Which airline has the best First Class lie-flat or flat-bed seats to Honolulu and the rest of Hawaii, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, All Nippon Airways, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, United, Japan Airlines, Qantas or United Airlines?
The best airline to travel Hawaii in First Class from the East Coast is Air Canada as they offer a magnificent International Business Class suite from Toronto on a seasonal service to Hawaii. From the West Coast to Hawaii, you almost always do best flying Hawaiian airlines who offer their lie-flat seats on routes including those from Los Angeles LAX, San Fransisco, and Seattle. Hawaiian has retrofitted its A330s with first-class seats incorporating fully lie-flat seating and direct aisle access but remember to avoid their Boeing 767s. From New York or Washington, the best choice has to be United in its BusinessFirst with fully lie-flat seats as long as it’s on their 767-400ER.
American also flies excellent lie-flat seats out of DFW (Dallas) to either HNL or OGG (Maui) so is the top choice out of Dallas and also has some lie-flat flights out of Phoenix and LAX if you pick the right flights.
Delta consistently flies lie-flat seats from certain airports outlines below. Unfortunately, the lie-flat picture is mixed and ever-changing as new planes are introduced on each route, so check the aircraft type carefully before booking. I hope this article helps to point you towards better choices but always doublecheck the aircraft before booking.
If you are flying to Hawaii from outside North America, pick ANA if you can. They have real international First CLass on their planes from Japan and also the best airport lounge at Honolulu airport.
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Typically, our free benefits at luxury hotels include:
- Room upgrade to next category
- Complimentary breakfast for two per bedroom
- Complimentary Welcome Gift
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- Early check-in / Late check-out, subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
1. Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines offers lie-flat Business Class on its international routes and lie-flat First Class on many domestic flights from North America to Hawaii. There is no difference between these products. The domestic lie-flat is identical to international Business Class and is just named “First Class” for domestic flights, to be in line with other American Airlines.
Hawaiian Airlines is usually your best airline for flying to and from Hawaii, although it isn’t the very best. The very best is All Nippon Airways for both their airport lounge and also their genuine International First Class which flies out of Honolulu and into Japan (as opposed to domestic First which equates to International Business class). I have, however, placed ANA in position 2 as they only have a few flights a day in and out of Hawaii and all these flights are from Japan. While ANA offers the best First Class seat on any airline to Hawaii, it is simply not convenient for anyone who’s journey doesn’t start or end in Japan.
Our friends at The Luxury Travel Expert actually flew and reviewed Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330 from Honolulu (in Hawaii) to San Francisco (in California) in First Class on Hawaiian’s A330 aircraft, which features a new premium lie-flat seat and improved cabin. You can see more photos of the hard product and the food etc in their review.
Pre-flight, Hawaiian Airlines manages two lounges at Honolulu International Airport. The Plumeria Lounge, located on the airport’s 3rd floor of Terminal 1 (the Inter-Island Terminal), is Hawaiian’s most upscale lounge and only accessible to passengers flying Business Class to one of Hawaiian’s international destinations, or holders of the unlimited Priority Pass can access this lounge for free.
If you are flying to Mainland USA in First, you will get access to Hawaiian’s Premier Club lounge which is the inferior of the two airport lounges and is located near gate 56 in Honolulu’s Inter-Island Terminal. The Premier Club is a glorified name for what is basically an uninviting albeit contemporary decorated room, without windows, and with several seating areas. It has free WiFi and free drinks at the small buffet station, which offers soft drinks, coffee, and tea (but there’s no alcohol or spirits) but it is not worth visiting except for using the WiFi and picking up a drink.
Hawaiian Airlines’ core fleet is mainly its 24 Airbus A330-200s. Business Class (or domestic First) seats on Hawaiian Airlines are in a 2-2-2 configuration with lie-flat seats. The lie-flat bed is 76 inches (193 centimeters) long and seat 20.5 inches (52 centimeters).
