Hawaii is a bucket list destination but one way to make your trip even more memorable is to fly first class.
But is it really worth it to fly first class on Hawaiian Airlines and what can you expect?
In this article, I’ll break down everything you need to know about flying Hawaiian Airlines First Class. I’ll break down the different aircraft you might fly on whether you are flying from the mainland or between Hawaiian islands.
In addition to showing you the product, I’ll also talk about both cash prices and award prices so that you’ll have a good idea of what to expect when it’s time to make your booking.
Table of Contents
Hawaiian Airlines First Class Aircraft
When you’re flying Hawaiian Airlines first class, you can expect to be flying in one of the following aircraft:
- Airbus A321neo
- Airbus A330-200
- Boeing 717-200
Beginning in 2023, you might also be able to fly on the Boeing 787-9. Those will have an entirely new seat including window seats with direct aisle access!
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Mainland first class product
If you’re flying between the Hawaiian islands and the mainland you’ll be flying on an Airbus A321neo or Airbus A330-200. Let’s take a look at each of those aircraft to see what they have to offer.
The Airbus A321neo is going to be found on some of the routes between Hawaii and the western continental United States. For example, the A321 might serve a flight from Oakland to Honolulu or from Las Vegas to Honolulu.
The A321 is the only cabin I have not personally flown (with Hawaiian Airlines) but it looks like a pretty aesthetically pleasing (yet basic) first class cabin.
They have some interesting touches like foot rests and a compartment for water bottles but for the most part it looks like a pretty standard domestic first class cabin.
The biggest thing to note about the Airbus A321neo is that you don’t get the lie flat seats. Instead, you get the standard recliner seats with 39 inches of pitch in a 2-2 cabin with 16 seats.
Also, you won’t find seatback TVs and will be issued a tablet which is smaller than the one given on the A330.
The Airbus A330-200 is the main first class product that people actually get excited about. You’ll find this aircraft on all of the long-haul flights between Hawaii and states like Florida, Massachusetts, New York, etc.
But this aircraft will also serve some destinations on the West Coast including states like California and Washington.
You can check out my full review of my Hawaiian Airlines First Class experience flying between Honolulu and Phoenix.
Overall, I was pretty impressed with the flight especially the service.
But the hard product was not bad either.
The A330 has fully lie-flat seats which is very nice when crossing the Pacific but there are a couple of potential shortcomings.
First, the first class cabin is arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration with a total of 18 seats
This means that if you have a window seat you will not have direct aisle access. If you’re flying as a couple then this is not a big deal at all.
But if you are sharing a row with a stranger than it is more of an issue.
The other thing that might surprise you is that there are no TV screens in first class. It’s pretty rare to find fully lie-flat seats with no TV screens.
In place of screens, Hawaiian Airlines provides tablets for your entertainment.
The tablets are pretty big and there is a stand that pops out allowing you to easily stand up the tablet for viewing.
Initially, I was a little turned off by using a tablet but I found that it was a pretty decent in-flight experience.
The only real drawback is that you have to wait for it to be distributed to you and they take it prior to landing so it cuts down on your viewing time a little bit.
I also found the dining to be a fairly solid first class experience.
It did not blow me away like some international airlines would such as Singapore Airlines but I also did not expect it to be on par with the best of the best. Instead, it was more in line with a pretty solid domestic first class meal.
Inter-island first class product
When flying first class between islands, you’ll likely be on the Boeing 717-200.
The first class cabin is pretty small on this aircraft and you can read about our flight experience flying between Honolulu and Lihue.
The inter-island first class experience is going to be very similar to a domestic first class flight. You’ll have a standard recliner seat and the seats are arranged in a 2-2 configuration.
I did find the reclining feature to be a little bit different than most domestic first class seats. It’s hard to explain and it’s a pretty subtle difference but it’s almost as if the entire seat is shifting versus just the back of the seat.
Obviously, these flights are going to be very short usually ranging from about 30 minutes to 45 minutes. A lot of people question whether first class is worth it for such a short flight.
Personally, I thought it was well worth it to fly first class for a few reasons.
Most of all, whenever I factored in the baggage fees we would be paying with an economy seat, I realized that booking a first class ticket would essentially be a break even point since you get two free checked bags as a first class passenger.
That was more than enough reason to book first class since we’d also be getting things like priority boarding, lounge access, and free drinks.
Speaking of free drinks, I was surprised that they even served drinks on such a short flight. This goes back to the great service we experienced one flying first class with Hawaiian Airlines.
One thing to keep in mind is that the economy cabin is arranged in a 3-2 configuration.
Therefore, if you’re just looking to have a row to yourself or with just you and your partner, you can still get that in economy by choosing a row with only two seats.
Just keep in mind that those seats tend to get selected first so if you want to choose a row with only two seats be sure to do that as far in advance as possible.
Hawaiian Airlines First class lounges
If you love to spend time in airport lounges, you might be a little bit disappointed when flying out of Hawaii because your first class ticket will not provide you with access to any amazing airport lounge.
If you’re flying between Hawaii and North America (West Coast) or between Neighbor Islands in First Class, you’ll get access to the Premier Club, which is a very, very basic airport lounge.
If you’re flying between Hawaii and New York, Boston, or Orlando, you’ll get Plumeria Lounge Access. This is a much more equipped airport lounge but still on par with a standard Priority Pass lounge.
In fact, it actually is a Priority Pass lounge so if you are limited to access to the Premier Club but you have Priority Pass you definitely want to head to the the Plumeria Lounge.
Hawaiian Airlines mainland first class routes and prices
Now let’s talk about prices.
