Hi Frugalistas! As much as I love travelling to Europe, I do like to visit other destinations, particularly when it is for our family holidays. MissG, Mr Frugalfirstclass and I had the opportunity to experience the Hawaiian Airlines A330 Business Class on our recent trip to Hawaii. While I definitely love my favorite airlines, it is always fun to experience and write about other airlines. My Hawaiian Airlines Business Class review is no exception to that.
Hawaiian Airlines Business Class Review: Hawaiian Airlines on the ground
Hawaiian Airlines check in at Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith airport is serviced by Qantas ground staff. There was a dedicated Business Class check in with two counters open. Despite there being no one ahead of us in the queue we wait ages to be served. Once we are served I understand why – the service can be best described as “lacklustre”. So slow and lacking in any enthusiasm, our agent sits with her chin on her hand for what appears an eternity. Finally we receive our boarding passes and Express path cards and she dismisses us. So, yes, I do ask where the lounge is, and even though it is the Qantas Business Class Lounge she seems amazed I had asked.
As is normal for evening departures from Sydney Airport we whiz through Immigration and security screening and arrive at the Qantas Business Class Lounge in no time.
Regular readers of my airline reviews will know I’m no great fan of the Qantas Business Class Lounge. On this most recent visit I was pleased to see that some changes had occurred. Gone is the old, tired Ikea-style furniture. Because it was evening, the lounge was quite busy and quite noisy, but we were able to enjoy a small snack and drink before our departure.
On our return flight from Honolulu to Sydney we were able to experience Hawaiian Airlines’ own ground service. Again it seemed inexplicably slow. But in stark comparison to our Hawaiian Airlines Sydney airport experience it is smiling and friendly, and more importantly, interested. Without needing to ask, we are given detailed instructions on how to reach the lounge.
There was no need for any special Express pass through TSA screening as Hawaiian Airlines have their own screening queue for Business Class and high value frequent flyers.
As would be expected, Hawaiian Airlines have their own lounges in Honolulu. The Plumeria Lounge is open to International Business Class travelers only. Despite that, when we visited the lounge was quite busy. The Plumeria Lounge consists of a range of sofa and table based seating. A small range of late breakfast/early lunch snacks were available for our lunch time departure, along with a variety of non-alcoholic drinks and a red and white wine. It was a small choice, and while I didn’t eat anything the filled croissants and fruit platters did look appetising.
Hawaiian Airlines Business Class inflight experience
Boarding our Hawaiian Airlines Sydney to Honolulu flight at Kingsford-Smith was via a dedicated Business Class queue. This allowed us to board our flight quickly. On our return leg from Honolulu we needed to take an internal shuttle to our gate, which delayed our arrival. There was no separate queue and they were already calling Economy (Coach) travellers so we were forced to insert ourselves (ie push in) into the queue. Fortunately this didn’t cause any problems.
Hawaiian Airlines Business Class seats
Hawaiian Airlines Business Class seating is arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration in 3 rows. Despite booking our flights with ample time to spare the cabin was already half full, so in order to book 3 seats together I needed to book the first row. Looking at the seats I suspect there is more storage and foot space in the seats in rows 2 and 3.
The seats themselves are different to anything I’ve experienced before. Despite being side by side there is a small space between the end of the footstool and the wall or seat in front, so in theory there is room to step around, rather than step over the person seated in the aisle seat. Unfortunately at 183cm (6 foot 1 inch) tall Mr Frugalfirstclass’s feet hung over the end of the footstool. Combined with the barrier on the aisle footstool (which works well to stop feet being bumped by people moving along the aisle) it meant my step over on the trip to Honolulu was actually more difficult than normal.
Seats are fully lie flat, and I while they are probably not the most comfortable lie flat seats I’ve ever experienced, I must say I did find the Hawaiian Airlines lie flat seats absolutely fine for the overnight flight to Honolulu and the day only trip back to Sydney. Mr Frugalfirstclass found them a little narrow for sleeping, but agreed that for a 9 and a half hour flight they were comfortable enough. Combined with a mattress, large soft pillow and homely cotton duvet I found the seat quite comfy for the duration of the flight.
What I did like very much was the simplicity of the seat to move it from seating to lying and in between. I find some airline’s Business Class seats almost require an Engineering degree to work them. The Hawaiian Business Class seat was moved via a simple dial on the arm of the seat. It worked perfectly. In seat lighting was a similarly simple reading light attached to the side of the chair and an over head light which was activated by a button in the interior of the seat.
For a flight the length of ours there was adequate storage consisting of a side pocket big enough for a water bottle, amenities kit and book. There was a mesh pocket on the other side of the seat which I suspect would be sufficient for a slim laptop or tablet. I found the additional storage space under my footstool perfectly big enough for my shoes, and I was thrilled when the flight attendant encouraged me to place my handbag there as well, rather than put it up in the overhead locker.