The color scheme of brown and tan with blue accents is designed to represent Hawaii’s abundance of earth, ocean, and sky. Each seat in the premium cabin is a classy leather and is located in its own shell, with curves depicting Hawaii’s ocean waves. The seats are slightly angled towards either the window or aisle. The seats are not very private but are perfect for companions to experience the flight together, although a divider screen between two adjoining seats can be raised if you’re traveling on your own and seated next to a stranger.
In front of the seat is a small ottoman, with a side panel that prevents your feet from dropping off the footrest while you move around. Both the seat and ottoman are covered in fine dark-brown leather from Poltrona Frau, a renowned furniture-making company based in Tolentino, Italy, that also has Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and Maserati among its clients. The shared armrest between two seats hides the tray table and an adjustable, telescoping in-seat arm, which is used to fix the large-screen tablet (distributed the crew shortly after takeoff), as there is no in-seat in-flight entertainment system.
Hawaiian Airlines’ in-flight entertainment comprises a decent selection of Hollywood releases, TV shows, games, and more. It’s offered free of charge to First and Business Class passengers, while passengers in coach have to pay for it.
There are two USB ports, full AC power, and a reclining wheel in the armrest. You can prebook your seat online (free) to avoid disappointment at the airport since Hawaiian’s flights are mostly fully packed.
An amenity kit is not provided during domestic flights, only on international flights. First (Business) Class passengers only receive a blanket and pillow, both of mediocre quality. Noise-canceling headphones are distributed by the crew after takeoff (and collected again before landing).
During this afternoon flight lunch was served shortly after takeoff. Service started with the distribution of a hot towel, menus, an aperitif with a dish of salted macadamia nuts. I choose the following items from the menu, which was created by Chef Sheldon Simeon of Tin Roof Maui restaurant:
- Starter: Kim Chee shrimp poke with salted cucumber and pickled Maui onions
- Entree: Shoyu roast chicken with sweet corn relish and creamy mushroom rice
- Dessert: passion chocolate cake
The starter and entree were brought to my seat, while the crew rolled a cart down the aisle for the dessert and coffee. All dishes were surprisingly delicious!
Hawaiian Airlines offers lie-flat seats on the following domestic routes on its Airbus A330 with the 2-2-2 seat configuration. There is a page on their website offers recent information on the current routes that offer this A330 premium cabin so you know which routes to chose for a lie-flat seat.
Current lie-flat routes are:
- Los Angeles, California (LAX) and Oahu – Honolulu, HI (HNL)
- San Diego, California (SAN) and Oahu – Honolulu, HI (HNL)
- Los Angeles, California (LAX) and Maui – Kahului, HI (OGG)
- San Francisco, California (SFO) and Oahu – Honolulu, HI (HNL)
- Las Vegas, Nevada (LAS) and Oahu – Honolulu, HI (HNL)
- San Francisco, California (SFO) and Maui – Kahului, HI (OGG)
- Seattle, Washington (SEA) and Oahu – Honolulu, HI (HNL)
- New York (JFK) and Oahu – Honolulu, HI (HNL)
- Seattle, Washington (SEA) and Maui – Kahului, HI (OGG)
- Seattle, Washington (SEA) and Maui – Kahului, HI (OGG)
- Boston Logan (BOS) and Oahu – Honolulu, HI (HNL)
2. All Nippon Airways
The best and newest airport lounge in Honolulu airport is the ANA lounge which is modern, stylish, and has a great food selection. You can get access to this superb lounge if you are a Star Alliance Gold member (with one additional guest) or those flying First, Business and Premium Economy on ANA get access. It’s located on the third floor of Terminal 2 above Gate C4.
The bathrooms are also modern and stylish and new, but lack showers. Food-wise, the buffet is the best at Honolulu airport with hot curries soups and more, including vegetarian. The Hawaiian barbeque chicken gets a big thumbs up and is restaurant quality. There’s cut fruit, salads, and rolls too. Drinks are great too, with beer on tap, a coffee machine, and fresh juice from a machine. There is also lots of alcohol and a good selection of desserts. If you are flying ANA from Honolulu, you will also board your aircraft directly from the lounge via a ramp that connects to the jetbridge.
