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Review: Hawaiian Airlines A330 First Class


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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 USA, while the same cabin is designated ‘Business Class’ on international flights.

IMHO, Hawaiian ranks among the best carriers for domestic service in the USA, on condition that you are flying on one of Hawaiian’s A330 aircraft, which all feature a new premium seat and cabin that is a massive improvement on the carrier’s current offering on its aging (and soon to be retired) Boeing 767 fleet.

Hawaiian Airlines currently operates a mixed long-haul fleet for its trans-Pacific flights to Asia, Oceania, and the mainland USA. Since 2010, the mainstay of Hawaiian’s current fleet is its 24 Airbus A330-200s, which have an average age of under five years at the time of writing. Hawaiian’s Airbus A330 seats 294 passengers. That’s 30 more than the Boeing B767, which is in the process of phasing out.

Hawaiian is replacing its Boeing 767 with 18 brand-new narrow-body Airbus A321neos. The 767s currently seat 252 to 264 passengers, while the A321s will seat just 189, which significantly reduces the number of seats, but this is a perfect choice for the carrier’s expansion plans in low-density markets on the USA West Coast. Hawaiian has already taken delivery of its first Airbus A321neo, which is now operated on non-stop service between Maui and Portland. This will be followed by A321neo service on the Kaua’i-Oakland and Kona-Los Angeles routes as Hawaiian receives additional aircraft.

Pre-flight, I reviewed the Hawaiian Airlines lounge at Honolulu airport. Hawaiian Airlines manages two lounges at Honolulu International Airport. The Plumeria Lounge, located on the airport’s 3rd floor, is Hawaiian’s most upscale lounge and only accessible to passengers flying Business Class to one of Hawaiian’s international destinations, although a pass is also available for purchase for $40 USD at the time of check-in, subject to seat availability.

Passengers flying domestic First Class have access to Hawaiian’s Premier Club lounge, which is located near gate 56 in Honolulu’s Interisland 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. The main reasons to visit the lounge are the free Wi-Fi and the complimentary beverages at the small buffet station, which offers soft drinks, coffee, and tea (but no alcohol or spirits). When you’re not in need of 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.

First Class Cabin Review

Hawaiian’s A330 aircraft features one premium cabin. This cabin is designated ‘First Class’ on domestic routes to the USA mainland and ‘Business Class’ on the carrier’s international routes. With only four rows of 18 seats arranged in a 2-2-2 layout, the cabin feels quite intimate and remarkably open. While this 2-2-2 layout is not ideal for solo business travelers, this configuration is ideally suited for the carrier’s leisure guests, as most of 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 seatback shells, the privacy dividers of natural reeds embedded in resin, and a ‘constellation panel’ at the back of the premium cabin.

First Class Seat Review

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, although a divider screen between two adjoining seats can be raised in case 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, allowing you to set the exact amount of reclining you like. The seat goes fully flat into a 76-inch (193 cm) flatbed at 180 degrees. The flatbed is quite comfortable, although a little on the hard side. Duvets are not provided on domestic flights.

What are the best First Class seats on Hawaiian’s A330?

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.

What are the worst First Class seats on Hawaiian’s A330? The 2-2-2 First Class layout does not make the cabin very attractive for solo travelers since you will always end up sitting next to a stranger. There is a large divider between seats that can be raised for added privacy. Window seats don’t offer direct aisle access. Passengers seated in the first row may be bothered by the noise of the galley and toilets.

Amenities On Hawaiian In First

Although it took 5 hours, an amenity kit was not provided during this domestic flight. First Class passengers only receive a blanket and pillow, both of mediocre quality. The crew distributes Noise-canceling headphones after takeoff (and collects them before landing).

It has to be noted that Hawaiian does offer amenity kits on its international flight, with a selection of soothing products, including a hand and body balm, lip balm and 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.

Food (Lunch) On Hawaiian

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:

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 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 surprised by both the presentation and the taste of the meals. All the dishes were delicious!


The seats don’t feature an in-seat in-flight entertainment system. Instead, in-flight entertainment is provided via large tablets that are 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 (packages start at $7,99 USD for movies-on-demand or unlimited TV shows).

Hawaiian Airlines is the only USA airline that does not currently offer in-flight Wi-Fi.

This review was shared with us by our friends at The Luxury Travel Expert.

Note: Benefits & upgrades subject to availability. Benefits offered correct at the time of writing. Terms & conditions apply. Enquire for more information. Posts may be sponsored by the proprietor or brand being appraised. All opinions remain our own & are in no way influenced.