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Review of Hawaiian Airlines' domestic first class

Quick take: Hawaiian Airlines’ Airbus A330 offers lie-flat seats and an island-inspired experience in first class, though the seating configuration means not every passenger has direct aisle access and inflight Wi-Fi is unavailable.


  • The friendly crew offers genuine and personalized service to each first-class passenger.
  • Hawaii’s culture and the spirit of aloha are instantly palpable on board.
  • The lie-flat seats are sleek and comfortable.


  • Hawaiian Airlines is late to the tech party, with no onboard Wi-Fi and no way to preorder non-specialty meals.
  • A cluster of flights and overwhelmed agents meant a wait of more than 30 minutes at check-in, even in designated first-class lines.
  • Narrow seats and few storage areas made it hard to keep personal belongings at hand.

Ever since Hawaiian Airlines upgraded its Airbus A330 fleet in 2016 with lie-flat seats and cabin decor inspired by Hawaii‘s natural splendors, including sandy tones and wavy designs meant to evoke the ocean, I was eager to experience the airline’s first-class service for myself. (As a side note, the airline will begin taking delivery of Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners with a new first class next year.)

Here’s what it’s like flying Hawaiian Airlines‘ first class on the A330 from Hawaii to Seattle.

How much does first class cost to book on Hawaiian Airlines?


Hawaiian Airlines flies the Airbus A330 from Maui’s Kahului Airport (OGG) and Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) to various destinations in the mainland U.S. (among other long-haul routes). Here’s where you can currently find the plane in service.

Hawaiian’s A330 U.S. routes. GCMAP.COM

Hawaiian Airlines also flies the Airbus A330 to various destinations in the Pacific, including American Samoa, Australia, French Polynesia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

On other mainland U.S. routes, you can expect to fly on the single-aisle Airbus A321neo, which is equipped with recliner seats in first class similar to what you’d find on most domestic flights on other legacy U.S. carriers. With lie-flat seats and a more spacious cabin than the A321, try to book Hawaiian Airlines’ A330 if you can choose between the two plane types.

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Hawaiian operates daily flights between Maui and Seattle and sells basic economy seats, standard economy seats, Extra Comfort seats with more legroom and first-class seats. Here’s what is included with economy versus first-class fares on this specific route.

Class Change fees Checked bag fees Seat selection Boarding zone
Economy $0 (no changes for main cabin basic) $30 for the first checked bag, $40 for the second checked bag $87 to $127 for extra legroom, $29 to $33 for a preferred location like window or aisle near the front of cabin, $0 for all other seats Main cabin boarding (Zone 3 to 6)
First class $0 Two free bags $0 First-class boarding (Zone 1)

The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® offers two free checked bags for the primary cardmember when you use your card to purchase eligible tickets directly from Hawaiian Airlines. Cardholders are also eligible for a $100 companion discount annually for round-trip travel between Hawaii and North America on Hawaiian Airlines after each account anniversary.

The information for the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Cardholder or not, here’s what Hawaiian charges to confirm day-of-departure upgrades from economy to first class on the Maui-to-Seattle route based on your status with the airline’s HawaiianMiles program:

  • Nonmember/HawaiianMiles general member: starting at $489
  • Discounted rate for HawaiianMiles Pualani Gold elite members: starting at $399
  • Discounted rate for HawaiianMiles Pualani Platinum elite members: starting at $349

Hawaiian doesn’t offer Pualani elite members complimentary first-class upgrades on non-inter-island flights, but Pualani Platinum members can use first-class upgrade certificates to confirm upgrades.

As you might expect, you can redeem HawaiianMiles to fly first class on Hawaiian Airlines, but be prepared for blackout dates during peak travel periods.

Here’s a look at round-trip airfares and award prices on this route, which are available for the general public, HawaiianMiles members and Hawaiian Airlines elite members.

Class Economy First class
Cash price (round trip) $257 to $963 $997 to $5,240
Miles (round trip) 40,000 to 120,000 (plus $11.20 in taxes and fees) 80,000 to 240,000 (plus $11.20 in taxes and fees)

For my flight, the one-way airfare cost $770.50, and we redeemed 77,050 American Express points from our account with The Business Platinum Card® from American Express to book the ticket using the Pay with Points feature. When you pay with points from the Business Platinum, you can get 35% of your points back on first- or business-class tickets on any airline. That effectively meant the ticket cost 50,082 Amex points, and I earned 3,957 HawaiianMiles, which is 150% of the flight distance.

Some of the other best credit cards for booking airfare include:

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards and Bilt Rewards points to HawaiianMiles, but since TPG’s valuations peg HawaiianMiles at just 0.9 cents apiece, we don’t generally recommend doing so.

Checking into and boarding first class on Hawaiian Airlines


For my flight, I traveled from Honolulu to Seattle via Maui, so my point of departure was the Hawaiian capital.

