The cost of First Class travel to Hawaii is usually cost-prohibitive. But not always. Recently, we were able to fly for $599 each way in First Class, which was fair when you consider round-trip First Class airfares between the West Coast and Hawaii can be over $4,000 round-trip. But that was a very good deal, and even then, it certainly wasn’t cheap.
So when the cost of flying First to and from Los Angeles next month was priced at over $2,000 per person round trip, we intuitively resurrected a trick that we’ve employed countless times to obtain nearly as much comfort and space. It saved 73% compared with the cost of flying First Class. By the way, BOH editors just used this trick in Europe too and can report it worked perfectly there.
By way of introduction, there isn’t a more fussy airline flyer than editor Jeff. He’s been traveling the world since he was a kid, and having been through it all, mostly by the way in economy, he likes to be comfortable. He wholeheartedly endorses this technique as being among the best tricks ever, in order to be comfortable at 30,000 feet without breaking the bank.
In our case, the lowest cost First Class fare between LA and Hawaii was $2,018 round trip. For two passengers, that became $4,036. It was definitely not a workable plan in our minds for a five-hour domestic flight with not the greatest service in a narrow-body plane.
Instead of this, try buying three economy seats for two people.
The reality of three-across seating is that two people traveling together have few choices. But there is one, and that is simply buying an extra seat. That is entirely possible on all airlines that fly to Hawaii except for Southwest.
In our current situation, on United Airlines, the cost of an extra seat was the same as what we paid for the two passenger seats: $364 round trip. So we bought two passenger seats, plus an “extra seat,” for a total of $1,092. That’s a savings of 73% compared with the First Class price of two seats, which was $4,036.
If we had different dates or a different route, the three economy seats could have cost much less. This will work on any fare sale, so long as it is not for “basic economy,” since that precludes advance seat assignments.
These flights will be on a Boeing 737 Max. What’s the difference between First Class and three economy seats?
In our opinion, not much. Two BOH editors flew First on United to Hawaii this past weekend on the 737, and it just wasn’t great. It was okay, and we appreciated the extra space. The food was barely worth eating, and honestly, with food from home or takeout, we would have been just as happy in economy with three seats. After all, it is mostly about having enough space not to feel claustrophobic. There’s no great recline or beds to be had on narrow-body flights to Hawaii, period.
Keep in mind that we aren’t comparing great widebody First Class to Hawaii here.
We are comparing just okay 1st Class on a narrow-body to three seats in economy. There are options that are excellent when we can afford them. Not long ago we published a review of Hawaiian Airlines First Class onboard their widebody A330. It was excellent. Not only that, but we just flew United Polaris returning to Hawaii, and we’ll just tease by saying, it far exceeded our expectations. Stay tuned for that upcoming review .
How to book an extra seat.
This varies significantly by airline. We recently found in one case that it could be done online. In the situation above with United Airlines, however, it had to be done with a phone agent, who said that if you tried to do it online it would just make a mess. Hawaiian and American also require you call to book the extra seat. Delta shows it can be booked online but we still suggest calling first. The safest bet is always call the airline you’re thinking of flying with first. The extra seat will have it’s own boarding pass that is issued in the name of one traveler with the words “extra seat” clearly noted.
Two images courtesy of United Airlines.