Hawaiian Airlines Business Class amenities
We received two different amenity kits on our flights. On the way to Honolulu our kit was a slim bag. Along with the usual eye mask, and ear plugs we were treated to a mini toothbrush and toothpaste, wooden comb, facial spray, lotion, lip balm, tissues, a pen, and a rather natty pair of socks with a flipflop pattern knitted into them. On the return journey a softer kit replaced the socks with ear buds – which were somewhat redundant given the noise cancelling headphones that we were handed.
On both legs we were also treated to a pair of slippers. Despite them being adjustable in width, they were too small for Mr Frugalfirstclass.
What is Hawaiian Airlines customer service like?
I must say I do think the service we experienced on Hawaiian Airlines really did represent the spirit of Hawaii well. Like many flagship airlines, the flight attendants on our flights were more mature. We were also fortunate to be looked after by both Customer Service Manager, Lynn, and attendant Sandy on both our flights. Amazingly Sandy remembered us on our return flight (even though it was almost 2 weeks later), and proceeded to take it upon herself to offer us hints on what to order for our meals.
When we first boarded our late evening flight to Honolulu I did find the pace of service somewhat rushed, resulting in our pre-supper drinks being served at the same time as our meals.
Having said that, our attendants smiled through our flights and nothing was ever too much trouble. Water bottles were replenished promptly, and they even managed the traffic around the single Business Class loo, so no one needed to queue. They also made the effort to address us by name, rather than just Sir or Madam as is often the experience on bigger planes, even in Business Class.
As we were coming into land at Sydney Sandy took the time to speak personally to every passenger in the almost full cabin, pausing to ask questions, and in our case, wish us a safe homecoming and the hope of a return to Hawaii soon. It was just this smiling personalised service that definitely endeared the Hawaiian Airlines Business Class service to us.
Hawaiian Airlines meals
I must say that while the Hawaiian Airlines Business Class menus were generous, I did find the food a bit hit and miss. Our supper on the Sydney to Honolulu leg of egg and rocket sandwich with potato wedges was quite tasteless and the wedges were inexcusably soggy, while the accompanying pumpkin soup was tasty.
Breakfast prior to arrival in Honolulu was similarly generous, and to my taste, far more successful. A tasty frittata (which was really more like a quiche) was certainly one the better egg based dishes I’ve been served for breakfast on a plane.
Remembering us from our flight to Honolulu, Sandy took us under her wing and conspiratorally suggested we try the shrimp udon noodles for lunch on our return leg. It was something I would never had chosen myself, but was pleased I had taken Sandy’s advice. The shrimp was well cooked and fresh, and there was just enough spice to make it interesting.
Our pre-arrival snack on the return leg was a chicken and sushi served in a lettuce leaf. It was sort of a cross between a taco and a san choy bao, and was definitely the most interesting dish we were served. Again it was very tasty, if a little awkward to eat.
The Hawaiian Airlines Business Class wine list was small – three reds, three whites and a prosecco. Choices were a good mix of old and new world, and different grapes. Tasting notes were reliable.
In addition to the wine list there was a choice of three cocktails and a good range of spirits. While the cocktails were of the pre-mixed variety, they were served prettily, and the mai tais we were offered as a pre-take off drink (and we may have also had the odd one in flight) were genuinely among the best ones we enjoyed during our entire trip.
Hawaiian Airlines entertainment
The Hawaiian Airlines entertainment system in Business Class utilises iPads and noise cancelling head sets. The iPads are circulated during the flight and are the nice, big iPad Pro model.
The range of movies and TV shows on offer were a bit limited. I managed to find two films to watch on each leg, but was somewhat pleased to have a good book to read on the flight home when we didn’t need or want to sleep.
While what was there was up to date and perfectly respectable, for a nine and half hour flight (particularly if you aren’t sleeping), you need a good book, or to bring something downloaded to watch. MissG downloaded some Netflix content onto her iPad Mini and set it up on the iPad housing, with the noise cancelling headsets for the trip home. She plugged her iPad into the in seat USB and was quite happy.
What I think of Hawaiian Airlines Business Class
The Sydney to Honolulu route is one of those with not a lot of competition. It could be tempting of Hawaiian Airlines to not bother much with comfort, amenities or service. But with a modern A330 plane, good amenities, reasonable food, and of course the charming Sandy in the Business Class cabin, they clearly do make an effort.
Hawaiian Airlines Business Class is a good way of getting into the Aloha Spirit before you arrive in Honolulu, or prolonging the moment until you arrive home.
As a family, we all agreed that we can’t wait to return to Hawaii, and I know we will be booking Hawaiian Airlines the next time we do. You can click here to search for your Hawaiian Airlines flight >>
Author’s note: We paid for our own flights on Hawaiian Airlines
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