best hard product HNL to Japan right now is the UA 777 in 1st class, unless you happen to snag one of the elusive JL first clsss seats on the 777 that they occasionally fly to the islands.

  4. @VX_flier – While no airline is perfect and all have individuals who one might clash with, HA is not “known” for cold and unhappy employees. In fact, their reputation is for warm and caring Hawaiian hospitality.

    @lovenola – ICN has been A330 for several years now. CTS is the last remaining long-haul flight on the 767, which switches to A330 in February.

  5. @Donna I’m from Italy and while I’m not positive I would drink it, is it any different than a Bellini or Rossini?

  6. @Ekka. You are correct, however they haven’t updated the plane on that route yet, it’s still flying the extra recline seat until November 15

  7. @Ekka – Wrong. As a 47+-year resident born and raised in Hawaii, I can promise you that our experiences flying HA through the years is probably much different than your’s. We are not seasonal travelers to/from Hawaii and their inflight crews have not improved through the years (especially after Aloha folded).

    But YMMV, and there are always good and bad employees regardless of the carrier you fly on. However, there is a common attitude that HA inflight crews have, and it is noticeable enough to wonder how they’ve managed to maintain it over the years.

    I’ve flown over 130K miles this year to/from Hawaii on HA, AA (to renew my EXP), Alaska and Virgin. IMHO, the inflight crews on HA were the worst of the bunch, with AA slightly better (some AA FA’s were fantastic and friendly – HA FA’s are ALL robotic and cold).

    But again, YMMV. Ask a local resident here what they think of HA’s FA’s and see what they say.

  8. Whereas I’ve flown HA several times SYD-HNL mostly in Extra Comfort seating, I’m flying SYD-HNL-JFK this December in first class and looking forward to the experience.

  9. To be fair, I should say that if passengers are having a wonderful experience with HA flights, then this is great to hear. I certainly hope that travelers have a positive time visiting Hawaii, and that HA can provide that experience so that visitors will want to come back soon.

    I didn’t mean to be a Debbie Downer. Best regards!

  10. I flew Hawaiian’s “international business-class” between Honolulu and Pago Pago, American Samoa about two years ago.

    It was domestic first-class seats on an older 767. The service was good and friendly, the coffee (Kona) excellent, the wine so-so, and the food average. They handed out tablets in lieu of having a seatback TV screen, but the choices were quite limited.

    My biggest complaint was the lack of choices for dinner. I did, however, like that they took drink orders with meal orders so they there was no need for carts. It would be interesting to know if they still avoid using carts in international business-class/domestic first-class.

    The return flight was not catered in Pago Pago and only had sandwiches. It was very disappointing. Plus, sleeping in the old-style seats was impossible. The blanket and pillows were the same as they have on the planes with the new product. For a daytime flight, I suppose the blanket is fine, but for a long-haul flight to Australia, New Zealand, or Asia to/from Hawaii or a red-eye to New York from Hawaii, the blanket and pillow would be most disappointing. I also think the 2x2x2 configuration is not competitive on long-haul flights. Hawaiian should have copied JetBlue and rotated between 1x2x2 and 2x2x2 depending on the row of the aircraft seating.

    Last but not least, Hawaiian’s lounges are pathetic and also not competitive for anyone flying long-haul.

  11. “the food good” is confusing, considering the horrible stuff Tiffany got stuck with. I followed the link just above, and it lists a totally different meal than either of you had. So is it YMMV (your meals may vary) or what?

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