Aircraft Type: A330-200
Class: Economy (Extra legroom)
Date: February 2014
Best for: Those wanting to start their Hawaiian holiday off with a little extra everything.
Most likely to sit next to: With the mini cabin-extra legroom seats, savvy travellers who have done this trip before and know what an extra few inches can do.
Business or pleasure: Business? Got to be joking, 99% headed to Hawaii are there on vacation. Although, there is no wifi, but you can charge your iPhone on the A330 IFE screens, meaning a little extra power to email on your mini screen.
Routes: Famous for connecting continental USA to it’s cooler, more distant state. Still, huge expansion over the past few years, Asia is becoming the airline’s main target.
Frequent Flyer Programme: Hawaiianmiles, fairly decent, with good perks on the islands, for those off the islands, they are partnered with a lot of international airlines.
Best bits: Responsive and jam-packed entertainment, and free meals. Yes! Free meals in Coach! (Although not on overnight flights!)
Worst bits: The planes are notoriously full, (good for them – bad for us) hunt for a little extra space wherever you can, on the way back, the cabin was freezing, not even the complimentary blanket made a difference.
Hawaiian Airlines Economy (Extra Legroom) Report
We travel a lot to Hawaii, for business and pleasure, and when connecting from the states, whenever we can, we opt for Hawaiian over it’s slightly rusty counterparts that frequent the West Coast to paradise route. We have notoriously flown on the ‘fun’ 757 planes that Delta and United through on the route, held together with a bit of sticky tape and some Aloha shirts. Really… we don’t want to guess when ‘half way to Hawaii’ is, and no, I don’t want a big sign in my face saying ‘1 hour to paradise’ that’s what the moving map is for. So our latest trip with Hawaiian was a welcome sigh of relief, especially after 11 hours on a Trans-pacific flight!
On The Ground
Hawaiian operates from a still fairly dated Terminal 2, which is in the dark ages compared to its brand spanking new TBIT, Terminal 3, or the ‘gradually being upgraded’ American terminal. The terminal however, is fairly efficient, and does the job. With mainly international carriers flying out of this terminal, (Virgin Atlantic, Air New Zealand, KLM etc) it’s well stocked with a Duty Free and a restaurant airside. There is a Starbucks in the arrivals area, which is the only real food outlet landside. We arrived 2 hours before departure, and were greeted with a fairly empty, and well staffed check in zone.
Being sensible, we checked in online 24 hours before, before leaving Fiji, and found that the plane was full except one seat. Front row of the economy cabin at the bulkhead. At a premium, $40, it was well worth the cost as on a 6 hour flight to be able to stretch our legs can become something you start considering killing your fellow passengers for.
Check in was a breeze, the check-in staff friendly, and there was the option to check in using the automated check in kiosks or strolling up to the counter itself. At the counter, checking in a bag and getting my boarding pass took no more than 3 minutes, and the whole time, being served by a smiling and charming check-in girl wearing a light blue Aloha shirt, giving the feeling of Hawaii, before even going through security. Security itself was quick, and vaguely funny, with security staff in LAX seemingly taken stand-up comedy lessons.
OK, so firstly, we should clarify, economy comfort, or extra legroom seats as they are known until August, doesn’t get you automatic access to the lounge, however there are ways of gaining access, from a specific lounge access program called Premier Club or from building up your frequent flier points enough to upgrade your status to Pualani Gold. The lounges sadly aren’t the best part of Hawaiian, however they are still a good enough respite for weary travellers. There are a few elements we don’t like, no real bar, just a soda machine and a coffee machine (serving Kona coffee – nice touch) seating is also fairly basic, and in LAX, when I arrived there was only one seat left available. The lounge become over saturated, with some guests standing.
The lounges, in comparison at HNL are more spacious, although still basic in comparison to other airline lounges, especially at their ‘homebase.’ Its not all that bad though, the lounges are staffed by friendly, helpful staff, Hawaiian’s Hana Hou magazine is a great companion whilst waiting for boarding, and there is no shortage of Hawaiian prints to get you in the mood.
If you read this after August, the chances are things will have changed somewhat (at least, if you are flying on the A330). The cabin on Hawaiian is split into four main zones, a 3 row First Class cabin, a 3 row mini-economy cabin and two main economy cabins. Whilst the A330 is positioned on long haul and prestigious routes with the airline, as their flagship aircraft, we can’t help but feel that a more substantially sized, and substantial product in first class would be a savvy move, perhaps even just offering angle flat, or reverse herringbone fully flat seats. The mini economy section we were in will be turned into their main economy comfort cabin, and for good reason, being served first, the intimacy of the area, and the extra legroom on the front row are all benefits.
