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Flight Review: Hawaiian Airlines Auckland to Honolulu

March 25, 2013, 8:02 am Melanie Verran Yahoo! New Zealand

There’s plenty of hype and anticipation when a new airline decides to fly to New Zealand – and even more so when the end destination is one as alluring as Hawaii.

Flight Review: Hawaiian Airlines Auckland to Honolulu

There’s plenty of hype and anticipation when a new airline decides to fly to New Zealand – and even more so when the end destination is one as alluring as Hawaii.

Offered the chance to fly on Hawaiian Airlines’ inaugural flight from Auckland to Honolulu on March 14, I cleared my calendar and said: ‘Yes please!’

I bought an extra ticket so my other half could join me, and we flew to Honolulu in first class and home in coach to get the full experience.

The airline promises to ensure your holiday starts the moment you get your ticket, and allows you to sample the sights, sounds and tastes of Hawaii on board, so we couldn’t wait to see what that entailed.

Route: Auckland to Honolulu (and back)

Aircraft: Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330-200

Flight time: Eight hours, 15 minutes there. Nine hours, 10 minutes back to Auckland.

Check-in: Check-in at Auckland Airport was fast and easy, with no queues at 9pm on a Thursday night.

Lounge: Hawaiian Airlines’ first class passengers get access to the Emperor Lounge at Auckland Airport. The lounge, which opened last year, features modern décor with a green and grey theme, comfy armchairs, wifi, computers, showers (just ask for a shower pack) and a full array of food options.

Auckland Airport's Emporor Lounge

If we hadn’t eaten dinner, we could have tucked into hot dishes like lamb rogan josh, chicken kofte with mango chutney or zucchini fritters. But I stuck to the dessert cabinet, with brownie and a cheese platter. We could help ourselves to juice, beer, wine or whiskey. Staff were exceptionally friendly and came round offering mini tubs of Kapiti ice-cream – how could I refuse?

Punctuality: Hawaiian Airlines holds the title of the most punctual airline in America, so it’s reasonable to hope that you’ll be on time, if not early. Our flight up to Honolulu departed on time at 11.55pm and arrived about half an hour early, at 9.15am local time, while the returning sector took off at 1.45pm and landed at 9.55pm - bang on schedule.

Seat and cabin design: The wide-bodied A330 has capacity for 294 seats and is the newest aircraft in Hawaiian Airlines’ fleet. All the AKL-HNL flights use this aircraft.

First class seats

- First class : 2-2-2 configuration, with 18 seats.

There’s plenty of legroom between the blue leather seats, with a seat pitch (the distance between any point on one seat to the exact same point as the seat in front) of 44-46 inches and a seat width of 18.5 inches. The seat has a decent recline, but controls are not electronic, and getting the footrest out proved a little awkward. A tray table can be pulled out from one armrest, while the entertainment system pops up from the other.

One bathroom near the cockpit is reserved for business class passengers and crew and there’s refreshing facial mist and sweet-smelling hand cream that you don’t come by in cattle class.

- Coach (economy class): Mostly 2-4-2 configuration.

I was pleasantly surprised at the roominess for economy passengers. I’m not exactly tall, but I didn’t feel cramped as I have on other planes.

The seats are 18 inches wide, not far off the width in first class, and there’s a seat pitch of 31 to 32 inches. The tray tables fold down from the seat in front, and the entertainment screen sits above it. Arm rests fold up – a bonus if you’re lucky enough to have a free seat next to you. A packet containing your pillow and a light blanket was on each seat before boarding.

The view back in coach

Baggage allowance: The generous baggage allowance on Hawaiian Airlines is a real plus. For travel between New Zealand and the US, passengers in both first class and coach can check in two bags weighing up to 32 kg each, for no extra charge. Shoppers rejoice! For domestic flights within the US, fees start at about US$17 per bag.

Each passenger can also take one carry-on bag, weighing up to 11.5kg.

On-board entertainment: Every seat on the A330 has a touch-screen entertainment system – either on the seat in front of you in coach, or popping out of your armrest in first class – as well as a USB port. First class passengers get unlimited access to new release movies, like Argo and Lincoln, while back in economy you can swipe your credit card and pay US$8 per film.

In coach there were still seven movies we could watch without paying extra as well as plenty of TV programmes – Lie to Me, Prison Break, New Girl etc - and games to keep you occupied.

Service: Flight attendants greeted us with wide smiles and were friendly, efficient and professional. In first class they introduced themselves and offered to take passengers’ coats. The level of service in economy was equally impressive, just minus the frills. Receiving a fresh, sweet-smelling lei on arrival at Honolulu is also a nice touch.

Food and beverages: Award-winning chef Chai Chaowasaree has designed first class and coach menus using traditional island flavours.

- First class: Despite a departure time just shy of midnight, a full dinner was served within two hours of take-off. For entrees we had the option of a cheese plate or a warm potato soup and for mains we could choose two from a list of three. I went for pumpkin ravioli with a sage butter cream sauce, and the catch of the day, with choi sum and scallions. The meals were well presented and full of flavour – but the quantity probably more than I needed at 2am New Zealand time.