ANA also offers the best lie-flat First Class seat to and from Honolulu. All Nippon Airways operates three A380s exclusively on the Japan-Hawaii route, all painted in special “sea turtle” liveries. The First Class cabin on ANA’s A380s is located on the upper deck and is an exclusive space with only eight seats, featuring a wallpaper patterned with a starry sky.
Lie-flat First Class seats are laid out across two rows of 1-2-1 and are separated from the Business Class section, which also has lie-flat seats, by a galley. Each seat features its own door and provides passengers with loads of privacy. All First Class seats have a 32-inch LCD widescreen tv, a wide table, extra reading lights, and a cupboard. There is also an adjustable partition screen between the center seats.
Inside the cabin, graphics and lighting aim to emulate Hawaiian scenery including sunrises, starry skies, and rainbows. There’s a minibar right at the front of the plane for First Class snacks. This is the best way to fly to Hawaii. The only problem is, if you are not originating in Japan, this route may not be convenient!
Even ANA Business Class is very good and yes, it includes lie-flat seats too. ANA’s Business Class offers pairs of seats in the middle as the set-up is in a 1-2-1 layout, allowing passengers to enjoy and share their exciting travel experience. Each seat offers direct aisle access, an 18-inch TV, as well as relatively amenities like a power socket and USB ports.
In my opinion, the best seats on the plane are the windows with direct aisle access. This Business Class cabin is very solid with a nice flat-bed seat with direct aisle access. What more could you want?
Premium Economy on other ANA aircraft usually has about 20 seats, but the FLYING HONUs offer 73, which allows more passengers the opportunity to experience the premium features. These seats are laid out in a 2-3-2 configuration, with 38 inches of seat pitch with leg rest. The entertainment screens measure 15.6 inches (except the first row, which gets a 11.6-inch screen).
Qantas has a reputation for being the safest airline in the world. Qantas hasn’t had a fatal crash. This reputation was glorified in the 1988 blockbuster Rain Man when Dustin Hoffman’s character refused to get on a flight unless it was Qantas because “Qantas Never Crash”.
Qantas is a great airline to fly from Australia to Honolulu but it does not offer First Class on this route. Qantas in First Class is one of the best First Class airlines in the world, but they do not fly planes with First Class to Hawaii. Their Business Class cabin is still very good with lie-flat seats.
If you are departing from Honolulu in Business class you will be able to access their Honolulu airport lounge. Unfortunately, this lounge is not very good! It is small and rectangular with TVs and drab, dated decor. The food is fairly awful too. Muesli bars, sandwiches, cereal, fruit, cookies, bread, and cheese. Drinks are plunge coffee as there are no machines, plus soft drinks, tea, and water, spirits, and other alcohol. If you hold Oneworld Sapphire or Emerald status, you would do better to use the American Airlines/JAL Admirals Club lounge.
4. Japan Airlines
I have experienced Business Class on Japan Airlines in and out of Tokyo. My last flight on JAL Business Class was after a stop in Tokyo which had followed an inward flight on Japan Airlines in their JAL Sky Suites to Tokyo. Hopefully, my experience will give you an indication of what their lie-flat Business Class product is like.
My lie-flat Business Class seat had a 74-inch pitch, was 25.5 inches wide and could recline into a fully flatbed. Waiting for me on the seat was the amenity kit, blanket, slippers, and SONY noise-canceling headphones. It has all the usual items; eye mask, earplugs, dental kit, lip balm, and some unusual ones like a pack of tissues and a moisturizing mask.
Japan Airlines Business Class begins by giving out a drink and a hot towel after boarding and before takeoff. For meals, Japan Airlines offers the choice of a western meal or a Japanese one. They also offer a list of items that you can order anytime.
