We review the best airlines that fly to Hawaii. The best way to fly is in First Class, with lie-flat seats, high-end food, and amenities. But not many airlines offer First Class to Hawaii. The best airlines to Hawaii include Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, All Nippon Airways, American Airlines, United, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, Japan Airlines, Qantas, and United Airlines.
All these airlines fly into Hawaii and offer First Class cabins or excellent Business Class cabins. We have also reviewed the best airport lounges at Honolulu airport in case you are departing from Honolulu on Oahu and have airport lounge access. Equally, if you want to know where to stay, we think the Four Seasons hotels in Hawaii are the best.
1. Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines offers lie-flat Business Class on its international routes and lie-flat First Class on many domestic flights to North America. There is no difference between these products. The domestic lie-flat is identical 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 their airport lounge and their genuine First Class, which flies out of Honolulu and into Japan. 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 whose journey doesn’t start or end in Japan.
I flew aboard the premium class cabin of a Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330 from Honolulu (in Hawaii) to San Francisco (in California) in First Class on Hawaiian’s A330 aircraft, which all feature a new premium lie-flat seat and improved cabin.
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.
The look and feel of the two airport lounges are similar, and neither is great. In the Plumeria Lounge, the food selection includes sandwiches, soup, and packaged snacks. The drinks included soft drinks, wine, coffee, and of course, guava juice. The toilets are at the back of the lounge, and there are no shower rooms.
Passengers flying domestic First Class have access to Hawaiian’s Premier Club lounge, located near gate 56 in Honolulu’s Inter-Island Terminal. The Premier Club is a glorified name for an uninviting albeit contemporary decorated room without windows and several seating areas. We reviewed this lounge before traveling in First on Hawaiian Airlines back to mainland USA.
The main reasons to visit the lounge are the free Wi-Fi and the complimentary beverage at the small buffet station, which offers soft drinks, coffee, and tea (but there’s no alcohol or spirits). When you do not require the internet or drinks, you are better off spending your time outside the lounge and enjoying the views of the apron and runways from the airport’s open-air walkways.
Hawaiian Airlines currently operates a mixed long-haul fleet for its trans-Pacific flights to Asia, Oceania, and the USA mainland. Since 2010, the mainstay of Hawaiian’s current fleet is its 24 Airbus A330-200s. Business Class 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 seats 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. While this 2-2-2 layout is not ideal for solo business travelers, this configuration is ideal for the carrier’s leisure guests. Most Hawaiian’s premium passengers travel to Hawaii as couples, families, and honeymooners.
The design of the premium cabin feels modern and stylish, a mix of curves and organic textures with classy leather. Subtle design elements reflect the natural colors and forms of the island landscape, such as the wave-inspired seat-back shells, the privacy dividers of natural reeds embedded in resin, and a ‘constellation panel’ at the back of the premium cabin.
Each seat in the premium cabin is located in its own shell, with curves depicting Hawaii’s ocean waves, and is slightly angled towards either the window or aisle. The seats are not very private but are perfect for companions to experience the flight together. However, a divider screen between two adjoining seats can be raised if you are 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 of a high standard of quality as they 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 is used to fix the large-screen tablet (distributed by the crew shortly after takeoff).
There are two USB ports, full AC power, and a reclining wheel in the armrest that allows you to set the exact amount of recline you like. All seats in the premium cabin, except for the first row, are quite good, especially for couples and friends. You can prebook your seat online (free) to avoid disappointment at the airport since Hawaiian flights are mostly fully packed.
An amenity kit is not provided during domestic flights. First (Business) Class passengers only receive a blanket and pillow, both of mediocre quality. The crew distributes Noise-canceling headphones after takeoff (and collected again before landing).
Hawaiian offers amenity kits on its international flight, with a selection of soothing products, including a hand and body balm, lip balm, hydrating mist, a dental kit, a bamboo comb, and socks with a playful slipper. An eye mask, plush mattress pad, and pillow are provided for added comfort and restful sleep.