Twenty-four hours before my flight, I checked in on the Hawaiian Airlines website, which allows you to pay for checked bags in advance and confirm seat assignments. The airline also has self-service kiosks at airports where you can print out your luggage tags and bring them to the belt.

My journey started in the early afternoon with a short hop from Honolulu to Maui. Many flights depart at this time of day, so the check-in hall was bustling with passengers. The first-class line had around a half-hour wait time, with about a half-dozen parties waiting for the lone agent checking passengers in.

While I didn’t check luggage on my itinerary, it would have been faster to use the self-service kiosks and drop luggage off at the belt, even though there isn’t a designated priority line for this option.

Hawaiian Airlines operates two lounges in Honolulu. The Plumeria Lounge, which offers complimentary hot food and beverages including alcohol, is reserved for business-class passengers on the airline’s international itineraries and Pualani Platinum members traveling on international flights on the airline in any class, plus first-class passengers traveling to JFK and BOS on the airline. Priority Pass and Lounge Key members can also access this lounge, but you must add yourself to the waitlist beforehand.


Pualani Platinum members on domestic flights as well as Gold elite members and all other first-class Hawaiian Airlines passengers (including those on inter-island flights) can access the Premier Club. With basic amenities like coffee, tea, soft drinks and pretzels (as well as free Wi-Fi), this lounge’s offerings are much more limited than those in the Plumeria Lounge.

Additionally, Hawaiian has Premier Clubs with similar amenities in Hilo International Airport (ITO), Kona International Airport (KOA), OGG and Kauai’s Lihue Airport (LIH).

Since I was flying domestic first class, I could access the Premier Club lounge in Honolulu and Maui. The lounge in Honolulu, situated near gate A18, was full of passengers in the afternoon.

After arriving in Maui, it was a quick walk to the gate for my Seattle flight. Connecting passengers bound for the mainland U.S. must pass through agricultural screening, which generally takes less than a minute. The gate area had plenty of seating, though there weren’t any power outlets at the seats.

The boarding process on Hawaiian Airlines is organized into six zones. Boarding began promptly at 2:30 p.m., with first-class passengers boarding in Zone 1 after passengers needing extra time. While there was a luggage sizer near the gate to ensure carry-on bags were the proper size, the gate agents didn’t seem to strictly enforce the carry-on baggage policy.

How comfortable was first class on Hawaiian Airlines?

First class on Hawaiian Airlines’ A330 has the following specifications.

Number of seats 18
Cabin layout Three rows of seats in 2-2-2 configuration
Seat pitch and recline 45 to 46 inches in the upright position, 76-inch lie-flat bed
Seat width 19.5 to 20.5 inches
Screen size 10.9-inch iPad

As soon as you step on board Hawaiian Airlines, you are greeted with the islands’ famous aloha spirit. The atmosphere on my flight was established with videos of children performing traditional hula dances set to soothing music on the cabin monitors. Passengers were offered a choice of Flor prosecco, passion-orange-guava juice or Hawaiian’s renowned mai tai cocktail with fresh pineapple slices.

The brown leather lie-flat seats in Hawaiian Airlines first class are best designed for couples since they’re arranged in a 2-2-2 pattern. The legroom provided ample space for stretching out, and the seat’s padding was comfortable. I selected a window seat in the bulkhead, 1A, to be in the front of the cabin. That said, you might find more under-seat storage in other rows.

The limited width and lack of storage in these seats left me juggling the provided blanket, pillow, water bottle and headphones along with my phone and charging cord. The seat did have a small bottle holder beneath the reclining wheel switch and a compact under-seat storage area located under the footwell.


With just a single seat control wheel, you can only get from upright to lie-flat with intermediate positions along the way rather than maneuvering individual components of the seat. That made it difficult to get the seat in a comfortable lounging position. I would have preferred the ability to raise the footrest without reclining the seat too far back, for instance.

The overhead light switch and call buttons were located just below the seat control. There was also a fixed, narrow armrest on the other side of the seat.

I couldn’t help but notice the absence of seatback screens. The flight attendants quickly distributed headphones and iPads after takeoff. The seat design includes an extendable device stand for the iPads. Interestingly, economy seats have built-in seatback entertainment, which I found myself desiring for an easier way to track the flight’s progress — something that’s not possible on the iPads.

Each seat has two USB ports: one under the seat control wheel on the middle armrest and another near the power outlet, which is located between the seats.


Additionally, a not-so-private translucent screen can be extended between the seats for added privacy. While the divider is a thoughtful feature, I couldn’t shake the feeling of social awkwardness when considering extending it while my seatmate was seated next to me, especially since it was down during boarding. The privacy divider could have been more effective in limiting your neighbor’s view into your space if it extended higher up.

In the lie-flat position, I managed to get about two hours of sleep after the meal service. Overall, the seat felt tight with both of my shoulders bumping between the armrests on each side.


The A330 has a single bathroom for first-class passengers located at the front of the plane. Although this is common for the A330, with only 18 passengers on board, there was rarely a wait to use it. The flight attendants regularly serviced it throughout the flight, so it was kept clean.

