What Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 first class was like in 2015 (SAN-HNL-SAN)

What Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 first class was like in 2015 (SAN-HNL-SAN)

Heads up! This is a vintage airline review (which features the old style seats). Be sure to read my latest Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 first class review to see what the experience is like today. Basically, it kicks the snot out of what you’re about to read.

Segment 1 0f 2: San Diego to Honolulu

I was pretty excited when I booked this reservation, mainly because I’ve never had the chance to try Hawaiian Airlines first class before. I knew it wasn’t anything special compared to other US airlines, but still. The service on every other Hawaiian Airlines flight I’ve been on has been top notch so I was expecting good things in the front cabin.

But if I’m being totally honest, I would have been excited about this even if I wasn’t flying first class. You don’t have to twist my arm very hard to convince me to go to Hawaii. 

San Diego, CA (SAN) – Honolulu, HI (HNL)
Friday, November 6, 2015
Aircraft: A330-200
Registration: N395HA
Seat: 3H (first class)

Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 side view N395HA
Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 (N395HA) side view illustration by NorebboStock.com
san diego to honolulu route map
Our route from San Diego to Honolulu today as HA15.

I arrived at SAN about three hours before departure, which to most probably seems absurdly early. I wouldn’t disagree, but I like to arrive early to avoid any and all stress. Besides – airports (especially terminal 2 here at SAN) are nice places to hang out and get some work done assuming that things aren’t too busy. Friday mornings aren’t usually busy anyway, and this morning was no exception.

SAN terminal 2 departures level
Moments after arriving at SAN via a taxi and walking into Terminal 2 West
hawaiian airlines check in san diego
Hawaiian Airlines check in counter
Honolulu here I come!
Honolulu here I come!

I hung out at the departure gate (51) for a while, then decided to get up and walk around once it started filling up with other passengers. Gate 51 has a very large and wide open seating area, but it fills up fast with Airbus A330 sized loads.

san diego airport terminal 2 west interior
Making the walk all the way to the end of terminal 2
gate 51 san diego international airport
Yep, I arrived a bit early. There’s nobody here yet!
gate 51 san diego airport
I will say that I really like the interior design of this airport. The new gate counters are really nice.
hawaiian airlines flight information board san diego
Close up of the flight information board showing an on time departure.

I boarded the aircraft as soon as they called for zone 1 (first class passengers), hoping to be one of the first on the airplane so I could get some unobstructed pics of the first class cabin. It didn’t quite work out that way – the cabin was half full by the time I got onboard so I had to make due with what I had.

boarding hawaiian airlines flight san diego
Moments before general boarding began
boarding flight to honolulu
The downside about gate 51 here at SAN is that it’s really difficult to get a clear view of the aircraft. Here’s what it looks like walking down the jet bridge.
gate 51 jet bridge SAN
I do like this jet bridge though – the glass windows are a nice touch, and I believe this is the only jet bridge at SAN that is wide open like this (at the time of this writing).
hawiian airlines a330 first class seat
My first class seat for the five and a half hour flight to HNL today (3H)
hawaiian airlines a330 first class seat
This is a standard first class recliner seat, which will be replaced with lie flat seats beginning next year
hawaiian airlines a330 first class cabin
Looking forward towards the front of the first class cabin
hawaiian airlines first class cabin
A slightly better overall shot of the first class cabin (and of course that ONE person looking directly at the camera!)
hawaiian airlines a330 economy plus seating
Directly behind first class is economy plus seating. Notice the lack of a bulkhead separating the two cabins.
hawaiian airlines a330 first class leg room
The view from the seat seemed spacious and open.
hawaiian airlines a330 first class leg room
Plenty of leg room here! Seems more spacious than Delta or United first class I think…
first class seat entertainment system remote
Just a miscellaneous shot of the entertainment system remote. Nothing fancy here, but I am looking forward to seeing the entertainment options in the new first class product next year.

The rest of the first class passengers slowly trickled in during the entire boarding process, with the flight attendants coming by and offering a choice of three beverages: guava juice, champagne, or a combination of both. I went with straight guava juice – seemed appropriate and in theme to kick off a trip to the islands!

Pre-Departure guava juice
Pre-Departure guava juice
hawaiian airlines a330 cargo san diego
Loading the last of the cargo moments before the boarding door was shut

The window seat next to me remained empty all the way up until the end of the boarding process, and I was actually getting excited about the possibility of moving over into the window seat. That’s what I wanted anyway, but none were available at the time of booking. Alas, it was not meant to be.

A very large (and very friendly) Samoan guy came onboard right at the last moment and claimed it. He later said that he was on his way to visit his family in Samoa, and being the big guy that he is, economy class was simply not an option! He laughed about how uncomfortable flights to Samoa are due to the fact that everyone is (on average) so big…

The flight attendants came through the cabin taking lunch and drink orders, and pushback was right on time. We were off and on our way without delay, and as an added bonus, I discovered that one of the guys I follow on Instagram (@mykingdomphotography) got a great pic of our aircraft rotating out of SAN that morning:

san diego airliner photography by @mykingdomphotography
And we’re off! HUGE thanks to @mykingdomphotography (on Instagram) for capturing the departure this morning. Awesome shot, isn’t it?

