Hawaiian Airlines

Trip Report: Hawaiian Airlines A321neo Inaugural Flight

Hawaiian Airlines puts its stake in the ground and shakes up Hawaii air travel with their new Airbus A321neo.” — Beat of Hawaii.

(Just updated with more details on cabin comfort, seat map and entertainment). We were on board the inaugural flight yesterday between Maui and Oakland. Their new plane hits all the high notes, except on food, and will have other carriers running to catch up. Look for new routes coming soon, more competition and better Hawaii travel deals ahead.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo Inaugural Flight
Pre-departure ceremony for new A321neo included Hula and blessing.

The future has arrived in style with a single aisle plane that is more economical on fuel and can travel nonstop between the mainland and neighbor islands. Here’s the inside scoop and our objective opinion after flying Extra Comfort (premium economy) yesterday.

A321neo Seats are Among the Best.

While we didn’t fly first class, those 16 seats looked nicer than expected (image below) and modern, with a sleek new hard shell slide forward format. Our economy seats were some of the most comfortable we have ever experienced, albeit narrow. While not thickly padded either, they are well designed and we were never uncomfortable, even after five hours. This is a plus for us because normally we’re sore halfway through. Economy seat recline was approximately 3-4 inches and headrests are not adjustable. Standard economy pitch seems similar to what other airlines offer on Hawaii flights.

A321neo Aircraft Interior Showcases a New Look for Hawaiian.

Beautifully styled in earth tones and ocean blues, the interior has an elegant fit and finish. A Hawaii theme is carried throughout the plane in large and small places and signage, both unexpected and not. Updated lighting has modes for boarding, in-flight and arrival, similar to Boeing’s Dreamliner.

A321neo Seat Features/Controls are Well Placed.

Individual lighting and air controls are easy to access and use. Pull down trays in addition to built in phone and tablet holders are at each seat to watch movies easily plus have extra storage.

A321neo Overhead Luggage Bins Feature Something New.

Large, recessed luggage bins feature unique mid-height controls. That makes it ideal for shorter people with the pull handle located just part way up instead of near the bin tops.

A321 Extra Comfort (Premium Economy) Great For Long Haul.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo Extra Comfort

We opted for Extra Comfort seats. That’s Hawaiian’s version of premium economy, which has an additional cost of $80. While these are the standard economy seats in every other sense, they offer significant additional space, plus some of these seats (8 to be exact) have two across seating. All other rows in the aircraft have three across seats, similar to other narrow body planes. The four pairs of two across Extra Comfort seats are located near the front, at mid-cabin and at the rear.

We can highly recommend these (as we do the two-across Extra Comfort seats on Hawaiian’s larger A330). The only drawback we found was that our seats did not have a normal window because they were located at an emergency exit. Speaking of which, you will need to be able to qualify as an emergency exit passenger. There are a total of 45 Extra Comfort seats in addition to 128 economy seats. See the A321 seat map.

Food Needs Rethinking.

Hawaiian Airlines Food

The lunch offered yesterday was a chicken teriyaki sandwich and chips. There are currently no vegetarian options. The sandwich looked unhealthy and was largely bread. A paid snack cart came first, followed by cold drinks and lunch, then hot beverages and small cookie plus water. Flight attendants did a good job hydrating us. Others on board also mentioned their concerns with this new food offering. The “Pau Hana” lunch and dinner services are identical. Breakfast is reported as yoghurt, muffin and grapes. There are no food trays and everything is disposable. We did note recycling.

Hawaiian Airlines was recently ranked poorly for their food by Diet Detective. Unfortunately we also were not impressed by the food, which stood at sharp contrast to the otherwise excellent experience.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo Entertainment App. Unique to This Plane

This is a new offering only for this aircraft, which does not offer traditional seatback entertainment.

