10 Reasons to Fly Hawaiian Airlines to Hawaii

LAX-HNL Feb 2014 -019_editedI’ve been lucky enough to visit Hawaii close to 20 times and I’ve flown all the major carriers to and from the mainland—including American, Delta and United. When I flew American and Delta, I felt like I could have been going to New York; there was no difference whatsoever in the service or aircraft. United used to make their Hawaiian flights special by allowing their flight attendants to wear Hawaiian themed uniforms, made their own Mai-Tais and served macadamia nuts and guava juice. The only thing that makes United’s Hawaii flight different from their mainland flights these days is that they play the Halfway to Hawaii game. It’s fun and the winner gets a guide book or champagne. But the pre-mixed Mai-Tais? Well, their own flight attendants warned me they weren’t very good.

When an executive from Hawaiian Airlines learned of my sentiments, I was invited to give their airline a chance and I quickly realized that they were leaps and bounds beyond their competitors. Here are 10 reasons to fly Hawaiian Airlines to Hawaii:

1. History/safety
Hawaiian Airlines has been around since January 30, 1929 when they began under the name Inter-Island Airways Ltd. The fleet was comprised of two eight-passenger Sikorsky S-38 amphibian planes. In 1941, they changed their name to Hawaiian Airlines and introduced the 24-passenger DC-3 into Hawaiian skies. In the 1960s, they began flying the McDonnell Douglas DC-9, which made travel time between the neighboring islands just a mere 20 to 30 minutes. During the following two decades they began daily flights to the west coast and scheduled service throughout the South Pacific. In 2001, they replaced their DC-9 fleet with 13 new Boeing 717-200 aircraft. In 2002 and 2003, they completely replaced their wide body DC-10 fleet with 14 Boeing 767-300ER aircraft. In 2010, they added their first long-range Airbus A330-200 aircraft and now have 15 total. Hawaiian Airlines plans to add 12 more by the end of the decade and they are slowly retiring the older 767s.

As a result, Hawaiian Airlines’ fleet (averaging about 10 years) is now among the youngest in the industry. Today, Hawaiian Airlines carries an average of 8 million customers a year and serves 20 domestic and international destinations in the Pacific region. In North America, it provides daily service to Hawaii from more cities than any other airline and they currently serve Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle. Check out more on Hawaiian Airlines’ history here.

The best part? Their flawless safety record rates them as one of the world’s safest airlines. According to Wikipedia, “Hawaiian has never had a fatal accident in its entire history, nor has it ever had an accident with a hull loss, and is the oldest US carrier with such a distinction in both fields.”

2. On-time record
Everyone I know loves an airline that’s on time and Hawaiian Airlines just lead all U.S. carriers in punctuality for the 10th consecutive year as reported today by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Hawaiian Airlines averaged a 93.3 percent on-time performance ranking for the full year of 2013, earning the top ranking in 11 of the 12 months and exceeding the industry average for the year by 15 percentage points.

Hawaiian Airlines tail

Hawaiian Airlines tail

3. Their paint job
It may sound silly but just seeing Hawaiian Airlines’ planes, with their deep purple lettering and the Hawaiian native woman, known as “Pualani” (Hawaiian for “Flower in the sky”), on the tail makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. FYI: Some say she is also a former Miss Hawaii!

Good to know:

  • Hawaiian has three classes of service: Economy, Economy Comfort (on A330s beginning in August 2014) and First Class
  • Hawaiian Airlines on SeatGuru.
  • The flight attendants sell pillows and thin blankets in economy for $10. The planes can be cold so come prepared!
  • Seats in First Class on the A330 don’t go as far back as the 767 and the seat cushion is not as comfortable.
  • Each of Hawaiian’s A330s are named after a star or constellation used by Polynesian voyagers for celestial navigation.
  • The Hawaiian Premier Club is furnished with old school Hawaiian furniture. They have free WiFi and tropical juices but it’s a bit dated.
  • All passengers must put their window shade up for takeoff and landing which I like so I can look out the window but they do it because it’s a safety hazard. Not sure why most U.S. carriers only enforce it (when they do) for emergency exits.
  • Hawaii’s newest interisland turboprop called Ohana by Hawaiian launched today with service to and from Molokai and Lanai from Honolulu International Airport. The long anticipated turboprop will offer three daily flights to Molokai Airport and twice-daily service to Lanai Airport beginning on March 18.
  • Beginning April 16, subject to government approval, Hawaiian Airlines will fly non-stop between Honolulu and Beijing, its first Mainland China gateway destination.

