One of the best parts about being an airline blogger is flying really interesting airlines to my favorite places on earth. Technically, this is “work” and these are all “business trips”. But let’s be honest here – gathering the content needed for this Hawaiian Airlines first class review was some of the best fun I’ve had in a good long while.
It should be noted that Hawaiian Airlines first class reviews are nothing new to me. There was that really fun A321neo flight to Maui I reviewed last year. Back in 2015, I reviewed the their A330 first class product (both SAN-HNL and HNL-SAN) when they were still flying around with those dreaded old recliner seats.
But this time it’s different. This flight to Honolulu was my first time getting to experience the all new Hawaiian Airlines A330 lie flat first class product, and I could barely contain my excitement. Just another day at the office I suppose…
San Diego, CA (SAN) – Honolulu, HI (HNL)
Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Duration: 6 hours 7 minutes
Seat: 3J (first class)
The full video review
Even though I have flown Hawaiian Airlines first class before and I already (kinda) knew what to expect, making my first ever video about the experience was tons of fun. Of course the fact that I was on my way to Hawaii probably had a lot to do with it, but whatever.
This was a really fun edit. I did have a bit of difficulty trying to decide if I was going to go all-in on Hawaiian-themed music for it, but in the end I decided that a more casual and “hip” approach was best. Thankfully, my buds over at Epidemic Sound have an extensive library of YouTube music for any occasion, so finding the perfect tracks for this video was not a problem. As usual.
Full transcript of my Hawaiian Airlines first class video (with pics!)
Hey everyone, it’s Scott from sanspotter.com here, and…uh…yeah. The weather is absolutely abysmal here in San Diego this morning, but I don’t mind. You see, I’m headed out to Hawaii today on Hawaiian airlines flight number 15 to Honolulu and (rumor has it) the weather is a little better out there than it is here.
Yup, the A330 that we San Diegan’s know and love being is swapped to the A321neo next month, which (I hate to say it) is enough of a downgrade for me to start considering other airlines (such as Alaska Airlines) for my future travels between San Diego and Hawaii. Unless of course, I start my own airline…
The boarding process for flight 15 to Honolulu
Ok, I suck really hard at math, which is good I guess, because fantasizing about starting an airline offering double-daily A380 service between San Diego and Honolulu made me feel real good inside as they initiated the boarding process. Yeah, it may be a stupid idea, but let me have my fantasy, ok?
So this is it. The last time I’ll get to board a Hawaiian Airlines a330 here in San Diego. Unless, of course, they realize that the A321 is too small of an aircraft for this route and they bring the A330 back with their tail tucked between their legs. If they don’t, would any of you be willing to lend me $500 billion to start an airline? I’ll pay you back. I promise.
Hawaiian Airlines A330 lie flat first class seats
Here we go with my first ever experience with the Hawaiian Airlines lie flat first class seats. Well, technically, they are more like business class seats than anything else, but it is what it is.
These seats are very unique though, which is neat because, to me, its one of the things that sets Hawaiian Airlines apart from all the others. So far so good.
Anyway, this menu is just another thing that made me realize that I’m probably *not* going to go forward with the SANspotter Airways thing. I know for a fact that the food would be terrible on my airline, since I’d have all my money tied up my fleet of A380s.
There was a slight delay pushing off the gate, as we had to wait for a tour group of 50 people to arrive. Honestly, I don’t understand the need to swap the A330 to an A321. This flight is 100% full today, and from what I hear, it goes out full on a daily basis.
Woo hoo! A runway 9 (reverse ops) takeoff at SAN
The weather was absolutely abysmal, which means runway 9 was in use as we pushed off the gate. For those of you who are not familiar with the San Diego Airport, it’s an extremely rare occurrence which only happens a few times a year.
FYI, I’ve only had the opportunity to experience this one other time in my life and that was waaay before I started doing airline reviews. Heeeere we go….
Getting all settled in for the long flight to Honolulu
Is there no better feeling in the world than knowing that you’re officially on your way to Hawaii? Of course we just took off and there’s always the possibility of having to crash land into Tijuana or something, but for now I’m just gonna sit back, relax, and think of island stuff.