The A330 is a good improvement on the 767, the aircraft still feel modern, clean, and comfortable, and the inseat IFE makes for a substantial improvement compared to their older medium/long haul jets. Mood lighting is a welcome addition, and even though it is a 2 x 4 x 2 configuration, it doesn’t feel cramped or claustrophobic. The newer interior finishes will also make the cabin feel more fresh and contemporary.
There isn’t much you can write about an economy (coach) seat, apart from comfort and IFE, although what I can recommend is two seats on the A330 in particular. 11C and 11G offer by far the most amount of space. The bulkhead infront stops half way in front of the seat, giving the seat an extra amount of legroom, meaning it’s possible to extend your legs infinitely. You also, on the front row, (11) don’t have anyone infront of you meaning that the generous recline of the seats, don’t interfere with your own space (although you may feel guilty for a seemingly insane amount of recline.) We scored 11E as our seat.
Hawaiian’s seats normally offer between 31″ and 32″ which is generous enough, and equal or better than most seats to Hawaii, but ours offered roughly 38″. At 18″ wide, they are also comfortable in width. The first row have their IFE screen and tray table in the seat rests, meaning that there is slightly less room, but would be comfortable for most. The headrests are moveable, and hold their position, something we value, as feeling supported when you try to sleep is vital to stopping you drooling on your next door neighbour.
The touchscreen IFE System is full of movies and TV, with the TV programs and certain older run movies available in an ‘Unlimited Package’ and current blockbusters available for a charge of $7.99 per movie. The screens are fast and responsive, and payments are made by a swipe of the card. The headphone sockets are single jack, meaning bring your own headphones with you. The same package is available in First, but obviously, complimentary.
Alright, admittedly, the spinach on this pasta dish doesn’t look too appealing, but it was delightful in taste – blame the camera. But let’s start at the beginning. Hawaiian is the only North American carrier to still offer free main meals in the cabin, and this is a big perk, whilst their fares may be equal to their competitors, ask yourself how much you spend in the airport or online feeding yourself during a 6 hour journey. What’s even nicer, is they grace you with a complimentary beverage too, wine, beer etc. So when our tray arrived, we were surprised at how much food was given. It reminded us of the coach experience over 10 years ago on most North American carriers. The food, (with only one choice) was simple and tasty, meaning less chance for it to go wrong, and the food in first class, which we could spy through the curtains, looked amazing (and we have tried it before, it really is amazing!)
Not only did we have this meal, but nuts and a complimentary soft drink service came prior to this, promptly after take off. The advantage of this mini cabin is the expeditious service. It already felt like a premium economy experience before they have even upgraded the plane. On the night flight return however, we weren’t given a meal, and perhaps this is a small negative, considering how much they promote the fact they are the only airline to offer meals – but this information is clearly stated in their magazine and online. In reality, this is a good thing, as on shorter 5 hour flights, its best to try and get as much sleep as possible.
So extras here include blanket and pillow, fairly standard, but of a good quality and not itchy, the extra legroom, which is at a surcharge, and the unlimited soft drink service. The magazine Hana Hou is a good read and actually full of useful information, and there is still free Hawaiian programming in the seats, meaning its easy to learn a little about the islands before arriving. The biggest extras however, are the smiling, and genuinely happy cabin crew. On our flight everyone was passionate about their job and genuinely interested in looking out for the passengers. I guess this makes a difference to continental carriers who are more interested in 24-48 hours enjoying paradise, than the flight (and their work) there.
We strongly recommend flying with Hawaiian, especially in their new A330s (Although their 767s aren’t to be sniffed at either) and whilst their product is as good as a mainline international US carrier, in the near future, with their new fleet under order, we hope to see some improvements on the cabin product, as in a few years time, with American, JetBlue, Delta and United all investing into their internal fleets, Hawaiian could quickly be overtaken in product comfort. But that is years to come, so with the new extra comfort seating coming online, the A330 being rolled out consistently across the route network and the never-too-hard-to-convince notion of going to Hawaii, now is definitely the time to book a little stay in paradise, and as Hawaiian Airlines are proud of stating, they can bring a little bit of paradise to you.