One of the most difficult things about traveling frequently is having to deal with time zones and stubborn internal body clocks, all the while trying to process new cultures and languages without driving my brain to the point where it throws its lobes up in surrender from overstimulation. Travel is amazing and I’m very grateful that it has become part of the way I make a living – but as I sit here in Austrian Airlines 777-200 business class somewhere over Canada en route to LAX, I’m struggling a bit to glide into a “Hawaiian” state of mind (which is where you need me to be if you want this trip report to be as juicy as possible).
I felt like I totally had it nailed it 5 minutes ago, but then the flight attendant came by and asked me something in German I didn’t understand. I declined with a nervous sounding “nein” (always decline when in doubt) and now I can’t help but wonder what kind of delicious Austrian delicacy I just turned down.
I need to be thinking about guava juice and A321neo’s with that new airplane smell, but I keep looking back to the galley thinking that Europeans don’t mess around when it comes to snack time and that maybe I want in on some of that action…
San Diego, CA (SAN) – Maui/Kahului, HI (OGG)
Monday, July 16, 2018
Duration: 5 hours 23 minutes
Seat: 3J (first class)
The video for this segment (with a soundtrack courtesy of Epidemic Sound) has the best effect if you’re stuck in a cold weather climate in the middle of January. Crank up the volume and enjoy the sights and sounds of Hawaiian Airlines to Hawaii!
This trip report begins with your’s truly walking into terminal 2 west at SAN so early that I didn’t even think they were going to let me in. I look forward to Hawaii-bound flights more than any other, but a nasty side effect of having to deal with all of that giddy anticipation is feeling especially anxious to get to the airport and getting the trip started.
This is especially bad when I’m already notorious for arriving super early for even the most routine of flights, so it goes without saying that I was overly (obnoxiously?) early this particular morning.
There’s not much happening at SAN shortly after 4am, so I had to get creative while waiting for Camden Food Co to open up so that I could get my pre-trip Healthwhich fix. Since nothing else is open this early, I explored the newly-renovated section of terminal 2 west where the new international gates are.
It looks great, and I can’t wait to try them for my next international flight into SAN! It should be noted that these are “swing” gates, meaning that they can be used by both domestic and international flights. My flight to OGG this morning would be using one of them (gate 51).
By the time that the Healthwhich had been consumed, I returned to the gate area to sit and wait for boarding to begin. It wasn’t a long wait, and it also wasn’t hard to envy those around me who had timed their arrival to the airport perfectly this morning with seemingly no waiting.
In all my years of traveling, I’ve yet to master the art of timing the “ride to the airport/check in/security check” rigmarole so precisely so that there are less than 10 minutes to go before my row is called and it’s time to get on the plane. I’ve always been that guy sitting alone in the gate area two hours before departure patting myself on the back for avoiding the disaster of a missed flight. It doesn’t look as badass as showing up at the very last minute, but it keeps the blood pressure down!
Excitement was high as they called for first class passengers to board, and I wasted no time in carving my way through the crowds and being one of the first ones on the plane. I’ve been waiting a long time to try one of these new Hawaiian Airlines A321neo’s (yes, even before 4am this morning), and this was finally the big moment.
The first few minutes of boarding a flight that I’m anxious to do a trip report for is usually very busy. I want to make sure that I get all the pics I can before other passengers arrive, and more importantly, I need pics of the seat I’m sitting in before my seatmate makes an appearance. I’ve been trip reporting for over 5 years now, and I’m still bashful about taking pics of my seat with strangers all around me wondering how big of a nerd I must be to do such a thing. I have no problem being a nerd, but it’s an especially awkward feeling when everyone is looking.
Being preoccupied with getting pics and video footage resulted in missing the pre-departure beverage service altogether. Normally this isn’t such a big deal to me, but there’s nothing quite like boarding Hawaiian Airlines first class and to be handed an ice cold glass of guava juice to put you in an island mood right quick. Never mind that it was probably processed and packaged in Wichita Kanas – those guavas had to come from somewhere tropical, and I don’t care if the guy who pushed the button to make it go into the cardboard container didn’t care either. Guava juice is a quintessential part of the Hawaiian Airlines first class experience, and I’m totally bummed that I missed it this time.
Sorrow turned to elation when the flight attendants made the announcement that boarding was complete and that the seat next to me had remained vacant. There was a brief scare when one of the flight attendants pulled up some commuting flight attendants from economy up to first, but thankfully I still had an entire row to myself once that was all said and done. It felt especially good to pull out that breakfast menu again (which they handed out earlier) to peruse the island-themed options in beautifully selfish solitude.
Once in the air and pointed north (all SAN-Hawaii flights head up towards LAX first before turning southwest and out over the Pacific), the flight attendants came by with complementary iPad Mini’s loaded with tons of good movies, music, and tv shows. Of course I watched none of this due to being too excited about returning to Hawaii, but it seemed like a nice consolation for the lack of video screens in the seat backs. Note that there is also a streaming service available, accessible with your own personal device. Considering that the iPads cost $10 to rent back in economy, the streaming thing is a good deal since it’s complimentary.