Hot towels were passed out within the first 10 minutes of flight, and from there, I proceeded to struggle to figure out how to recline the seat. Turns out that there is a dial in the arm rest that controls seat angle, which is something I would’ve known if I was paying attention to the video demonstration they played just before pushback.
While they were busy passing out the iPads, I had plenty of time to figure out how to configure my seat for said iPad.
Hawaiian Airlines first class food
Macadamia nuts were served just before the main meal service. I paired it with a glass of water, and – I know. A Mai Tai would have been the proper choice here, but if there’s one thing that the brief look at the menu earlier taught me, it’s that I needed to pace myself. There’s a ton of very rich food coming…
Upon completion of the breakfast service, I tried my best to get footage of me looking cool and sophisticated as I stowed the tray table. Unfortunately, I’m neither cool nor sophisticated, and I failed miserably.
Enjoying the ambiance of Hawaiian Airlines first class
With just about an hour and a half of flying time remaining, I felt an urge to get video footage of that big engine spinning right outside my window. Yup – I was kinda feeling like being “that guy”. You know, the guy who opens the window shade and blinds everyone in the cabin because he needs video footage of the engine. Do I be that guy? Or do I *not* be that guy?
These lie flat seats are pretty comfy when fully flat, and I know that I could sleep like a baby in one of these on a long flight down to Australia or something.
Sure, there are no lie flat seats on the A321s, but Hawaiian Airlines cabin service is so hard to beat that I’d personally choose that nonstop A321 out of San Diego instead of connecting at LAX or SFO to a United or Delta flight with lie flat seats. Really.
Arrival in Honolulu
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Honolulu!
Wanna see more? Then do stay tuned for my next post, which is a full review of Hawaiian Airlines Extra Comfort (premium economy) on the flight back to San Diego from Honolulu.
Pros and cons of Hawaiian Airlines first class
As you might imagine, Hawaiian Airlines first class is really good. However, it’s not perfect and there were a few things about it that I didn’t particularly care for. Here’s a direct comparison of all the things that I liked and didn’t like about this particular experience:
- The lie flat seats are very comfortable
- The fact that they even offer a lie flat seating option is remarkable enough considering that that Alaska Airlines (one of their main competitors) does not. To see how they compare, do be sure to read my Alaska Airlines vs Hawaiian Airlines writeup.
- Cabin crews are exceptional – very proactive and welcoming
- High-quality food
- The seats have limited privacy compared to what other airlines offer. A good example of this contrast can be seen in my United Airlines vs Hawaiian Airlines comparison.
- Relatively small food portions
- Video entertainment is via individual iPads (no in-seat video screens)
- I personally find the cabin humidity levels to be lower on the A330 than they are on competing aircraft (such as the Boeing 777). If you’ve got delicate sinuses like I do, I highly recommend reading my A330 vs 777 comparison to read about more of my thoughts on this.
For the record, there was more that I liked about it then I didn’t. A better way of saying the same thing is that I consider Hawaiian Airlines first class to be the best domestic US first class product at the moment.It’s that good.
How much did I pay for this flight?
With so much competition on the SAN-HNL route, it’s no surprise that Hawaiian Airlines first class can be purchased relatively cheaply. I paid just $819 for this segment, which is an absolute steal considering the high levels of service that Hawaiian Airlines cabin crews provide. You also get a fully lie flat seat, so￼￼ to me it’s a total no-brainer at this price.
(It should be noted that I was sponsored by Surfshark for this video, which helped to offset my out of pocket costs.)
To sweeten the deal, I purchased this ticket with my American Express Platinum card, which gives me 5 points for every dollar spent on airfare. ￼That means I earned 2,268 Hawaiian Miles + 4,095 Amex Membership Rewards points, for a total of 6,363 points.
- 100,000 welcome points (woo-hoo!)
- Earn 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels
- $200 hotel credit + $200 airline fee credit + $155 Walmart credit + $240 digital entertainment credit (and much more)
- Transfer points to a wide variety of global airline and hotel partners
Note that Membership Rewards points can be transferred to a wide variety of airlines at a 1:1 ratio￼, so I’m pretty happy with the amount of points I earned on this segment considering that I have no status on Hawaiian Airlines at all.￼