United Airlines Hawaii Polaris Review: Excellent!

Timeless Legacy: Hawaii Travel Shaped By This Aircraft

For many years, actually decades, we’ve flown this aircraft to and from Hawaii (on well over 100 flights). But we’d never given much thought to it until comments by some of our pilot friends, both here on Beat of Hawaii and those we know personally, made us realize just how beloved and significant this aircraft has been to Hawaii travel. In addition, BOH’s editors flew on the venerated plane this summer, and we have to say, it was truly excellent in some weird, out-of-our-past way. Read, United Airlines Hawaii Polaris Review: Excellent!

Here’s why we’ve gained a new respect for the Boeing 757, which played a crucial role in shaping today’s Hawaii travel landscape.

  1. Direct Routes to Neighbor Islands: The Boeing 757, still called the “flying pencil” due to its elongated fuselage, gained ETOPS-180 certification in 1992, allowing it to be early in the twin-engine flight to Hawaii generation. Before that, flights to Hawaii primarily used 3-engine and 4-engine jets. Those were followed by the larger twin-engine Boeing 767. But all of those prior, larger planes faced limitations in servicing Hawaii’s neighbor islands, making direct flights challenging.
  2. Three Airlines Revolutionized Hawaii Travel: American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines all adopted the Boeing 757 for Hawaii routes in the 1990s. They ushered in a new era of direct flights that bypassed Honolulu and included routes from further afield. For instance, United Airlines operates 757 flights from Denver to Kauai and Kona. Delta offers a 757 route from Seattle to Honolulu, opening up previously unfeasible travel options.
  3. Workhorse Plane: The Boeing 757-200, resembling a stretched version of the Boeing 727, but with two engines instead of three, became a workhorse for Hawaii travel. It featured powerful engines and a 2×2 seating configuration in first class and 3×3 in economy. Despite some passengers finding it less comfortable, it served its purpose well.
  4. An aircraft that just won’t quit. While American Airlines retired its 757-200 fleet in 2019, Delta and United continue to operate them with well deserved retirement plans in progress.
  5. Transition to Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A321. Those are the aircraft replacing these aging 757 planes, signaling the end of an era we have a new respect for.
  6. ETOPS-180 on the Boeing 757 predated 737: Before 1999, when Boeing 737 received ETOPS-180 certification, it could not fly to Hawaii. So for many less dense routes than was appropriate for widebodies, the Boeing 757 was the aircraft of choice. Thereafter, the 737 started to replace 757s, while the 757’s longer range still retained key advantages. For the most in-demand West Coast routes to Hawaii, however, the 737 proved to be a highly efficient, capable aircraft for reaching the islands. That’s still true today.
  7. Prior to American, Delta, and Hawaiian Airlines’ Airbus A321neo. Hawaiian Airlines, in particular, needed a fleet to reach the neighbor islands more cost-effectively, while American and Delta had the Boeing 757. Recognizing the demand for direct flights to and from the islands, all three acquired fleets of Airbus A321neo narrow-body planes. This allowed them all to effectively compete on popular, narrow routes that the Boeing 757 had pioneered years earlier.

Boeing 757 in the annals of Hawaii flights.

The Boeing 757 has had a lasting impact on Hawaii travel, enabling direct flights and contributing to the evolution of the islands’ airline industry. While it’s being phased out now, its legacy lives on in the modernization of Hawaii travel.

Leave a Comment

Comment policy:
* No profanity, rudeness, personal attacks, or bullying.
* Hawaii focused only. General comments won't be published.
* No links or UPPER CASE text. English please.
* No duplicate posts or using multiple names.
* Use a real first name, last initial.
* Comments edited/published/responded to at our discretion.
* Beat of Hawaii has no relationship with our commentors.
* 750 character limit.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

5 thoughts on “Timeless Legacy: Hawaii Travel Shaped By This Aircraft”

  1. Flew it for ten years, it was a great plane never heard it called the flying pencil nor did it look anything like the 727. I would definitely thank Boeing for making a bad decision.

  2. BOH,

    Other than the 747, the 757 is my favorite aircraft – it’s just the right size!

    Other single-aisle planes feel cramped, but not this beauty.


  3. One of the best 757’s, in terms of interior comfort, was flown by Continental Airlines. Although their routes to Hawaii were mostly held down by 767’s, I flew their 757’s literally dozens and dozens of time to the UK, Norway, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and more. I never had a flight delayed or cancelled due to mechanical issues. A true first class workhorse!

  4. Only got to fly on a 757 once to Hawaii and that was on TWA. The 747 that normally was on that route got struck by a ground service vehicle which punctured the fuselage so instead TWA put us on a 757 from STL to LAX where we refueled and reprovisioned the aircraft for the LAX to HNL leg of the flight. Certainly not the first class comfort of the 747 but still a great flight and man could that thing get airborne really fast. I flew on 757’s other times too for some great vacations but Hawaii was always my home away from home so that flight was more memorable. And I will always believe that Boeing made a strategic blunder by not starting up that production line again but with upgraded avionics and cabins.

  5. There’s one other thing that the 757 was very good at, it was very fast!! A MAX is a slow aircraft. I remember coming off the Big Island late. The pilot came on and said, not to worry he would get us home in time. That flight was under three hours! It was United.

Scroll to Top