Now that I have flown Hawaiian Airlines to Hawaii and experienced the true aloha spirit, I have a strong desire to do it again very soon!
I admit to being an informed and picky airline client. Having never flown on Hawaiian Airlines, I decided it might be worth making a short connection from Vancouver to Seattle to experience this wide-body A 330 operator as I always prefer wide-body aircraft over 737’s and A320’s.
SEA-HNL and Return
We arrived at the gate in Seattle only to find the flight was delayed by five hours due to a mechanical issue. Not a great start but happily (as you’ll read) things quickly improved.
In 1929, Hawaiian Airlines launched with two Sikorsky S-38 amphibian aircraft, offering inter island service in Hawaii.
Now, 90 years later, Hawaiian Airlines is a long-haul international carrier with service from mainland U.S. gateways to the Hawaiian Islands, as well as service to destinations that include Tahiti, Tokyo, and Sydney.
While Hawaiian Airlines’ routes of today go beyond the islands, it’s certainly best known to most of us for transporting mainland Americans to Hawaii and vice versa. And, while most major U.S. airlines fly to Hawaii, an obvious place to start is with the island’s namesake airline.
The Aloha Spirit
Most airlines try to make flights to Hawaii feel at least a little special, but Hawaiian Airlines just does it better. There is Hawaiian music during boarding, mai tais are readily available (free in first class), an island colour scheme is featured onboard, island-themed crew uniforms are worn, and the company seems truly and deeply rooted in all things Hawaii.
First class seating is in a 2 2 2 configuration and whilst the design is a tad quirky, it works very well.
The seat is comfortable and although we never used it on our flights, reclined to a full lie-flat bed.
Lots of storage space is provided and the in-flight entertainment is provided by means of a large tablet on which a selection of movies, television shows, and games are loaded. The headphones are noise-cancelling and it all works very well.
Yes, Hawaiian Airlines’ food is above average in first class and certainly outshines any meal service on any other North American carrier. Our outboard flight served Brunch of a fresh fruit bowl warm croissant and butter and Jam and a vegetable hash cake with MW special Sauce and Arabiki pork sausage. Desert was a vanilla cheese cake with yuzu and strawberry sauce, which was fantastic.
Our return flight served lunch of warm bread roll, gem lettuce salad with blood oranges, baby tomatoes, and white miso vinaigrette.
A choice of coq au vin or herb ravioli was given for mains, and in both cases portions were more than adequate. We both chose the coq au vin and it was the real deal.
The wine list was basic with one white and one red and this was my only complaint although the wines chosen were decent.
What’s more impressive to me is that Hawaiian Airlines still serves real hot meals at no extra charge in economy.
An ode to Hawaiian Airlines is not complete without a nod to the service. I’ve experienced Hawaiian Airlines flight crews to be friendly and more accommodating than the average domestic flight crew. Maybe it’s because they largely live in Hawaii. Maybe it’s because they are working flights filled with people going to paradise. Or maybe it’s a different corporate culture. Whatever it is, the difference shows. A good flight crew can make or break an in-flight experience, and on Hawaiian Airlines, the crew is far more likely to enhance your flight to the Aloha State.
If things go wrong as they did in our first flight, apologies are polite and plans made to deal with inter island connections immediately so the stress was removed and the customer experience restored.
As a note, we flew inter island on a 30 minute hop to Hawaii island and the service was just as impeccable.
Hawaiian Airlines flies mostly Boeing 717s on these routes but is busy replacing this fleet with brand new Airbus A 321 NEO aircraft.
Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t operate out of all the major U.S. airports. You will find Hawaiian operating in many cities on the West Coast, and as far east as Phoenix and Las Vegas as well as nonstop from Boston and New York’s JFK. But even if you must connect on the West Coast to fly to or from Hawaii on Hawaiian, that’s not the worst idea.
Unlike most U.S. airlines that operate flights to Hawaii, Hawaiian Airlines still awards miles based on how far you fly—not how much you pay for your ticket. So, if you can pick up a cheap fare to Hawaii on Hawaiian, you’ll still earn a bunch of miles.
Boston to Honolulu is more than 5,000 flown miles, the longest domestic route in the U.S. That one round-trip would earn you more than enough miles in Hawaiian’s frequent flyer program to book a 7,500 mile island-hopper award. Economy award flights from the West Coast to Hawaii and back start at 20,000 miles each way.
You can also transfer miles from the Amex Membership Rewards program to Hawaiian Airlines or transfer them for free with someone who has a cobranded Hawaiian Airlines credit card.
In summary, now that I have flown Hawaiian Airlines to Hawaii, I have a strong desire to do it again (hopefully in another lie-flat seat).
For Andrew, travel is so much more than just learning history or taking photos. Rather, the value of travel is witnessing a lifestyle, bonding with locals, and gaining rich cultural experiences. That’s why he founded the Luxury Wanderer; a place to share itineraries, offer advice, swap stories, and foster a like-minded community of curious travellers.