First, you must remember to download this before takeoff, then activate Hawaiian WiFi once on the plane. Signs and announcements so indicated. The entertainment begins once the engines start, so there is no waiting to reach cruising altitude. Nice touch. There was a good selection of movies and audio. In addition there is a flight status tracker where you can see where your plane is, the flight duration, and time remaining.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo Entertainment

The entertainment is complimentary right now, but there will be a charge later. When paid, the selection might be even better. It looks like the entertainment app may expand further in the future and it has a great deal of potential.

There is still no WiFi on Hawaiian at this time. We hope to see that coming now that these planes have the infrastructure to support it.

A321neo Flight Crew Outstanding.

Our flight attendants were both excellent and helpful. They were out of the ordinary in terms of their cordiality. We felt most welcomed with aloha spirit that created the experience of Hawaii better than anyone else can do. Kudos to Hawaiian Air in this regard.

Noise in Cabin was Average.

It has been reported that the A321neo is up to 40% quieter than other aircraft. In row 33, however, noise levels felt that same as most planes and noisier than the 787 Dreamliner (our standard bearer).

First Class Seating Looks Really Nice.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo First Class

It was more spacious, modern and comfortable than we were expecting. That, specially since the seats do not lie flat as they do in the A330. We look forward to trying it on another flight. We bid on first class for the flight home and will write about that.

Cabin Comfort Just Right

We found the temperature during the flight to be very even and neither too warm nor too cold. Just right, and better than we’ve experienced on other aircraft. As someone noted in a comment, there is a $10 charge if you want to purchase a pillow and  blanket. We did not find those to be necessary, however.

30 thoughts on “Trip Report: Hawaiian Airlines A321neo Inaugural Flight”

  1. Hi everyone!

    Flying on the A321 Neo SJC – HNL in a few weeks. Seats are reserved in the rear of the plane in Economy. If anyone has flown this aircraft recently, would like to get your feedback on Economy seat comfort, leg space, bin space (possibly boarding last). I’m a fairly tall individual (6’1″). I’m used to the A330 seat comfort and leg space, so I’m taking a chance on this aircraft vs. United’s 777 service.

    Thanks for your feedback
    Mahalo

    1. Hi Jason.

      We haven’t been on a UA 777 in a long time, so can’t personally contrast that. The A321 is a modern single aisle plane and the fit is tight – that’s true no matter what airline is flying it. We won’t really discern much difference in comfort in economy between that plane and say the 737-800. That’s the plane that many of the airlines use (Alaska, United). It’s our preference to fly wide-body whenever possible. Sometimes it just isn’t an option.

      Aloha.

    1. I am looking for flights from SF Bay Area airports or Sacramento to Lihue for Aug 25-Sep1. Is now a good time to book or should I wait? And how long should I wait? Thanks for any help. Christie

      1. Hi Christie.

        Saturdays are going to hurt the airfare options. About $600 nonstop or slightly less with one stop. Not sure Saturdays will improve. Also, could get slightly better (perhaps $50) if you wait. Can’t say for sure, and then there’s the bird in hand issue.

        Aloha.

        Aloha.

  2. We will be in Maui mid-end of July. We are departing on a Saturday and rates are as high as I have seen them. Should I book now? Planning to fly with Hawaiian Airlines.

  3. Haw’n has always been known for excellent service in flight and for its hot meals served w/ accompanying wine pairing. This is what brought the airline to the top of the list; however, if meal options are slowly being altered, then they might as well be compared as equals w/ other less deserving Airlines.
    So PLEASE don’t let this happen! Furthermore, extra comfort seating means just that.. more comfy, more legroom, wider than regular economy. If otherwise, it would be nice to not be charged same as the Airbus equipments…in all fairness to us paying passengers!!!

  4. What flight number did you fly on from Maui to Oakland. Flying same route just reversed & hope to have new plane. On reservations it only shows A321 plane & that is different than the neo one. Thanks for any input.

  5. Aloha! Thanks for the review as I am flying out of Oakland to Maui next Tuesday. We too purchased the extra comfort seats for the first time but aisle/aisle, rather than the 3 in a row seating. We typically like sitting next to one another in the 2 row option, but weren’t given that opportunity when booking this time. Oh well, we just won’t play cards this trip! Do the extra comfort seats provide enough leg room to allow the other passengers in the row to walk out, or will I be getting up to let them through? (not that it’s a bad thing to stretch now and again 🙂 Mahalo!