4. Colorful, peaceful interiors
I love the planes’ colorful interiors. There’s no advertising in your face and the flight attendants don’t wake you up to make a credit card pitch like Delta Air Lines. However, they do show a video of their new credit card, which is actually a good value for those that travel to Hawaii at least once a year and can pay their credit card balances off in full.

Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants

Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants

5. Friendly flight attendants and Hawaiian uniforms
The flight attendants are not only extremely friendly and happy (Can you blame them? Most live in paradise!) but they all wear colorful, traditional island clothing. The men wear Aloha shirts while the women wear what you see in the photo above. This definitely helps to put travelers in the mood to visit Hawaii!

6. They play soft music during boarding
When you board the plane you will no doubt feel soothed by the soft Hawaiian music playing over the PA during boarding. It’s just another touch that helps to create a mood that puts travelers in good spirits and elevates excitement to visit Hawaii.

Hawaiian Airlines POG

Hawaiian Airlines POG

7. They serve exotic juices & Kona Coffee
One thing that really bummed me out the last time I flew United was that they had discontinued their service of tropical juices like guava. Not Hawaiian Airlines! In fact, you can even get POG (Passion Orange Guava). Tropical and delicious! Coffee lovers love flying Hawaii because they serve real Kona coffee!

Hawaiian Airlines coach breakfast

Hawaiian Airlines coach breakfast

8. Free island-inspired meals and wine
Can you remember the last time everyone on the plane received a free meal in economy on a U.S. airline? Before flying Hawaiian, I think it was Continental about four years ago (they did have some tasty cheeseburgers). Well, the good news is that Hawaiian still serves free food in coach and to boot, they even offer a free glass of wine during the meal service to those 21 and older. I was fortunate to taste multiple meals in their First Class cabin and I must say that food was some of the tastiest I’ve ever encountered in the air.

Hawaiian Airlines entertainment options

Hawaiian Airlines entertainment options

9. Entertainment systems
On Hawaiian’s Airbus A330 aircrafts they offer state-of-the-art interactive entertainment systems at every seat with a variety of audio and video options available. For movies on demand they charge $7.99 per film, or you can pay $6.99 for unlimited viewing of classic movies, current hit TV shows, a variety of musical genres, games and music videos. Unless you bring your iPad for your kid you will probably want to get the Keiki Pack which costs $4.99 for unlimited access to specially selected movies (like Rugrats and Hannah Montana), TV shows, albums and games. It’s free in First Class.

10. Free stopovers
If you are heading to Australia, New Zealand or Asia on Hawaiian, they offer free stopovers coming and going. It’s a fantastic way to break up the long trip and avoid doing one of those ultra-long nonstop flights (14 hours).

As you can see, I’m a big fan of Hawaiian Airlines and I can’t imagine anyone feeling the same since they make the experience so pleasurable—from the friendly flight attendants to the free food. The only people I can see not loving Hawaiian Airlines are those that absolutely require their First Class seats to fully recline. Overall, two thumbs up!

Johnny Jet

About the Author

Johnny Jet
I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

47 Comments on "10 Reasons to Fly Hawaiian Airlines to Hawaii"

  1. That sounds great! When I visited Hawaii I flew Delta (and I was very happy with that, they were so helpful with my ticket going back and I really have to give them loads of credit for that). However, I might have to try Hawaiian the next time :)

  2. REason #11: The one time I flew Hawaiian Airlines (LAS to LAX) they served *fabulous* Kona coffee!

  3. My sister treated me to a trip to Hawaii in October and we flew Hawaiian Airlines and it was a blast – one thing I wondered is why did we have to leave the shades down all the way there? Could you maybe find out

    • I know sometimes they do it so there’s a better viewing of the movie; no glare.

    • It is because there are movies being shown on the screens and there is really nothing to see until you are 40 minutes or so out when you can see the big island volcanoes. Next one you see is Hale’akala on Maui. Make sure you sit on the left side of the plane to see this stuff. Then when they make the turn to final you see a Pearl Harbor, ETC.

    • Well they did that to me but you can put it back up

  4. Christophe Touchard | March 12, 2014 at 2:55 pm | Reply

    I wish we could get miles flying Hawaiian transpacific to one world alliance like we get for inter island flights

  5. I like Hawaiian, and usually fly them to Tahiti as it saves me the LA flight (even though Air Tahiti Nui is one of the best airlines in the world). However, the return flight to PHX from HNL on Sunday nights is almost always delayed (and full) turning your 8 hour layover into a 10 or 11 hour one. So if you go that route stay an night or two in Honolulu and avoid the stress.