The lavatory offered some welcomed amenities, including coconut-scented liquid soap, Lolii relaxation hydrating mist and hand and body balm. A delightful display of flowers and leaves also added a refreshing touch to the lavatory.

Amenities on Hawaiian Airlines first class

Upon boarding, I found a basic pillow and a fleece-like blanket similar to those many other airlines give out to long-haul economy-class passengers waiting at my seat.

Hawaiian provides upgraded bedding and amenity kits from Hawaiian skincare brand Kealopiko on flights over eight hours. On my flight, there weren’t any noteworthy amenities like dental kits, earplugs or eyemasks available.


There was also no Wi-Fi or internet streaming on my flight, but the crew distributed iPads and headphones to first-class passengers. There were dozens of movies and TV shows on the iPads, including titles like “80 For Brady,” “All Rise” and “A Tale of Two Sisters.” There was also a handful of video games. The airline plans to gradually add free Starlink Wi-Fi to its fleet.

The carrier did provide over-ear headphones to first-class passengers. While they were comfortable, they didn’t do an effective job of canceling out ambient noise. You can also plug in your own headphones or connect your wireless headphones to the iPad.


How was the food in Hawaiian Airlines first class?

Flight attendants offered first-class passengers on my flight a predeparture beverage choice of prosecco, POG juice or mai tais. The crew also handed out printed menus. The meal included creations from executive chefs Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka of MW Restaurant and chef Dell Valdez of Vein at Kakaako.

Before takeoff, food and drink orders were taken, and after about 20 minutes in the air, passengers were offered macadamia nuts with their first beverage service followed approximately 10 minutes later by a single meal tray with the appetizer and main course.


Dinner consisted of an asparagus salad with arugula, radish and cage-free egg crumble with miso-honey dressing. There was also a Hawaiian sweet roll with butter.

The main course choices included:

  • Braised beef bourguignon with daikon (Japanese radish) and walnut and mushroom Israeli couscous
  • Roasted kabocha (pumpkin) and garbanzo beans with curry farfalle pasta

I ordered the beef, but the texture was very fatty and tasted more like salty beef chunks than a savory beef stew braised in red wine. In contrast, the salad was fresh and had a pleasant, subtly sweet tanginess, complemented by the miso-honey dressing.


The single option for dessert was a pineapple yuzu cake, which was light, sweet and refreshing.


Cocktail lovers will appreciate the airline’s selection of five specialty libations, including a pineapple daiquiri and the Aviation featuring Larios Gin with notes of dry cherry, lemon and violet.

A small range of beverages and wines, including prosecco, a choice of one red or white wine, white Hawaiian rum, two beers from the Maui Brewing Company, various Hawaiian-inspired soft drinks and popular soda brands, are also available on board. The crew consistently ensured drinks were refilled and periodically checked in on passengers throughout the flight.

Before landing, the crew offered first-class passengers Hawaiian Host chocolate-covered macadamia nuts as a final treat.


The crew on my flight stood out as one of the most genuine and efficient teams I have had on a flight in recent memory.

Upon our boarding, they greeted passengers by their last names and inquired about their preferred form of address for the flight.

During service, they extended passengers’ tray tables for them and gracefully arranged their tablecloths. Moreover, the crew went the extra mile by verbally announcing each dish and beverage as they served them. For instance, instead of simply presenting the main course, they would say, “Kyle, for your dinner, we have prepared the braised beef bourguignon with Japanese radish, walnut and mushroom Israeli couscous. Enjoy.”

Overall, the crew helped make the experience that much more memorable and enjoyable.

Would you recommend Hawaiian Airlines’ first class?


Despite the lack of Wi-Fi, a lengthy check-in line in Honolulu and quirky seats, Hawaiian Airlines’ A330 first class is a comfortable (if not over-awing) way to fly.

These seats wouldn’t be competitive on a long-haul business-class route like Los Angeles to London or Paris because of their lack of direct aisle access, privacy and storage, some of which should be remedied by the forthcoming first class that will be available on the airline’s new Boeing 787s.

However, for a leisure destination where most travelers tend to be couples or families, the seats are a fine fit.


What the airline might lack in panache, it makes up for in character. For instance, every A330 aircraft in Hawaiian Airlines’ fleet carries a symbolic name associated with Hawaii’s history. Just before the safety video, the purser announced that our plane, named Humu, derives its moniker from Hawaiian astrology. Humu represents one of the brightest stars in the navigational triangle that guided the Polynesian ancestors to the Hawaiian Islands. It was just another moment that lent the experience a truly Hawaiian feel.

Although not as premium or private as some long-haul business- or first-class seats, Hawaiian Airlines’ A330 first class is still a comfortable, enjoyable way to fly, especially between the airline’s Hawaiian hubs and its destinations in the mainland U.S. That said, I might consider other options for longer-haul flights to the East Coast.


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