During this afternoon, flight lunch was served shortly after takeoff. Service started with the distribution of a hot towel, menus, and an aperitif with a dish of salted macadamia nuts. I chose the following items from the menu, which was created by Chef Sheldon Simeon of Tin Roof Maui restaurant:
- Kim Chee shrimp poke with salted cucumber and pickled Maui onions
- Shoyu roast chicken with sweet corn relish and creamy mushroom rice
- Passion chocolate cake
The starter and entree were brought to your seat while the crew rolled a cart down the aisle for the dessert and coffee. I have to admit that I did not expect a lot from the meals (as I never have high expectations for meals offered by an American carrier), but I was pleasantly surprised by both the presentation and the taste of the meals. All dishes were delicious!
The seats don’t feature an in-seat in-flight entertainment system. Instead, in-flight entertainment is provided via large tablets distributed by the crew shortly after takeoff and attached to an in-seat metallic arm.
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.
Hawaiian Airlines offers lie-flat seats on the following domestic routes because it is flying its new Airbus A330 with the 2-2-2 seat configuration. There is a page on their website which offers recent information on the current routes that Hawaiian offer this A330 premium cabin, so you know which routes to chose for a lie-flat experience.
- 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, modern, stylish, and has a great food selection. This is a great lounge to start your trip home. 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.
This lounge is decorated in creams with a big wooden bar area. The seating is largely rattan sofa seats and cafe-style seats, and there are lots of plants giving it an outdoor ambiance. The entire curved wall of one side of the lounge has massive windows looking out onto the planes.
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. If you are flying United, this lounge is quite a walk from most United gates, but it is worth the detour as long as the lounge is open when you are departing. Opening hours are 8:30 am to mid-afternoon.
ANA also offers the best seats 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.
Seats are laid out across two rows of 1-2-1 and are separated from the Business Class section by an extended 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 full stop. The only problem is, if you are not originating in Japan, this route may not be convenient!
Even ANA Business Class is very good. ANA’s Business Class is a popular option for passengers on honeymoons and family vacations. Compared to other aircraft where seats are staggered, this revolutionary 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 sitting next to each other while still keeping all seats with aisle access.
Each seat offers direct aisle access, an 18-inch TV, as well as relatively amenities like a power socket and USB ports. The only problem with this design is that if you were traveling to Hawaii alkone on Business and flying on one of these planes, you would want to avoid the pairs of middle seats as they are awfully close to each other, so you may be stuck rather close to your neighbor. These middle seats are definitely the worst on the plane if you are traveling alone.
In my opinion, the best seats on the plane are the windows with direct aisle access. I do love to be near my partner and my son when traveling, but who doesn’t like to look straight out of the window? Answer: All 3 of us, so for us, the best seats on the plane would be 3x single window seats, one behind the other. This Business Class cabin is very solid with a nice flatbed 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 an 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. Their Business Class cabin is still very good, too, and 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!
The Qantas Club airline lounge is located in Terminal 1, Airside. It can be accessed by all Oneworld airline Business Class passengers, including Emerald or Sapphire Oneworld members flying Qantas or any Oneworld flight, plus they can bring a guest in. Qantas and Jetstar Business Class passengers also get free access as well as Qantas Club, Gold, Platinum, and Platinum One members (plus a guest).
This lounge is pretty terrible, and 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, water, spirits, and other alcohol.
This is not a great lounge, and given that this airport is so unusual with all sorts of outdoor spaces, it is only really worth using this mediocre lounge to pick up a quick sandwich before heading somewhere else. If you hold Oneworld Sapphire or Emerald status, you will do better to use the American Airlines/JAL Admirals Club lounge.
Qantas Business Class is also very good, with lie-flat seats, great food, and good service. You can’t go wrong, even though it isn’t the very best.
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 Bangkok to Tokyo. Hopefully, my experience will give you an indication of what their Business Class product is like.
My Boeing 777-300 plane had a 4 class configuration, and I was seated in seat 12K in Business Class, a JAL Sky Suites, the right window seat in the last row. The seat had a 74-inch pitch, was 25.5 inches wide, and could recline into a fully flatbed. The only difference that I noticed was the shape of the small table under the TV monitor in front of me. Instead of being a rectangle, this one had a trapezoid shape.
Waiting for me on the seat was the amenity kit, blanket, slippers, and SONY noise-canceling headphones. It had all the usual items: eye mask, earplugs, dental kit, lip balm, and some unusual ones like a pack of tissues and a moisturizing mask.