Agriculture forms were distributed just after departure, and I was surprised that hot towels were not. It’s not a big deal to me, but that seems like a fairly standard practice for even domestic US first class service. I should note, however, that the hot towels came after dinner – which makes sense I guess. And boy were they hot. Ouch!

Lunch service, as expected, was great. Not as high-quality as something you’d experience in international first class on an Asian airline, but probably some of the best food I’ve ever had on a domestic US flight. Even the service was top-notch. The flight attendants were super friendly, professional, and most importantly: proactive.

They came through the aisles on a regular basis during all phases of the flight checking up on everyone to make sure their drink glasses were filled and everyone was happy.

hawaiian airlines first class menu cover
Western US Cities to HawaI’I First Class Lunch / Dinner menu cover (June- November 2015)
hawaiian airlines first class menu
Menu interior
hawaiian airlines first class appetizer
The appetizer: cheese plate with crackers
hawaiian airlines first class main course
The main course: Braised chicken with tomato, garbanzo, bell pepper, green peas and mashed potatoes
hawaiian airlines first class dessert
The dessert: fresh brownie ( I passed on the whipped cream though)

I passed the time watching Entourage and then episodes of Big Bang Theory. The movie was so-so, but I’m a pretty huge Big Bang Theory fan so that’s never a bad way to kill time in my book.

hawaiian airlines first class entertainment
The personal video screens were of decent size, and are stored in the center arm rest when not in use.
airplane bathroom selfie
Bathroom selfie time! 🙂
hawaiian airlines a330 first class lavatory
There’s not much to note about the first class lavatory, but the flowers were a nice touch.
hawaiian airlines a330 in flight
Getting closer now! Only about 40 minutes to go at this point.

The combination of comfortable seats and top-notch flight attendants made the flight go by in the blink of an eye, and we ended up arriving in Honolulu about 30 minutes early. That was great for vacationers like me, but not so great for my seat mate who was already facing a 3 hour layover before his flight to Samoa.

We chatted for a bit as we landed and pulled into the gate, and yeah…I’m not going to lie when I say that it felt great to step off that airplane and feel that warm tropical air.

N395HA a330
N395HA getting a well-deserved rest in Honolulu after the flight from SAN.

Segment 2 of 2: Honolulu to San Diego

After 2 fun-filled days frolicking around the island of Oahu, it was time to return to reality.

I grabbed a taxi from the hotel, and was standing curbside at HNL less than 20 minutes later. That might have been the quickest trip to Honolulu International Airport from Waikiki that I’ve ever experienced, which didn’t really do me any favors since I still had over 3 hours before my flight home to SAN.

Honolulu, HI (HNL) – San Diego, CA (SAN)
Sunday, November 8, 2015
Aircraft: A330-200
Registration N385HA
Seat: 2C (first class)

Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 side view N385HA
Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 (N385HA) side view illustration by NorebboStock.com
route from honolulu to san diego
Our route from Honolulu to San Diego today as HA16
Standing curbside at HNL
Standing curbside at HNL – I don’t wanna go home!
hawaiian airlines signage
U.S. domestic flights check in straight ahead

I quickly checked into the flight from one of the many kiosks in the main terminal, then wiggled my way through crowds of people to find the end of the security checkpoint queue. It was long.

And there weren’t any first-class priority lanes other than the Precheck line that they seemed to be letting anyone use since things were so busy. But all in all it wasn’t much of a wait, as I was through and into the main terminal in less than 15 minutes.

Hawaiian airlines terminal HNL
Main check in hall looking towards the right
hawaiian airlines check in honolulu
Main check in hall looking towards the left
hawaiian airlines kiosk honolulu
Checking in at one of the many kiosks. Sure wish people would learn to take care of their trash!
hawaiian airlines boarding pass
My boarding pass for the flight to San Diego

I’ve said it before, but I love the Honolulu airport. The sense of nostalgia is great here, as the old open air terminal is still standing just as it was before the newer (and more modern) main terminal opened. The old driveways and boarding lanes for the old terminal are still there, just as they used to be, and you can easily imagine how cool it would have been to arrive to this simple open air terminal as opposed to having to go through the hugely modern and soulless terminal that exists now.

outdoor seating area honolulu airport
“Central Park” at the Honolulu International Airport
honolulu airport open air terminal
I love the natural textures of the open air terminal
honolulu airport old structure
The old departures/arrivals roadway outside the open air terminal – now only used by shuttle busses
honolulu international airport flight information cabinet
I love those old flight information “cabinets” made from real wood

I spent the majority of my time walking around, checking out the Hawaiian Airlines Premier Club, and basically feeling bummed that I had to go back home. Hawaii always does this to me. I don’t think I could live on the islands full time, but I would really like to spend extended periods of time here. Sigh. Oh well – time to go home.