I think the first thing that I thought was notable was that the prices for the lie-flat A330 cabin can be just as expensive or cheaper than the A321 which has the standard recliner seats.
This is very different from when I was researching American Airlines first class prices since most of the time the standard recliner cabins are significantly cheaper than the wide-body cabins with life-flat seats.
Also, as you probably would imagine Hawaiian Airlines First Class prices get much more expensive when you are flying between Hawaii and the East Coast.
For example, when flying between the West Coast and Hawaii it’s not very difficult to find a first class ticket for around $1,000 and usually the most expensive tickets were still under $1,500 for the most part.
But when looking at prices to East Coast destinations such as Orlando and Boston, the first class prices went up quite a bit. For the most part I was seeing prices around $2,000 to $3,000.
If you’re looking to book an award ticket with Hawaiian Airlines miles, you’ll find different prices for different regions. They have different prices for the West Coast, Central US, and East Coast.
The cheapest first class awards go for 40,000 miles and that rate applies to all regions of the US. That award can offer you exceptional value especially when flying from the East Coast.
The problem is I really struggled to find awards for 40,000 miles. I searched for lots of routes and throughout different months and when I did find open awards it was only for one seat.
So while 40,000 miles can definitely be a bargain you might find it challenging to find a booking opportunity especially if you were looking for more than one seat.
On the other hand, the more expensive awards range from 80,000 miles to 130,000 miles. These prices are much less of a bargain but in my experience it was very easy to find open awards.
|First Class||Award Amount|
|First Class 1||40,000|
|First Class 2||80,000|
|First Class||Award Amount|
|First Class 1||40,000|
|First Class 2||110,000|
|First Class||Award Amount|
|First Class 1||40,000|
|First Class 2||130,000|
You can always refer to partners to book Hawaiian Airlines flights and those may offer better deals. For example, booking Hawaiian Airlines with Virgin Atlantic Miles could offer a sweeter deal.
However, when I called Virgin Atlantic to search for open awards that I found on Hawaiian Airlines they struggled to find those same open seats so you might run into some award inventory issues.
Now that you have an idea of the award prices, let’s take a look at the cash prices from various Hawaiian Airlines routes within the continental US.
Note that we searched for prices a couple of months out and picked a random day to get out quick view of what the prices might be like.
If there was more than one price, we listed the range of the prices for that day.
Phoenix (PHX) to Honolulu (HNL) [A330]
Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL) [A330]
- $845 to $1,314
Los Angeles (LAX) to Kahului (OGG) [A330]
Oakland (OAK) to Honolulu (HNL) [A321]
Oakland (OAK) to Kahului (OGG) [A321]
Sacramento (SMF) to Honolulu (HNL) [A330]
Sacramento (SMF) to Kahului (OGG) [A321]
San Diego (SAN) to Honolulu (HNL) [A330]
San Diego (SAN) to Kahului (OGG) [A321]
San Francisco (SFO) to Honolulu (HNL) [A330]
San Francisco (SFO) to Kahului (OGG) [A321]
San Jose (SJC) to Honolulu (HNL) [A321]
San Jose (SJC) to Kahului (OGG) [A321]
Orlando (MCO) to Honolulu (HNL) [A330]
Boston (BOS) to Honolulu (HNL) [A330]
New York City (JFK) to Honolulu (HNL) [A330]
Las Vegas (LAS) to Honolulu (HNL) [A330]
- $1,209 to $1,219
Las Vegas (LAS) to Kahului (OGG) [A321]
Portland (PDX) to Honolulu (HNL) [A330]
Portland (PDX) to Kahului (OGG) [A321]
Austin (AUS) to Honolulu (HNL) [A330]
Seattle/Tacoma (SEA) to Honolulu (HNL) [A330]
Seattle/Tacoma (SEA) to Kahului (OGG) [A330]
Hawaiian Airlines inter-island first class routes and prices
If you’re wanting to book an award flight for an inter-island route here are the prices for first class:
|First Class||Award Amount|
|First Class 1||15,000|
|First Class 2||30,000|
Paying 15,000 miles for an inter-island first class flight might be getting you somewhere around one cent per mile which is not too great. In some cases, the higher fares could get you closer to 1.5 or two cents per mile which is much better.
But personally, I would just be looking to pay cash for these flights because they can be so cheap.
Also, I would not consider 30,000 miles for an inter-island first class flight to be a good deal in the vast majority of cases.
Hilo (ITO) to Kahului (OGG) [Boeing 717]
Hilo (ITO) to Honolulu (HNL) [Boeing 717]
Kona (KOA) to Kahului (OGG) [Boeing 717]
- $137 to $210
Kona (KOA) to Honolulu (HNL) [Boeing 717]
Kona (KOA) to Lihue (LIH) [Boeing 717]
Kahului (OGG) to Honolulu (HNL) [Boeing 717]
Kahului (OGG) to Lihue (LIH) [Boeing 717]
- $159 to $294
Honolulu (HNL) to Lihue (LIH) [Boeing 717]
Personally, I’m a pretty big fan of flying first class on Hawaiian Airlines.
Above everything else, I was impressed by the level of service from the crew members during all of our first class flights. While the in-flight entertainment is non-traditional it’s still not a bad experience in my opinion.
I would just make a few notes about booking Hawaiian Airlines First Class:
It’s odd that the A321 can be just as expensive or even more expensive than the A330 considering that it only offers standard recliner seats versus the fully lie flat seats.
First class awards for 40,000 miles are an absolute bargain especially from the East Coast but can be extremely difficult to find.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.