  6. We have only high praise for Hawaiian Airlines – they assisted us when travelling between the islands (I forgot about the hair products bought through duty free & carry on allowances!) & then the staff were incredibly helpful when we missed our flight from Maui back to Honolulu & they were able to get us onto the next flight. Any other airlines would have been charging the extra costs for new tickets. Plus the attention on the long flights from Australia to Hawaii & return – cant wait for the next holiday to Hawaii & especially going Hawaiian Airlines :-)

  7. Jean S: If the majority of people have their window shades down & 1 person leaves their window shade open, the glare will blind everyone sitting in the sunlight’s path. It is usually your fellow passengers being blinded by the glare that are begging the flight attendants to get you to shut your window.
    The only requirement regarding window shades is that they be fully open for take-off and landing for safety reasons.

  8. The new credit card and it’s bonus has peaked my interest. I’ve flown “past” Hawaii a few times, but never stopped there. I was wondering about the stopovers to Australia and New Zealand. I was looking at their award chart and it seems to indicate that stopovers are not allowed. Are stopovers only allowed on paid tickets? How long can they be? How do you book them?

    • Free stopovers are definitely allowed on paid tickets in both directions. I will ask a Hawaiian rep to comment on for how long.

  9. Jonhny Jet mahalo for the kind words! As an employee, its refreshing to hear! Mahalo.

  10. are they part of any frequent flyer alliance ?

  11. Intrigued by your email about shorter travel from Australia to New York I went to the Hawaiian website to get a price. Sadly, it was more than double $$ when compared to Virgin & Delta.

  12. Is Hawaiian Airlines owned by United? Also, can you check in online?

  13. We are booked for Nov 2014. San Diego to HNL. Can you tell me if seats 14 H/J are worth the upgrade? Also, seats 11 A/B returning from HNL to San Diego. I think they call it comfort class. Is this the same as business class, but with another name? Just wondering if we should put out the bucks for 9″ of add’l leg room…

  14. What’s the best F/J seat from west coast? Alaska/Hawaiian/United/Delta? I know United has a few flat seats on their 777s from SFO-HNL, but I want nonstop LIH or OGG w/o transfer in HNL.

    • From one of my travel agents:

      They All Suck.
      The United 777’s are domestic with 2-3-2 seating in F/J. But UAL just put a 767-400 (Continental plane) in the late afternoon which has full flat F/J, and I do see it on the sched till March 2015.

      DL has been doing the 767-300 INTL. from LAX to HNL, but that will end in Nov.

      The only GOOD wide body will be the Hawaiian Airbus A330-200, which I know does the LAX and SEA to OGG market.
      HA does 767-300 OAK-OGG and SJC-OGG. Everything else is 757’s and long-range 737’s.

      HA is doing seasonal LAX-LIH on a 767-300, but will end after the summer. All nonstop will then be 757’s and 737’s.

  15. Granted I’ve only flown Hawaiian inter-island so it’s hard to compare but you should give Alaska a try as well. I fly to the the islands about 4 times a year with them (since leaving United), and they also do a great job making the transpac journey something special.

  16. I would like to hear about first class seating and service from Portland to Hawaii Dec 10, 2014 seats 2a and 2b

  17. does it take the full 90 days to earn the miles reward on their credit card? i can spend the $1000 fast, and i want to book for a trip next month. thanks for the awesome post!

  18. I gotta disagree unfortunately. We fly back and forth from Cali to Maui at least twice a year. We’re lucky enough to be able to do it in First Class. Their First Class service as declined year over year until now it’s really no better than coach. The food is now awful (something HA used to pride themselves in). They’ve yet to upgrade their fleet out of Nor Cal into Maui so the ‘ghetto birds (the old 767’s) are still the only planes they fly non stop from San Jose, and the seats again aren’t much better than First Class. On our last trip we were delayed on the plane for 13 hours!! We had an actual crew change as we sat there so long it wasn’t legal for the crew to remain.

    So what was once an enjoyable experience to and from Maui is now nothing more than a chore :(

  19. I have made numerous trips to Hawaii and have flown all the major airlines…….but my last 5 trips have been on Hawaiian Airlines and I can say with absolute certainly that I will NEVER fly to the islands with no other airline than Hawaiian Airlines. I live in New Mexico and I catch a ride with them out of Phoenix, it is a wonderful trip. Keep up the great job Hawaiian Airlines.

  20. Allan Livingstone | March 9, 2015 at 10:14 pm | Reply

    hi there this will be my first time on a big plane Iam flying Hawaii airlines from Australia to Hawaii in May hope it’s great cheers.

