Reply To: US West Coast to Hawaii

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Finally I am back in circulation with my trip report for Hawaiian Airlines from San Francisco to Honolulu! Flight was in First class on their A330 for a price of under $1000 round trip. Outbound flight was from SFO, inbound was to OAK. Here were the key points for both trips combined.

We booked online on the Hawaiian Airlines site and played around with a number of permutations before confirming. There are a lot of flights to & from all 3 bay airports but the site lists each airport separately. It also merges direct and indirect flights so it can take a bit of hunting to get the right itinerary. I wanted to avoid the 767 that is used sometimes as the seat pitch is larger on the A330. Also note that there is no facility to enter the frequent flyer number of a partner airline (Virgin in my case), only for Hawaiian Airlines. This meant I had to claim the miles direct from Virgin after the trip which they did without fuss.

As this was our honeymoon, it got off to a bad start when we were charged for overweight bags. First class passengers can take 2 bags of 50lb each for free, so we thought we would be OK with 1 bag each. Both turned out to be overweight and whilst one was forgiven they wouldn’t forgive both. Hawaiian are extremely strict on weight limits as we found out on the return leg. We bought a 3rd case and there was much shuffling of items at HNL before it was all OK.

There are separate checkins for First class but at HNL this is in an odd location and we couldn’t find it so we checked in via Economy. In any case your boarding passes and luggage tags have to be attached by yourself by using autocheckin and then dropping the bags off.

There is no lounge for First class at SFO. At HNL there is a lounge but it is small and was very crowded with limited facilities. I wouldn’t bother in future.

Separate lines are used for F passengers. It is worth noting that with multiple islands in Hawaii, it appears that Hawaiian flies their aircraft out in pairs. Our flight to HNL left at the same time as the flight to OGG (Maui) so clearly if one plane goes U/S they can put passengers on the other flight.

This is 2-2-2 with 46″ seat pitch. This makes a real difference and I found the seat very comfortable. The leg rest controls took a while to figure out though and I never quite got that right. There is a separate place for drinks with tables and entertainment folded away in the arm rests. I didn’t bother using my laptop so I didn’t look for a power point but I think there may have been one to share between the seats.

The cabin wall had monitors with flight information so I didn’t feel the need to use the IFE to monitor the flight. There was a decent selection of films and TV shows and I was kept more than entertained during the 5 hour flights. I will say that the Hawaiian safety video was a little different than most and made it memorable.

On boarding we had the choice of cocktails or champagne and this was regularly topped up. First drinks were accompanied with a tasty selection of nuts and then followed with 3 course meals. The outbound flight departed at 0930 so the meal was described as brunch whilst the inbound flight was a full service lunch. Both were tasty and left us satisfied. Unusually for a US airline they knew how to serve tea properly in a mug!

The misery guts at checkin in SFO turned out to the exception overall. Service was good throughout without being intrusive.

A very good value for money premium experience marred only by the check in at SFO and I would fly with them again. I subsequently read that since Hawaii is predominantly a leisure destination, US airlines tend not to put their most comfortable planes on this route e.g. AA use older F rather than their transcon F. This doesn’t appear to be the case with Hawaiian. Indeed, after we left HNL, they announced that they were adding lie flat seats in future.

As a postscript, I should mention that Virgin America now fly from SFO to HNL & OGG. We actually flew to SFO from DAL on VX in F and we found their First class to be very good. Their Hawaiian flights will use the same seats so the days of Hawaiian bound travellers being left with 2nd rate products may come to an end. Certainly if I were to go back, I would look at both Hawaiian and Virgin America first.

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