Hawaiian Airlines Boarding Groups & Process Explained [2023]

Are you getting ready to fly Hawaiian Airlines but trying to make sure you understand the boarding process clearly?

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about Hawaiian Airlines boarding groups and give you some insight into the boarding process.

You’ll find out when you can check in and when the latest is that you can check your bags when heading to different destinations such as between islands or to and from the mainland.

Full list of Hawaiian Airlines boarding groups

Hawaiian Airlines has a total of 10 boarding groups and they are as follows:

  • Pre-boarding
  • Premium Cabin
  • Zone 1
  • Zone 2
  • Early Boarding
  • Zone 3
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Main Cabin Basic seats

Keep reading below and I’ll break each of these groups down into detail.

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Check in and checking bags (be on-time for boarding)

Whether you are flying Hawaiian Airlines international, inter-island, or to and from the mainland, you can check in online 24 hours prior to your flight.

My recommendation would be to download the Hawaiian Airlines app and to do everything on your mobile device. It just makes things easier to receive notifications regarding your flight.

Hawaiian Airlines recommends different times for arriving at the airport based on your destination/route.

Here are the recommendations that they make:

  • North America to and from Hawaii: Arrive in the check-in lobby 2 hours and 30 minutes prior to departure.
  • Neighbor Island flights: Arrive in the check-in lobby 1 hour and 30 minutes prior to departure.
  • International flights: Arrive in the check-in lobby 3 hours prior to departure.

If you have bags to check then you need to make sure your bags are dropped off before the cut off times which are the following:

  • North America to and from Hawaii: no later than 45 minutes prior to departure
  • Neighbor Island flights: no later than 30 minutes prior to departure.
  • International flights: no later than 1 hour prior to departure.

Note that some airports in Hawaii do checked bags a little bit differently. Once your bags are weighed and receive luggage tags, you may have to personally drop them off at a TSA screening station.

This usually does not take a lot of time but it is a departure from the norm in a lot of cases.

Also, be aware of that most of the airports in Hawaii are quite small and easy to get through. HNL is by far the largest but even that airport can be navigated fairly quickly.

Related: Hawaiian Airlines Baggage Fees Guide

Hawaiian airlines check-in area

If you are an experienced traveler or are familiar with the airport and wait times of course you can sometimes arrive even later than the recommended arrival times especially if you have TSA Pre-Check and/or CLEAR.  

Personally, I like to arrive at the airport extra early to give me the least stressful experiences as possible.

Typically, that’s because I’m spending time in a nice airport lounge but keep in mind that Hawaiian Airlines does not have the most premium airport lounges.

You can read about the Hawaiian Airlines airport lounges at HNL here but they are pretty much on par with a basic Priority Pass lounge (or worse).

Hawaiian airlines airport lounge

Arriving at the gate for Hawaiian Airlines boarding

Hawaiian Airlines states that you need to arrive at the gate area no later than 30 minutes prior to departure. If you arrive after that time, it’s possible that you could be denied boarding or put on a later flight!

So to avoid any disastrous outcomes, just try to be at the boarding area a couple of minutes before boarding begins. You should be able to find the time boarding begins on your boarding pass. (It’s usually located right next to where your boarding gate is found.)

When you arrive at the gate area, you will see boarding lane signs in the gate area designating two boarding lanes: one for first/business class and one for main cabin guests. (The first/business class lane is also used for elite members.)

The gate agents usually don’t like when economy passengers line up early because there are so many economy passengers that they can quickly become way too congested near the gate.

However, if you are a first class passenger they often allow you to line up early.

Just make sure that you leave plenty of room in the lane for people to get in and out. I usually line up early but I stand towards the end of the lane so that I’m not in the way of anybody at any time.

Hawaiian airlines boarding gate sign

Hawaiian Airlines boarding groups explained

Once you are in the gate area, it’s just a matter of waiting for your boarding zone to be called.

If you are not sure what boarding zone you are in then just take a look at your boarding pass and you should be able to find it clearly stated (although sometimes it’s not there).

Below, I’ll cover all of the different boarding groups and give you some details as to who is allowed to board in each group.


Just like every other major airline, Hawaiian Airlines allows for pre-boarding first.

Pre-boarding for Hawaiian Airlines will include special passengers like unaccompanied minors and also those with disabilities or special needs. For example, those needing wheel chairs.

Note that Hawaiian Airlines does not provide for pre-boarding for active military and instead they put them in a separate boarding group.

 Related: Guide to Visiting Airports & Flying with Vision Impairments.

Premium Cabin

Premium cabins are going to include both first class and business class passengers.

The designation of your cabin may depend on your destination so there may not be any “business class” for flights between islands or to and from the mainland.

If you are not at the gate when boarding for premium cabins is called you could still use the premium cabin lane to enter and that will allow you to bypass any lines currently waiting for economy seats.

