Hawaiian Airlines Business Class lie-flat A330 Review from San Francisco (SFO) to Honolulu (HNL)
Hawaiian Airlines had found itself in a bit of a pickle a few years ago when they sat on a fleet of A330s and Alaska Airlines suddenly opened up the Hawaii market from the West Coast on 737s serving many smaller markets with direct flights.
But Hawaiian Airlines found that connecting to Asia is a great way to use these big planes and use them for major airports along the West Coast. It is a better experience to be on a widebody than crammed into a B737/A320 for six hours!
Hawaiian Airlines also recently retrofitted the First Class (or Business Class) with lie-flat seats. I was curious to try them!
The Skyteam/ Oneworld side of the San Francisco International Terminal (which Hawaiian Airlines uses (like JetBlue) for their domestic flights was deserted). The sole security lines (there are multiple usually) had just a few passengers in line. The TSA Pre line wasn't even open.
I used the Virgin Atlantic lounge at San Francisco airport (a review from a prior flight). It still impresses with wonderful interior design, especially on this sunny morning. However, the breakfast spread isn't great or high quality. With just 4 passengers in the lounge, it still felt like First Class!
Boarding was right on time and moved quickly and orderly. Despite the Corona Virus fears the plane would be almost 100% full in economy and Business (First Class).
Hawaiian Airlines has decided in favor of a rather unique model of lie-flat seats. It comes in a slightly staggered 2-2-2 configuration. The annoying part are the footrest/ ottomans that not only restrict foot space when getting into your set (especially when sitting near the window). Even worse the floor is not really even and the area around it is elevated making it super easy to lose your balance when getting in and out. This is simply a safety hazard. Virgin Atlantic misguided seat on the A340s and B7897 has a similar issue.
There also is no storage area when settled into your seat - like none at all. Also there is just ONE switch to operate the seat (pictured).
What's great though is that there is a good seat width and plenty of seat pitch.
For a while, I was taking video and pictures and then it hit me - something was amiss - there are no TVs - simply no screens in the whole cabin. Whoops. Did someone just steal them?
I was quickly informed that there would be iPad Pros instead that would be handed out later after takeoff. While I rarely use the inflight entertainment system I always enjoy the airshow. That wasn't available on the iPad and I found the movies/ TV shows disappointing. There was also no WiFi on this flight. Oh well.
It took a good 45 minutes (despite no turbulence initially) for the after takeoff drinks and nuts to come out. The Macadamia nuts were delicious (as usual) and the sparkling wine drinkable.
I was happy lunch would be served instead of breakfast (usually miserable on a plane). I selected the vegetarian options from the menu. They sounded quite delicious.
However, both the appetizer and main course were blend and just tasted odd. I felt it was fresh but I also felt they were a long shot away from what I expected them o taste. Both were small portions too.
I like the dessert which came with plenty of alcoholic options.
After the meal service, the window shades would go down and I was curious to try the lie-flat seat. I had low expectations as the whole seat design seemed rather clunky.
That turned out to be wrong - once the seat folded to a 180-degree flatbed it was very spacious and I had no trouble stretching out. I'm quite tall and like to turn a lot when sleeping but this seat was perfect. For this and the 'weird' ottoman came out to shine. In fact, I felt it was a spacious as any Business Class seat - more equal to Cathay Pacific Business Class seat (still my favorite).
I slept well for almost three hours until a number of loud announcements woke me up. We were still 46 minutes out - these could have been left for later when our actual descent would start.
Our landing was fast and furious into the very windy Honolulu airport but came perfectly executed by our experienced pilots.
In sum I was very positively surprised by the Hawaii Business Class seat that is pretty ideal for sleeping - I was amazed by how I liked it for just that. Otherwise, Hawaiian Airlines is a long way off from an International Business Class as catering, inflight entertainment and staff need a lot of work. Some Wifi would be great too. Still, I'd happily continue to Asia for red-eye on these seats.