For my dinner, I had the western option of a grilled squid with couscous appetizer, and a Wagyu sirloin steak as the main. The food is very good. After the meal, I had a cup of tea and a tiramisu cake for dessert. Later, I ordered from the anytime menu. I had a French coconut curry shrimp and a bowl of Soba noodles. The shrimp presentation was perfect, exactly like the menu pictures. It was also very delicious. The soba noodles were also very comforting and well balanced.
For your lie-flat travel experience, JAL actually gives a padded mattress to put onto the seat for a night of better sleep.
5. Air Canada
Air Canada has a new Business Class Executive Pod and does not offer an international First Class, but the magic of Air Canada is that you can fly on this full-on international Business Class on some of their flights to Hawaii. The Executive Pod is available onboard the newest Air Canada Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, as well as on selected Boeing 777 aircraft. On other international flights, you will currently probably experience the Classic Pod which is inferior to the Executive Pod.
Air Canada’s seasonal service between Toronto and Honolulu is on its state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Customers traveling between Toronto and Hawaii will have the option to fly in Air Canada’s Signature cabin, featuring fully lie-flat suites, meals prepared by celebrated Canadian chef David Hawksworth and other amenities.
Air Canada is the only airline flying non-stop from Eastern Canada to Hawaii and offering the superior comfort of the Dreamliner. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner offers three cabins of service, Air Canada Signature Class (which is their Business Class), Premium Economy, and Economy. Customers can also collect and redeem Aeroplan Miles through Canada’s leading loyalty program when traveling on Air Canada, and eligible customers have access to priority check-in, Maple Leaf Lounges, priority boarding, and other benefits.
Air Canada Signature Service customers receive priority service at every stage of the journey, including access to select airport concierge services, expedited check-in and security clearance, priority baggage handling, and boarding. Customers will also enjoy lounge access at both Toronto-Pearson and Honolulu.
Onboard, the service includes next-generation lie-flat suites with mattress pads to enhance sleeping comfort; Hawksworth menu items; a wine selection chosen by Air Canada sommelier Véronique Rivest; and Lavazza espresso and cappuccino.
These lie-flat seats are set up with a pillow and blanket. The seat is comfortable with a 203.2 cm lie-flat bed which is 53cm wide and it is pretty comfortable for sleeping on. The seat also has a head and neck massage button if you like that kind of thing. There is also plenty of storage and enough power sockets to keep your tech alive.
Straight after boarding, passengers are offered the usual welcome drink which includes Drappier champagne with nuts.
Air Canada’s International Business Class menus include dishes sourced from other traditions such as chicken biryani, Thai green curry, and a Moroccan tagine. On Asian flights, dishes are Asian-inspired and when traveling to Tokyo, expect Japanese-inspired meals like noodle soups, dim sum, and traditional Chinese and Korean dishes.
On my last Air Canada flight, the starter was a salad followed by smoked salmon and couscous with creme fraiche. My main choice was a tasty Alberta beef tenderloin (you can rarely go wrong with the Air Canada beef option), then you can have a cheese plate followed by a dessert.
The Air Canada amenity kit is not noteworthy and currently offers Escents lip balm and hand lotion, plus the usual dental kit, earplugs, eye mask, and socks. Sadly, if you fly from Vancouver to Honolulu (HNL) or Maui (OGG), you are unlikely to experience these lie-flat seats.
6. American Airlines
American Airlines flies to Hawaii with lie-flat seats from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), and Phoenix (PHX) but they don’t seem to offer lie-flat seats from Los Angeles. In fact, all other planes offer seats that are similar to domestic First with no amenity kits, no lie-flat seats, and American offers a very average experience.
The Phoenix (PHX) to Honolulu (HNL) sometimes flies an Airbus A330-300 with flatbed seats in a 1-2-1 configuration and sometimes a Boeing 757-200 which has recliner seats (Boo!)
On flights from Los Angeles, AA usually operates Airbus A321s with domestic First Class seats with large-screen seat-back entertainment. However, American Airlines occasionally schedule international long haul widebody aircraft on Hawaii routes from LAX, giving customers lie-flat cabin seats with direct aisle access.