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Hawaiian airlines first class cabin

Zone 1

The next boarding group will be for zone one which includes Pualani Platinum Members. Something interesting about these passengers is that they can board with up to two guests.

Zone 2

After Pualani Platinum Members, the next elite members who can board include Pualani Gold Members and Premier Club Members. They are also allowed to board with two guests.

Early Boarding

After zone two, boarding for main cabin or “economy” will begin. The first passengers allowed on the plane include those eligible for early boarding.

This includes families with children under two years old and also active military members.

I’m not sure why military members don’t get pre-boarding but perhaps it has to do with the high volume of military travelers to and from Honolulu?

Hawaiian airlines boarding gate

Zone 3

Zone 3 is when passengers with Extra Comfort seats can board.

These are the seats that have slightly more legroom and their very own power outlets but you need to pay a little bit extra for them.

The price will vary depending on the length of your route. To give you an example of the pricing, I checked out the price from LAX to HNL and the Extra Comfort prices ranged from +$92 to $127 per seat.

These seats can also get you Priority Security at Austin, Honolulu, Las Vegas, New York, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose.

Also, on international flights you can get a comfort (amenity) kit.

Hawaiian airlines extra comfort seats

Zones 4 & 5

Zones four and five are for economy passengers. If for whatever reason you do not see a boarding zone on your boarding pass Hawaiian Airlines recommends you to board with zone four.

Zone 6

Lastly, the passengers with Main Cabin Basic seats will board the plane as the final boarding group.

Keep in mind that if you choose Basic seats when booking, you won’t have access to seat assignments at that time. Typically, you’ll either choose a seat during check-in or receive an assignment at the gate.

My personal tips for boarding Hawaiian Airlines in Hawaii

At certain Hawaiian airports, the boarding area may be situated outdoors or partially outdoors. When the gentle breezes are wafting through the islands, it can be quite pleasant.

However, on other occasions, especially during the summer, you might find yourself yearning for relief from the heat.

It’s worth noting that at airports like Kona, there may be indoor seating available at different gates. If that’s the case then feel free to head over to one of those gates where you can monitor your flight’s boarding status and then comfortably make your way to the boarding line.

We did this on one of our recent flights, and I can’t emphasize enough how refreshing it felt to relax in the cool, air-conditioned environment.

Another important point to keep in mind is that Hawaiian Airlines has a peculiar practice of issuing boarding passes even in cases where your flight has been canceled.

I personally encountered a situation where I attempted to modify my flight over the phone, but the agent struggled to fulfill any of my requests effectively and there was a language barrier issue.

After being on the phone for so long and getting frustrated, I requested a cancellation, but I never received an email confirming the cancellation, and the airline’s app still indicated an active ticket. Furthermore, my mileage balance showed no activity related to a refund.

So I figured that the agent was just incompetent and just did not successfully cancel my ticket.

Consequently, I proceeded to the airport, completed the check-in process, and even received a boarding pass.

However, to my surprise, I was informed during the boarding process that I couldn’t actually board the flight. This experience highlights the importance of vigilance when dealing with Hawaiian Airlines.

If you encounter any issues during the booking process or have doubts about your reservation, it’s advisable to double-check the status of your booking to avoid any last-minute surprises or inconveniences.

It’s also worth noting that Hawaiian Airlines completely blew off my complaint that their system still reflected an active ticket even though it had been canceled. They could not have cared less about the confusion.

Hawaiian Airlines boarding FAQ

When can you check in for a Hawaiian Airlines flight?

You can check in online 24 hours prior to your flight.

When should you arrive at the airport for a Hawaiian Airlines flight?

North America to and from Hawaii: Arrive in the check-in lobby 2 hours and 30 minutes prior to departure. Neighbor Island flights: Arrive in the check-in lobby 1 hour and 30 minutes prior to departure.
International flights: Arrive in the check-in lobby 3 hours prior to departure.

How many boarding groups does Hawaiian Airlines have?

They have a total of 10 groups including:

Premium Cabin
Zone 1
Zone 2
Early Boarding
Zone 3
Zone 4
Zone 5
Zone 6
Main Cabin Basic seats

When do you need to arrive at the gate area for Hawaiian Airlines?

You should arrive at the gate area around the time listed on your boarding pass for boarding. But you should never arrive later than 30 minutes prior to departure or you may not be able to board the plane.

When do passengers with Extra Comfort seats board on Hawaiian Airlines?

Passengers with Extra Comfort seats board in Zone 3.

Do US military members get pre-boarding with Hawaiian Airlines

US military members get early boarding but do not get pre-boarding.

Final word

The boarding process for Hawaiian Airlines is about as straightforward as they come.

They have some small differences with things like pre-boarding for military passengers and allowing guests to accompany you during boarding but for the most part things are pretty standard.

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