    1. Hi Deb.

      Wouldn’t say there is enough room to walk by without other passenger getting up. It is about 6″ of extra legroom. Much more pleasant than regular economy for us at least and worth the $80.

      Aloha.

  6. I was looking at Hawaiian Airlines flights from LAX to Maui in August 2018 and noticed many flights did not have any Extra Comfort seats. Do some planes not offer them? The only options were First Class and Main Cabin.

  7. I am sad to hear the quality of food had gone down. That was one of the cool things about flying Hawaiian to and from the islands. I do wish they had more direct flights to outer islands like other airlines do.

  8. Thanks for the review. I originally had my husband and myself booked in I think row 16 Extra Comfort seats that were two seats together instead of three. Then on HA seatmap a 3rd seat showed up on the aisle, so I moved us back to the Extra Comfort seats by the restrooms to get two seats together. I’d rather be closer to the front away from the restrooms. Did you notice if the forward Extra Comfort seats were a two or three? Right side of the plane. Sorry if that was confusing.

    1. Hi Tiff.

      Yes that front pair is two across and we’d suggest those. Lavatories aren’t a problem however as those waiting can’t encroach on your space due to the aircraft design.

      Also just uploaded a seat map to the post where you can see all 8 seats that are two-across.

      Aloha.

      1
      1. Thank you! So the seat guru map is more accurate than Hawaiian’s. The agent told me the extra seat added in row 16 was a jumpseat for an FA. I guess I’ll move us back to row 16.

        1. Hi Tiff.

          There are 3 seats. The jump seat for flight attendant plus the two regular premium seats. You may have company for a brief bit during take-off and landing. That part was fun and we enjoyed talking with the flight attendant.

          Aloha.

  9. Is there any flights from LAX. Price for comfort seats and First Class. As long as the are going to serve food way not upgrade to something of high class as it would bring more customers. Oh how I remember the old days when choices of meals were available.

  10. Good article. I’m ready to fly!
    Opening paragraph….”except” vs. your word “expect” ….. on food?

  11. We would love to see Hawaiian Airline servicing either Santa Maria or San Luis Obispo, CA in the near future. We have another trip planned in May of this year to Kona.
    Our experience with Hawaiian Airline has always been very pleasing. For us it isn’t about the food, it’s about courtesy and safety.
    Mahalo!

  12. Nice, honest review of the pros/cons. I try to fly HA when I go to Maui. Hoping to go first class sometime! But until then, I’ll opt for the Extra Comfort seats. Thanks for the info!

  13. I have no doubt, however, that even with the new comfortable aircraft, Hawaiian will keep the cabin temps cold in order to sell blankets…a traditional Hawaiian scam.

  14. Typos in the first and last sentences:
    “expect on food”
    “The seats to not lie flat. ”

    Thought you would like to know. . .

  15. I had the same chicken (teriyaki) sandwich your flight offered – pretty bad, very soggy, not much chicken = mostly bread. Friends had always exclaimed about Hawaiian air + the food – I don’t get it at all. Old plane charged for in-flight movies. AA does not. Glad I had movies loaded on ipad.

  16. 2018 Flexible dates for a family of 4 adults leaving LAX July 1 (July2-4) and leaving July 9 (10 to 14). Travelling from Los Angeles (all airports and times – including nights are possible) to Honolulu. This is just my family, but we have a total of 11 families travelling for a sports tournament and we are trying to find some of the best deals. Thank you / Mahalo for your time with this request.

    1. Hi Peter.

      Suggest calling group rate desks for 10 or more traveling together. Potential savings up to 10% or so. Hard to know what deals, if any, will present themselves for summer, as new routes will be coming online between now and then. Keep in mind your dates are among the most in demand and most expensive. Air and accommodations could be at or near sold out.

      Aloha.

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