As usual, Japan Airlines began by giving out a drink and a hot towel after boarding and before takeoff. Soon, shortly after 6:30 pm, we were airborne. Even though this was a relatively long flight, there was only 1 main meal service, largely due to the time difference. Japan Airlines offered the choice of a Western meal or a Japanese one. Of course, they also offered a list of items that you could order anytime you wanted.
I had the Western option of a grilled squid with a couscous appetizer and a Wagyu sirloin steak as the main for my dinner. The food was generally good, but I must say that Wagyu steak served in the air is probably not the best way to appreciate this fine meat. Of course, it was tasty, but I cannot help but wonder how much better it would have been in the ground. After the meal, I had a cup of tea and a tiramisu cake for dessert.
I watched some TV series while eating and after for a short while before deciding to force myself to take a nap. For this flight, JAL actually gives a padded mattress to put onto the seat for a night of better sleep. I managed to catch a few hours of sleep before waking up about 2 hours before landing.
Feeling a little bit hungry, 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.
I continued watching movies for the rest of the flight until we landed around 6:00 pm in New York. Overall, the flight was very good, and I would happily take JAL anytime for an overnight flight!
5. Air Canada
Air Canada has a new Business Class Executive Pod and does not offer international First Class. 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, Premium Economy, and Economy. The flights will connect conveniently across Air Canada’s network in North America and Europe. 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.
The best seats on the Dreamliner are in the front cabin. I like a window, so I would choose rows 1-6 as row 7 is too close to the toilets and may suffer from passing traffic. In the back cabin, you are closer to the small Premium Economy cabin and the Premium Economy bassinet seats, which sit directly behind row 11. These are probably the worst seats in this Business Class cabin.
These 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 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.
If you would like wine to go with your meal, Air Canada currently offers Champagne Drappier, Carte d’Or Brut (Reims, France); Vineland Estates Select, Niagara Peninsula (Canada); Jurtschitsch Grüner Veltliner Terrassen, Kamptal (Austria); Vini Be Good Les Athlètes du Vin Pinot Noir, Touraine (France); Volpaia Citto Toscana (Italy); Masroig Rojalet Selecció, Montsant (Spain); Dow’s Port (Portugal).
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 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 schedules international long-haul widebody aircraft on Hawaii routes from LAX, giving customers lie-flat cabin seats with direct aisle access.
It isn’t easy 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 are in with a good chance of the seats being lie-flat.
7. Delta Air Lines
Delta flies 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 consistently 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), 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 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 fly 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.
8. United Airlines
Expect 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 widebody with the airline’s newer BusinessFirst international cabin with fully lie-flat seats. They may also be 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, you will usually fly on Boeing 737 aircraft with a standard domestic first-class experience. On United Airlines, you don’t usually get seat-back entertainment on this route either. On a few select flights, United also sometimes operates lie-flat seats to Hawaii from San Francisco, but check the seat map just to be sure.
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 regarding the quality of service and food on board. The menu from West Coast to Hawaii is very decent, with an appetizer and a choice of two entrees. Usually, something like pork or chicken, and reports suggest the food tastes good too. The mains are followed by a dessert, which is often ice cream. Excellent ice cream, mind so that you won’t be disappointed.
Little extras like an orchid delivered on the tray with your food make Alaska Airlines better than the competition.
Alaska doesn’t provide seat-back or overhead entertainment on any of its flights, but it does rent digEplayers to economy class passengers and provides them free in First Class.
Alaska, Southwest, and Sun Country 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 double-check the aircraft before booking.
Below, you will find our reviews of recent experiences on Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, Japan Airlines, Air Canada, and Delta.
Best Airlines To Fly To Hawaii In First Class
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.
American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta are the three main North American airlines and all three have all recently launched a new, upgraded business class soft and hard product, with improved seats, food and service. We’ve discussed in more detail… Read More.
United Airlines has recently launched a new, upgraded business class soft and hard product, with improved seats, food and service. In my opinion, the United Polaris Business Class Pod cabins are probably the best looking of the seats in this… Read More.
Delta Airlines as well as the other two main North American carriers, has recently launched a new, upgraded business class soft and hard product, with improved seats, food, and service. Delta One, Delta’s new long-haul Business Class product, going against… 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.
Luxury Travel Diary’s editors have flown on Air Canada many times and have reviewed their long-haul Business Class flights. Trip reports can be found below. Read More.
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