Hawaiian Airlines A321neo first class San Diego to Maui

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo first class San Diego to Maui

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
Aircraft: A321-271N
Registration: N204HA
Duration: 5 hours 23 minutes
Seat: 3J (first class)

hawaiian airlines a321neo side view illustration
Hawaiian Airlines A321neo (N204HA) side view illustration by norebbo.com. I don’t smoke (or drink), but I think I’m gonna need a cigarette and a scotch after illustrating that. Nice livery, but really hard to draw!!
SAN-OGG route map details
Our route from San Diego to Maui (Kahului) this morning: SXC213007 DUETS R576 DIALO R576 DUSAC R576 DENNS HAIKU1

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.

SANspotter selfie SAN terminal 2 west
Pacing nervously around the entrance of terminal two west here at SAN just after 4am. Is that dude in the white shirt and the security badge going to tackle me for attempting to get in the front door at such an early hour? I wasn’t looking to push my luck.
San Diego international airport terminal two arrivals level
See? I’m not kidding when I said that I arrived early!
Hawaiian airlines check-in counter San Diego airport
Having successfully avoided being tackled by that serious-looking security guy outside, I arrived at the Hawaiian Airlines check in counter only to realize that most normal people are still at home dead asleep (and I’m not normal).

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).

International gate 51 San Diego Airport
Looks like it’s going to be gate 51 for our flight to Maui this morning. It looks a lot different than the last time that I flew to Hawaii from here (which just so happened to be in the old Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 recliner-style first class seats).
Hawaiian Airlines gate San Diego airport
“4:39am”. I tried not to think about how deeply asleep I would be at this moment if I wasn’t such a nerdy AvGeek.
SANspotter selfie gate 51 SAN
Making the people watching the security cameras nervous as I frolic around the gate area checking out the seating options.
San Diego to Maui Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska airlines
While I was waiting for the sun to rise, I noticed that Alaska airlines also has a flight to OGG departing within minutes of this one. And if you’re curious, it was Hawaiian who chose to match the time of the Alaska flight (because when I originally booked this, it was scheduled to depart at 9am-ish). I’m thinking they’ll need to meet out there on the tarmac and battle it out with a huge pillow fight or something. The winner keeps the time slot!
Camden food company San Diego airport
Healthwhich time! How was it possible that I wasn’t the very first one in line at Camden Food Co when it opened at 5 AM? I guess I was having too much fun frolicking around with the furniture over at gate 51 and I lost track of the time. I tend to do that when I frolic.

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!

Gate 51 Hawaiian Airlines San Diego airport
I know. It’s likely that most of these people were still in bed when I was here several hours ago making the security guards nervous with my frolicking.

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.

San Diego airport international gate jet bridge
This is the point in the trip when you start debating whether or not you’re going to start off with a Mai Tai or a guava juice.
Hawaiian Airlines A321neo San Diego airport
There she is: a brand spanking new A321neo (N204HA) looking sharp with her big sister in the background.
Hawaiian airlines A321neo boarding door
The Hawaii state line. Once you walk through that door, you’re officially in the islands!
Hawaiian airlines A321neo First class seats
Yes, these may be the same seats that you would find in American Airlines domestic first class, but these are something special draped in that signature Hawaiian Airlines brown leather and gorgeous purple and blue mood lighting.
Hawaiian airlines A321neo First class seats
Hawaiian Airlines A321neo First class seats – far nicer than what Alaska Airlines is offering on their SAN-OGG flight over at terminal 1 at this morning. No pillow fight would solve that debate, as Alaska Airlines 737-900 first class doesn’t hold a candle to this! I felt tempted to send over a tray of Mai Tai’s to everyone on that other flight to help ease the tension.
Hawaiian Airlines first class pillows and blankets
Pillows and blankets for people like me who woke up much too early this morning and are already feeling the side effects of sleep deprivation. At least I was awake enough to appreciate being on this bird instead of a crappy United CRJ-200.
 No video screens Hawaiian airlines A321neo
There are no video screens in the headrests unfortunately, but that’s ok. Your addiction to Breaking Bad is unhealthy anyway and you need to weened off of it!
Hawaiian Airlines A321neo first class seat pitch
Hawaiian Airlines A321neo first class seat pitch. And the startling realization that I need to start packing lighter.

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.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo USB outlets
Virgin USB outlets between the seats that are still tight and crisp! There’s nothing worse than sticking your USB charger into an old and worn out port, only to have it fall out as soon as you let go. And yes, I wrote that entire sentence giggling like a 13-year-old boy telling dirty jokes to his buddies…

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.

SANspotter selfie Hawaiian Airlines A321neo first class
The signature SANspotter stone-cold look of approval. So far so good!
Hawaiian Airlines A321neo safety card
You know you’re on a fun flight when the characters in the safety card are wearing flower-print shirts and dresses.

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.