Hawaiian Airlines A330
Our Hawaiian Airlines A330 to San Diego parked at the gate
honolulu airport flight information display
I wonder how many people get confused with all these silly codeshare flight numbers? I can assure you that China Airlines does not fly to San Diego!
honolulu airport gate
Moments before general boarding started
jet bridge honolulu
Walking down the jet bridge to board the flight

I know that I’ve already posted a ton of pics of the Hawaiian Airlines first class recliner seats for the SAN-HNL segment (above) , but I’m going to to it again now simply because I was seated in the center section this time. The feeling was slightly different than before:

Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 first class cabin
Full overview of the Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 first class cabin
first class layout
As you can see, first class consists of three rows of seats in a 2-2-2 layout
Complimentary blankets
Complimentary blankets on every seat
first class window seats
Seats 2A and B
hawaiian airlines first class recliner seats
This configuration is definitely comfortable, but these big recliner seats do look dated
hawaiian airlines first class leg room
Miles of leg room – not bad for a US domestic first class product

Now that I already knew what to expect from Hawaiian Airlines first class (the flight over from SAN was great!), I was able to feel a bit more relaxed as I was getting settled and waiting for the boarding door to close. Well, I tried to relax – the guy next to me in seat 2D was as fidgety as a 3 year old.

He was about my age, but I swear he couldn’t sit still for more than 30 seconds without re-rranging something or sighing heavily and looking around or reading a magazine…or whatever. He was exactly the kind of person I try to avoid contact with on airplanes, because I feel overwhelmingly paranoid that they just want someone to talk to.

I don’t mind quick hello’s and small talk, but other than that I prefer to keep to myself and be as relaxed as possible in my own little world. This guy was truly my nemesis! Lol…

Despite the distraction, I remained focused on my pre-departure guava juice as I perused the dinner menu. I should note that the flight attendants were very proactive so far – they were quite busy welcoming passengers, serving drinks, and taking orders for dinner. Service like that while we are still on the ground is something I definitely like to see!

hawaiian airlines pre departure guava juice
My last swig of guava juice for a while
hawaiian airlines a330 bulkhead
Waiting for push back

We pushed back right on time and blasted off the reef runway just a few minutes later. Additional beverages and a light snack were served shortly after take off, and I watched a few TV shows on the personal video display while I waited for lunch to be served.

I was getting pretty hungry at this point – my last meal was an acai bowl from Island Vintage Coffee earlier that morning, and considering it was now shortly after 4pm, my body was more than ready for food.

hawaiian airlines first class entertainment
Personal video screen showing the entertainment system
hawaiian airlines first class snack
Enjoying a quick snack before the meal service begins
Menu cover
Menu cover
hawaiian airlines first class menu
Let’s have a look and see what’s for dinner…

Just like on the SAN-HNL flight two days earlier, appetizers were served first, followed by the main course, then finished with dessert. The only notable thing about the presentation of the meal was when the main course was served. The flight attendant simply said “here’s lunch…or…dinner…or whatever you want to call it…” as she placed it on my tray.

Not that I was expecting an eloquent presentation of the meal or anything, but her lack of experience came through loud and clear. Not a big deal though – she was very young and obviously new to this, so I didn’t think much of it. She’ll have to polish her game if she wants to work on an Asian or Middle Eastern airline though!

hawaiian airlines first class appetizer
Appetizer: Chilled ramen salad with salted dried beef, fish cake, and cucumber kimchee with soy ginger vinaigrette. And yes, I found the photo book advertisement on the tray to be a bit tacky.
hawaiian airlines first class main course
Main course: grilled huli huli style marinated portobello mushroom, French green lentils, with roasted potato
Hawaiian airlines first class dessert
Dessert: they called it a “sweet treat”, but it looked more like cake to me!

With dinner complete, I spent the rest of the flight watching watched Friends, Louis, Mike and Molly, and a couple other TV sitcoms while my seat mate continued to figit and bounce from one distraction to the next. The flight attendants continued to be proactive throughout the flight making sure that everyone was happy.

first class lavatory
Obligatory pic of the first class lavatory

Surprisingly, we started our decent into SAN about 30 minutes early – which was a very good thing since we had been  scheduled to arrive at 11pm and I had to get up early the next morning and go to work. Having that extra 30 minutes was very much a good thing!

So that wraps up this Hawaii trip report. I had a really great time, though I could have easily spent another day (or 10…or 60) there sitting around and doing absolutely nothing. The flights on Hawaiian Airlines were quite good as well – better than I had been expecting actually, and it was a total bummer when the seatbelt sign was turned off and they turned on the cabin lights once we parked at the gate in San Diego.

Comments (7)

  1. Ke

    January 30, 2016
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      January 31, 2016
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    March 4, 2017
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      March 5, 2017
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    February 21, 2020
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      February 21, 2020
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        March 12, 2020

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