It is difficult to find out if your proposed AA has lie-flat seats. You can’t tell by looking at the online seat map, but if there is a 1-2-1 seat configuration, you have a good chance of the seats being lie-flat.
7. Delta Air Lines
Delta flys to Honolulu Hawaii from Atlanta, Minneapolis, New York-JFK, Portland, Salt Lake City (SLC), San Francisco, and Seattle.
Delta First Class lie-flat seats to Hawaii are usually flown from ATL (Atlanta), Minneapolis (MSP) and Salt Lake City to HNL (Honolulu) using its Airbus A330-300 with international Business Class configuration. They also fly Salt Lake City (SLC) to Maui (OGG), on a seasonal service on a Boeing 767-300 with a lie-flat seat.
Unfortunately, they fly their old Boeing 737-900ERs, 767s and 757s from the West Coast. These aircraft are tired and tatty and most do not offer lie-flat seats. Occasionally, Delta may fly their Delta One lie-flat product between LAX and HNL but this cannot be relied on. If you are flying from Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL), there are several flights a day but only one flight on the Boeing 767-300 has a flatbed.
Delta makes it easy to find flights with lie-flat seats as there is a bed icon in the search results so do check before you finalize your booking.
8. United Airlines
You can fly United First Class lie-flat seats to Hawaii from Newark (EWR), Washington D.C. (IAD), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Denver (DEN), and Houston (IAD) to Honolulu (HNL). These flights are usually in on the Boeing 767-400ER wide-body with the airline’s newer BusinessFirst international cabin with fully lie-flat seats. They may also offer lie-flat seats on the Boeing 767-300 with a 2-1-2 seat configuration or the Boeing 777-200 with a 2-4-2 seat configuration.
From LAX and San Francisco, there is bad news. You are usually stuck with flights on the Boeing 737 aircraft with a standard domestic First Class experience. The route you want to pick is the San Francisco (SFO) to Honolulu (HNL). Some United flights on this route have lie-flat seats on Boeing 777-200. United has more than one flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL) but only one flight a day has lie-flat seats on their Boeing 777-200.
10. Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines offers more than 160 flights a week to Hawaii from eight West Coast cities: Anchorage, Bellingham, Oakland, Portland, Sacramento, San Jose, San Diego, and Seattle. These flights will fly you into all four Hawaiian Islands: Hawaii (the Big Island, Kauai), Maui, and Oahu.
Alaska Airlines beats most of the American airline competition when it comes to the quality of service and food on-board but it doesn’t offer any lie-flat seats on its mainland North America to Hawaii flights.
Alaska, Southwest, and Sun Country all fly between the US and Hawaii, but none of them offer lie-flat seats in their First Class cabins.
Unfortunately, the lie-flat picture is mixed and ever-changing as new planes are introduced on each route, so check the aircraft type carefully before booking. I hope this article helps to point you towards better choices but always doublecheck the aircraft before booking.
Below you will find my reviews of recent experiences I have had on Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, Japan Airlines, Air Canada, and Delta.
Last Summer, I flew aboard the premium class cabin of a Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330 from Honolulu (in Hawaii) to San Francisco (in California). Hawaiian Airlines calls this premium cabin ‘First Class’ on domestic flights from Hawaii to the mainland… Read More.
I have flown with American Airlines a number of times and have reviewed their long haul Business Class and First Class flights. My trip reports can be found below. Read More.
I have flown with United Airlines a number of times and have reviewed their long haul Business Class and First Class flights. My trip reports can be found below. Read More.
I have reviewed Delta One which is Delta’s new long haul Business Class product which can be found below. Read More.
I have flown on Japan Airlines (JAL) many times and have reviewed their long haul First and Business Class flights. My trip reports can be found below. Read More.
I have flown on Air Canada many times and have reviewed their long haul Business Class flights. My trip reports can be found below. Read More.
Disclosure: Posts may be sponsored by the proprietor or brand being appraised. All opinions remain our own & are in no way influenced.