Hawaiian Airlines First class breakfast menu
First class breakfast menus are much more fun to read when the seat next to you is vacant.
Hawaiian Airlines A321neo San Diego
Try not to scratch the paint guys! She’s brand new still and doesn’t deserve any ugly blemishes quite yet.
Hawaiian airlines A330 San Diego
Pushing off the gate now, allowing me to get this nice close-up shot of the big A330 which will be departing for Honolulu in just a couple hours.
San Diego airport international gate
OK, the next two pics are for all of you San Diego airport fans who are curious about the progress of the international gate conversion here at terminal 2 west. In this pic, you can see that the far end is completed and fully operational. And why does saying it like that remind me of Star Wars?
San Diego airport international gate conversion
But it looks like there is still a lot of construction happening around gate 47. Does anyone know what’s happening here? Are these being converted into international gates as well? With a name like SANspotter, you would think that I would know these things…
San Diego airport scenery
Some miscellaneous scenery of the rest of the airport on our way out to the threshold of runway 27. I’m not totally sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I get a Cease and Desist letter from the San Diego Board of Tourism to stop posting such gloomy pics of this place. It’s not my fault! I just have a very nasty habit of flying on the most cloudiest of days that’s all.
San Diego departure Hawaiian airlines
Aaaand the equally-gloomy departure sequence. I’m sorry San Diego! You know I love you, but you gotta help me out with some sunshine for my trip reports.
A321neo window
That’s what I’m talkin’ about!
Why airlines wing and engine departure San Diego
At least the clouds matched the gray floral pattern of this livery. Being reminded of that gave me heartburn thinking about how difficult it was going to be to illustrate a side view illustration of this aircraft for the trip report. Oh, the annoying things I commit to…

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.

Hawaiian Airlines a321neo first class foot rest
First things first, let’s get comfortable! Unfortunately, this foot rest was a bit too small and not exactly positioned correctly to fulfill my definition of “comfortable”.
Hawaiian Airlines A321neo mood lighting
But then, all the window shades were shut and *this* happened. Who cares about tiny footrests when the mood lighting is so rich that it turns everything (including the people sitting next to you) blue!
Hawaiian Airlines first class iPad
Complementary iPad Mini’s full of good movies and TV to help pass the time. I don’t know about you, but a shot of guava juice would help me pass the time more than any movie could…
 Hawaiian airlines first class iPad Mini content
You can’t put a button like that in front of me and expect me to be an adult about it. Unfortunately, nothing exciting happened when I pressed it.

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!

Hawaiian Airlines first class guava juice and a macadamia nuts
That’s it! Mission accomplished. Turn this baby around and let’s go home, because I got what I wanted.
SANspotter selfie guava juice
“Where have you been all my life?”
SANspotter selfie Hawaiian Airlines first class snacks
Nom nom nom (because no Hawaiian Airlines review would be complete without the author stuffing his face full of macadamia nuts).
Flight from San Diego to Maui
Despite the lack of seat back video screens, the streaming content (viewable on your mobile device) featured a handy map of the current situation. Current situation: heading out over the ocean in a small narrowbody with nowhere to land if things go terribly wrong, and…ok, yeah, a Mai Tai does sound good right about now.
Hawaiian Airlines streaming content
I actually don’t mind the lack of seat back video screens, as long as the streaming content option has flight data and maps. Gotta make sure that the pilots are doing their job, ya know.

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.

Hawaiian Airlines first class breakfast
The quiche. Now, I’m about as far from being a gourmet as one could possibly be, but this totally reminded me of something that I would whip up in college. You know, when you have nothing but eggs and pepper and onions and you mix it all together hoping for the best. Yep – a little bit too peppery and oniony for my taste and all I could think about was being 19 again with too much homework to do. The sausages were really good though!

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).

SANspotter selfie Hawaiian Airlines A321neo
Good thing that I didn’t have a seatmate today, because I was swinging those elbows wrecklessly wide during the meal service.
Hawaiian Airlines first class dessert
Coconut and pineapple flavored pie for dessert?  Oh God yes. You’re not going to get this sort of thing on Alaska Airlines! Speaking of which, if you’re curious, do be sure to read my Hawaiian Airlines vs Alaska Airlines comparison to see how they compare.

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.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo wing and engine
A quick check out the window to make sure that nothing is on fire and that the wing is still there. Lookin’ good.
Hawaiian Airlines A321neo first class lavatory
Yeah, I’d say that qualifies as being Hawaiian!
Halfway to Hawaii
Hope nothing goes wrong now, because we’re getting wet if they’ve got to put ‘er down.

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.

Hawaiian airlines first class pre landing snack
I passed on the Mai Tai this time (sacraligous, I know) but I am never one to turn down a chocolate chip cookie.
Descending into Maui from the air
Starting descent into what I hope is OGG, because I see nothing but water in every direction. Worst case scenario, at least I have my swimming trunks in my backpack with me. I’m ready for anything!
 Approaching Maui Airbus a321neo
Swimming trunks aren’t going to save me from hungry sharks though, so let’s hope that Maui is within gliding distance.
Maui from the air
Whew! I was just about to strap on those swim trunks when I saw this. Land ho!
Approaching OGG airport
Ok, the light was all wrong and we were looking into the sun for much of the approach, but it’s necessary to include these pics just so you can get the full sense of what it’s like to land at OGG.
Maui landscape
Seems dry and arid, right? Looks can be deceiving, because Maui is anything but!
Landing at Maui airport
Welcome to Maui!
Maui airport Kahului
Remember how poopy the weather was the last time I landed here? It’s nice to see this place under blue skies!
First class style
I’m always the least stylish one in first class.
Arrival in Hawaii
There’s nothing quite like a jet bridge full of happy travelers ready to begin their Hawaiian vacation. Either that or they’re just happy as hell to get away from the guy who was taking pictures and video of everything.

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!

Comments (9)

  1. Jimmy Gottfredson

    August 21, 2018
  2. Jimmy Gottfredson

    August 21, 2018
    • SANspotter

      August 22, 2018
  3. Donald Koelper

    December 9, 2018
    • SANspotter

      December 9, 2018
  4. Albert

    February 23, 2019
    • SANspotter

      February 24, 2019
  5. Sharon

    October 25, 2022
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      October 26, 2022

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