  21. Thanks for sharing this! It is so cool to see that there are flights that offer so many amenities. I mean, if you are going to fly, you might as well do it in style! In fact, I think that it is really cool to use WiFi to stream a video to your friends. I mean, how cool is that?

  22. Do not buy a ticket from this airline! Hawaiian Airlines is very sneaky about their change policy. They will charge you $200 per flight to make a change. If you cancel the flight you get a credit but they will charge you a $200 change fee anytime you try to use your credit in the future. Why would there be a $200 change fee for a future flight when you already have a credit? This is a very unscrupulous airline who does not deserve your business. Instead of saying Mahalo all of the time they should say Aihue which means thief.
    That was fun, let’s go again!

  23. 1. HA has f**ked up MILEAGE “program”
    2. Charges $5 for BLANKETS (yup!)
    3. etc etc

  24. I used to love Hawaiian airlines until they decided to switch to an airbus fleet from boeing. Must be that their CEO is form Europe but I don’t like US airlines that don’t fly boeing aircraft. And I do realize that there are still boeings in the HA fleet but those are on a planned phase out over the next few years.

    • Hate to say it but I agree. Dunkerley is an excellent CEO and the A330s are great performers in terms of efficiency but I hope the airline will at least consider B-787s for future use. Hawaii is fundamentally American airline and should be purchasing American made aircraft. I’d also love to see 777s being used on the SYD and LAX routes.

  25. I just completed my third rountrip JFK – HNL in three years on Hawaiian. All on A-330s. Connected first year to Maui, next to Big Island, and now Kauai. Going to stay on Oahu next year. Yes, HA has new planes, wonderful in-flight service. But I’m going to try United next time. Why? Because I live closer to Newark, and it’s not worth the hassle to hike to JFK, even with HA’s service and meals. United flies the 767, which is probably the most comfortable economy seating on each airline that uses it. I can simply buy a meal-to-go at the airport. Also, sorry to say, HA’s mileage program is not good – I got the credit card and followed all procedures. When my flight dates finally opened for reservations, there was no availability for mileage points. What’s the point of building up miles if you can’t use them? Luckily, the credit card did offer an additional airfare at half-price. All in all, Hawaiian is a great airline, but I’ve flown overseas on Delta and United recently, and they were more than satisfactory.

  26. Another good reason to use Hawaiian when flying international is the checked baggage allowance.

    Baggae is 2 pieces at 70 pounds free! All the domestic flights include this allowance as long as they are booked with the international. So NY to Honolulu to Sydney Aus 2 HUHGE suitcases free!

  27. Oh no, tell me they won’t ask my 4 kids to keep their shades down the whole time?! I’m seeing they offer kids meals as well but they don’t give info on them. Any idea what they consist of?

  28. Looking forward to flying them in a couple of days, but I wish they’d start flying the 330 out of PHX. So much more comfortable than the 767 & In seat entertainment would be awesome for our kids. (They have iPads, but still, the novelty factor would keep them super happy)

  29. Hey Johnny,

    Just curious what your opinion is on the first class cabin of the A330…what are the best seats? We are in 2A/2B, but I’m wondering if 1A/1B is better? Isn’t that where you sat?

    We love HA too! Great mileage program…can earn HA miles flying on Virgin, Jet Blue (I think) and American (which I hate), and some others. And if you have their credit card, you get 35K miles, plu you can accept miles from others (ie family members) for no fee! I racked up over 100K in only 2 months! ….hence the upgrade to first class and my question. :)

  30. That sounds interesting! I’ve never flied Hawaii Airline. I might to try it for next time.

  31. I will be flying from Hawaii to New Zealand on Hawaiian Air. I will be flying over water for almost 10 hours, I am not a great flyer and am very apprehensive (scared stiff) that is a long time to fly, I can barely handle the flight from California to Hawaii this is so much longer. It will be at night, how do I get through this flight without jumping out? Is it safe?

  32. Just flew them for the first time and am in the process of flying from HNL to OGG as I type this. One of the best flight experiences I’ve ever had and head and shoulders above the major carriers except Southwest and Alaskan. The only gripe I have is that their website is rather user-unfriendly and the CS line is hit-or-miss. Everything else was quite good.

  33. If you don’t live in a city that Hawaiian Airlines services, is it possible to fly on Hawaiian without spending the night en-route?
    I live in Albuquerque, and could fly Southwest to San Diego and arrive at 9:30am, with the Hawaiian flight leaving at about 10am — but this really seems cutting it close.
    Any thoughts? Thanks in advance!

  34. Good to know! I’ll be on a HA flight to Kona next month. I haven’t booked a return one.

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