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.
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?