First class meals: Pumpkin ravioli, left, and veal medallion

My husband went for the veal medallion, and says it was his favourite. Dessert was a scrumptious lemon cheesecake that I sadly couldn’t finish.

I didn’t see a wine list, but the Californian chardonnay I was offered was delicious.

Breakfast again was plentiful, and served a few hours before landing. This time there were no choices – a platter arrived in front of us laden with fresh fruit, yoghurt, a muffin, a crab-filled omelette and a tasty savoury potato hash mix with onion and capsicum.

- Coach: In economy class there were no decisions to be made. Unless you’d requested a vegetarian meal, you were given a dish of local BBQ chicken served with steamed rice and tomato mango salsa, along with a Caesar salad and super-moist banana pineapple cake. It was great airline fare, with the chicken lovely and tender and the salad fresh and crisp.

The meal in economy class proved tasty

The second food service was a snack box containing a ham and cheese roll, shortbread and some delicious Hawaiian chocolate-coated macadamia nuts.

The first drinks and a snack pack were served within an hour of take-off and top-ups came regularly. Between food services, passengers could head to the galley to ask for another drink but flight attendants regularly walked the aisles with a jug of chilled water and plastic cups for anyone feeling parched.

Flight frequency: Hawaiian Airlines flies between Auckland and Honolulu three times a week, departing Auckland on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11.55pm, arriving about 9.45am on the same day local time.

The airline is adding a fourth flight between the destinations during the peak travel period of September 19 to October 11.

The verdict: If you’re heading to Hawaii, or planning a stopover on the way to mainland America, Hawaiian Airlines is a great option. The food, service and seat comfort in economy was up there with the best I’ve experienced on international flights. And as promised, the airline does bring you the sights, sounds and tastes of Hawaii on board. If you can sleep on planes you should get in a decent few hours on the red-eye flight up to Honolulu, and touching down before 10am you have the whole day to explore, go shopping or hit the beach.

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  1. Lynne05:26am Friday 07th June 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Just failed badly on punctuality 2 months into the new service- flight delayed from 11.55 pm to 9.10 am really slack as you loses one day of sunshine. would have flown Air Nz and got the air points offered $100 off another flight. Hardly makes up for a day of sun in the middle of winter. Especially as you loose the last day by flying out mid afternoon. If Hawaiian is the most punctual the other USA carriers must be really slack!!!

  2. DAVID04:04am Wednesday 27th March 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    What's with all the negative comments???? I was on the inaugral flight to HNL HA446 and it was excellen!!!t. Economy had everything I wanted - comfortable seats, great meals (the chicken and mushroom on rice was delicious) and the continental breakfast was adequate. And best of all, 'friendly crew'. Lots of smiles from the seniors to the juniors. The A330 is indeed a beautiful aircraft. The entertainment system had enough variety - I learned about the famous 'Song Contest' in flight news then watched this years awesome contest live on Friday, with an added appreciation.. I also watched a movie which was easily purchased. Drinks were offered throughout the flight and we arrived in HNL ready for our holiday. An honest unbiased review from an ex AirNZ employee who has more air miles than most, An excellent flying experience ..

  3. Andrew12:56pm Tuesday 26th March 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    The reviewer was correct in saying she flew 'First' as that is what Hawiian Airlines appear to describe Business class, which in reality is what this is.

  4. 12:51pm Tuesday 26th March 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Who cares. I will not fly Air Bus anytime.

  5. Ted12:20pm Tuesday 26th March 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    JE you didn't read this very well - reviewer flew up first class & back economy . . . .

  6. Jacqueline10:49am Tuesday 26th March 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    JE should read the report carefully. Writer went first and returned coach. I am booked on Hawaiian Airlines coach class to Honolulu and looking forward to flight after hearing review. Have also travelled all over the world and within New Zealand mostly business class but some coach and what I read appeared no better or worse than our local carrier.

  7. 10:21am Tuesday 26th March 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    What kind of a 'review' is this? It's just industry hype'n'gush written by someone who's singing for their supper (and flight and stay). Please don't insult the reader by calling it a review.

  8. Sheryl06:54am Tuesday 26th March 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    I am sure the flight attendants are polite & helpful no matter what type of ticket you have purchased. We flew Economy recently on an international flight. The flight attendants were fantastic, [there was a crying baby on board our 4 hour flight].

  9. Skypilot06:25am Tuesday 26th March 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Hmmm. One toilet for non-existent business class and none for first class. Methinks Melanaie is confused. Those look like business class seats: if not they are a first class standard from the 1970s-90s. And two maincourses from three? a spelling slip? Perhaps the chardonnay was more than outstanding.

    2 Replies
  10. JE06:16am Tuesday 26th March 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Commenting on economy class while she and her husband made the flight in first? Most probably she just had a 5 minute look in coach. Already long ago I made many long business trips, the majority in first; the difference in how one was treated/seated/dined already was very big at that time and by now, as the economy has degraded into cattle class, it is even worse.

    6 Replies