Meal orders were taken shortly thereafter, followed quickly by the much-anticipated drink and macadamia nut service. I’m not a huge macadamia nut fan, but bring on that guava juice and keep it flowin’ please!
The breakfast service came next (bet you didn’t see that coming), and it was nice to see that they served it in courses instead of putting everything together on one tray. And apparently I was so hungry that I completely forgot to take a pic of the first course, which was a fruit bowl.
I know I know I know – I’m risking losing my nerdy Trip Reporter credentials for admitting such a thing, but I’ll try to avert disaster by telling you that the flavor of that fruit exploded in my mouth like…um…no, that isn’t going well either. Let’s just skip to pics of the main course.
Despite not totally enjoying the taste of that huge slice of breakfast pie, I’ve never been a quiche fan anyway so I’m not going to put any blame on the chefs. I just would’ve preferred to have a classic omelet that’s all, perhaps even with a couple scoops of white rice to go with it (Hawaiian style, of course).
The cabin lights were switched off after the meal service, no doubt the result of flight attendants who were disgusted by looking at all of us fat slobs who over-indulged on breakfast.
At least it seemed that way, because I did feel fat and disgusting for having consumed all of that food AND a Healthwhich only a few hours prior. They did leave the purple and blue mood lighting on though, which probably helped to make us look better than we did.
All the excitement of the morning combined with copious amounts of food consumption got the best of me after the cabin went dark, and I ended up sleeping until there was just a little over 1 hour of flying time remaining. Note that these first class seats in the A321neo are not lie flat (as they are in Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 first class), so it wasn’t the best sleep I’ve ever had on an airplane. Far from it actually…
The cabin lights turned on just minutes after I awoke, making me feel good about timing at least one thing correctly this morning. I hadn’t even wiped the dribble off my shirt by the time the flight attendants started coming through the aisles with complementary Mai Tai’s (even for those in economy). I passed on the offer, unlike my last flight to Hawaii when I just couldn’t resist.
By the way, I’d recommend checking out my Hawaiian Airlines vs United comparison if you aren’t impressed with the service I’ve received on this flight so far. FYI, Hawaiian Airlines first class is about as good as it gets to and from the Islands.
A snack basket and Hawaiian agricultural forms accompanied those pre-landing drinks, and unlike other Hawaii-bound flights I’ve been on, they were real sticklers about making sure that EVERYONE completed the form and handed it in. I was totally having flashbacks to elementary school as the lead flight attendant stood at the front of the cabin making sure that everyone was filling out their form, and I couldn’t help but to scribble furiously in fear of having to stay after class (and/or having my knuckles slapped with an old and splintery wooden ruler). I don’t remember them ever being so strict about this in the past.
So how did I do? Did you actually feel all Hawaiian-y as you read this review? FYI, I’m off that Austrian Airlines flight now and sitting in the United Club at LAX waiting for my connecting flight to SAN, so this entire thing was written in pieces while flying 6,137 miles around the world. Normally that’s not a big deal for most trip reports (I do it all the time), but these Hawaiian-based reviews are something I need to be in the mood for to get just right.
The next time I see this situation coming, I’m throwing a pineapple (and maybe a coconut bra or two) into my backpack to have something to stimulate and kickstart the neurons if I get stuck like I did today. Aloha!
Scott, I think those Hawaiian Air neo F seats look similar to the future Alaska F seats can Ming up in the conversion. With 45” of pitch they had to be pretty comfy. Especially with no seat mate!
“Coming up in” 🙂
Haha, yes, I do believe that these are the same seats “can Ming up” soon to AS. 🙂 It’s a really good seat too, so Hawaiian isn’t going to have the advantage for very long. They should have put lie-flats in those A321s!
The first time I flew Hawaiian’s A321neo was a year ago, when the airline first took delivery of their initial aircraft and folded them into the interisland schedule to offer an opportunity for flight crews to familiarize themselves with the plane. So my partner and I flew on it from Honolulu to Maui on a business day-trip, and unfortunately we were seated toward the rear on a flight operating at full capacity of 190 passengers. I think it took us longer to disembark the aircraft in Kahului than the actual 25-min. flight time from HNL. LOL! They’ve since gotten much better at the logistics; it only took me 10 minutes to get off the A321neo in Lihue, Kauai a week ago after a 6-hr. flight from LAX. Great aircraft.
You are very lucky to have had the chance to get a “preview” of this aircraft before all of us mainlanders did. It’s definitely the future for Hawaiian Airlines, though I’m not excited about the fact that it’ll be replacing the A330 on some mainland routes. It’s progress though!
Is there any difference from an Airbus A321neo from a cramped Boeing 737-900ER?
Not so much honestly – the Airbus is slightly wider, but for the most part there is no difference (other than how each individual airline configures them).
Love reading this piece and watching the video. You’re a riot!
Haha, thanks Sharon!