Is first class on Hawaiian Airlines worth it from JFK to HNL?

Window and aisle first class seats on Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330 – JFK to HNL. Seats 3A and 3B.

We were fortunate to have enough frequent flier miles for first class, roundtrip tickets on the Hawaiian Airlines direct flight from New York’s JFK to Honolulu. We were very impressed by the seats, service and amenities, despite one hiccup, but we’ll get to that later.

The aloha spirit is evident from the moment you step on the plane. Flight attendants were welcoming and professional. In fact, I recall hearing a tagline on board that went something link this — “When you’re with us, you’re in Hawaii.”

Seats and Cabin

The first class cabin on the Airbus A330 is roomy, but what I was more impressed with was the individual seat layout. There’s enough space at each seat that the person sitting at the window doesn’t have to ask the person sitting next to them to move at all. I was able to get up several times from my window seat to go to the lavatory without disturbing Andy in his aisle seat.

The back portion of the first class cabin.

The very best feature of the seats is that they lay flat! We didn’t take advantage of this feature on the way to Hawaii because we were so excited to be on the way to Hawaii Island and we were watching movie after movie on the provided iPads. On the return back to New York, we definitely appreciated the lay flat function. We both slept more on that flight than on any other red-eye flight we’ve taken from Hawaii or anywhere.

The seats are nicely cushioned. Even after an 11+ hour flight to Honolulu, I didn’t feel nearly as fatigued and sore as I normally do.

The seat’s side have and individual, built-in cubbyhole to store a bottle of water, phone, magazines, etc.

If we could have changed anything about the seat layout, it would be to make the ottomans adjustable. I’m only 5’4″ and it was a bit of a stretch to reach the ottoman. They’re probably most comfortable for taller people. Still, the ottomans were nice to prop our feet on.

An individual first class seat with ottoman.

Entertainment

After takeoff, flight attendants delivered large iPads loaded with recent and classic movies, television shows and games. A tablet stand that lifts from the center console securely held the iPad. If I remember correctly, I watched at least four and possibly five movies on the way to Hawaii.

Meals and Beverages

The meals, created by some of Hawaii’s top chefs, reflected the delicious Hawaii Regional Cuisine found across the islands’ most popular restaurants. In fact, the three-course meals on both flights to and from Hawaii were the best we’ve ever had on any flight. Granted we don’t fly a plethora of first class flights, however we have flown international flights in either first class or business class on American, Air Tahiti Nui and Air New Zealand. So, we do have some past experiences to compare.

Grilled Hawaiian style BBQ chicken with Kabayaki Sauce and Pineapple/Apple Relish

On board beverage offerings also reflected flavors of Hawaii. Pre-departure beverages included the option of guava juice or a Mai Tai. After take-off, there was a tasty assortment of beverages Hawaii-sourced beverages — like Hawaiian juices, Hawaiian water, Maui Brewing Company and Ocean Vodka. Of course, soft drinks, white and red wines and popular spirits were also on the beverage menu.

Guava juice and a Mai Tai. Cheers!

A selection of snacks were also available in between meals. Let’s just say, that we never went hungry.

Additional First Class Amenities

  • Fluffy, quilted-blankets
  • Generously-sized pillows in cotton pillow cases
  • Mattress covers
  • Sealed, zip-top amenity kit with eye mask, ear plugs and headphones.
  • Access to the Premier Club¬†private airport lounges

The Hiccup

So, what was the hiccup? On the flight to Honolulu, the tray tables in our seats were not working. We were informed of this issue prior to boarding and offered seats in the main cabin that had functioning tray tables. Obviously we didn’t want to forego our first class seats. The inconvenience was that we had to eat our meals with trays on our laps instead of on the tray table.

Lunch on my lap. As you can see, it wasn’t such a big inconvenience.

Connecting Flights

Hawaiian didn’t offer a way to book flights from our home airport at RDU. We had to book separate flights to and from JFK. We didn’t realize when we booked our flights on American to and from JFK that we’d have a terminal change. We also didn’t realize what a big deal the terminal change was as we had to walk quite a distance to and from the terminal transfer train and we had to go back through security — both added quite a bit of time we had not accounted for and we cut our connections close.

When we booked our flights on Hawaiian, we were able to book our connecting flight in Honolulu onto Kona at the same time. So, we got to fly first class for the inter-island flight, too.

How to get a first class seat on Hawaiian Airlines without paying full price

I just did a quick cost search to see what fares I could find for roundtrip, first class tickets on the direct flight from JFK to HNL. I found fares as low as $1595, which was surprisingly low.

  1. As previously mentioned, we used frequent flier miles to book our first class flights. If you have miles on another airline, check to see if they offer the opportunity to book award flights on Hawaiian Airlines. You can sometimes get discounts on mileage purchase. Keep your eyes peeled for those opportunities to boost your mileage account.
  2. You can bid on available first class seats on Hawaiian Airlines.

Final Thoughts

If you have the budget and/or frequent flier miles to splurge on Hawaiian first class seats from JFK to Honolulu, the service and product are excellent. We felt that the first class experience was on par or above other airline’s international service and it was certainly a level above other domestic first class experiences to Hawaii.

You can view more of our photos here.

For more information, see Hawaiian Airlines’s website.


About Sheila Beal

Sheila Beal is the founder and editor of Go Visit Hawaii. You can connect with Sheila Beal on Twitter, Go Visit Hawaii on Facebook, or Sheila Beal on Google+.

2 comments

  1. How many miles did you use for 1 way? 40,000 or 80,000 for one way?

    • It varies based on availability. When we were booking, some dates were 80,000 miles each way, but we found dates that were only 40,000 each way per person.

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