As winter fast approaches, now is the time of year that we all think of sun, sand, and warm temperatures. Sitting by the beach, drinking a fruity cocktail at the bar, or just getting that tan you can’t normally get. When you think of these things, often one place will pop into someones head – Hawaii. Long a destination for many an American to get away from life, to escape to a different climate, a different culture, or a different way of life, Hawaii will forever be that imagination destination.
A brief six-hour flight from most west coast cities, the main destination for most is the island of Oahu, and its major hub for inbound traffic, Honolulu. A number of airlines fly from a good portion of the west coast cities but there is only one that holds the name of Hawaiian Airlines. With a long-range fleet that solely consists of widebody aircraft (there are currently orders for some single-aisle Airbus A321s) it can be the most comfortable way of flying to Hawaii (who wants to be trapped in a 737 for 6 hours?), while still embracing that vacation you’re about to experience.
Started in 1929, Hawaiian Airlines has long had service to the mainland from its Honolulu (HNL) base and continues to serve the major cities on the west coast, along with a few smaller cities and, of course, New York. Seattle has long had a connection with the Hawaiian Islands and it is no surprise that it has two services per day to Hawaii (one to Oahu, the other Maui). Both flights are currently operated by the workhorse of the Hawaiian fleet, the 767-300 (no ERs here!) though they will soon (as of December) be swapping over to the more fuel-efficient Airbus A330-200.
Flying out of Seattle on Hawaiian can be a little different than your average departure. First off, the majority of people are in relaxation mode and even those who are headed over on business are already wearing that staple of the islands, the aloha shirt. That one piece of clothing to me signifies the ideal that is showcased on all Hawaiian flights; it’s all about the Aloha Spirit. Aloha means hello in Hawaiian, but it is more than that, it is more of a lifestyle, a show of hospitality, that no matter what you are there to relax and enjoy, no matter what you intend on doing.
The second part that makes Hawaiian a little bit different than most is that there is often two lines at the gate at the airport. The first is obviously your usual boarding queue, just like any other airline (though less shorts are generally evident when heading to Chicago) however the second queue is the Ho’okipa Desk. This second queue is for the in-flight entertainment system purchases which you can pre-pay prior to your flight. With only an average of 15 tablets loaded onto the 767 aircraft, the sooner you book these the better, as they can sell out fast. The tablet entertainment system comes pre-loaded with a generous selection of movies and tv shows, along with music – at a mere $15 it represents a really good value (if there are still any available onboard, there is a $2 additional charge). Of course, you could just stick with the free onboard options, but the fact that you have a choice, and you can arrange it while on the ground, is something no other airline offers domestically.
Climbing out of Seattle and turning west is a bit of a weird feeling, as there is nothing but ocean out there, but that’s where you are heading, way out to the middle of the Pacific Ocean. While we climbed to our cruise altitude, the crew were not ashamed to promote the fact they provided complimentary meals at meal times. Not expecting much for the meal (who does in economy these days), I was surprised on two levels for my complimentary “breakfast”. I had read online that the meal would be a “fruit and cheese” plate, and expected some plastic American cheese and a grape or two like some airlines might supply. I was pleasantly surprised – the fruit was ample, fresh, and delicious, a great starter to a tropical holiday. Given the fact that it was served with a macadamia chocolate was just a bonus.
The second thing that surprised me was the real cutlery that was used. No plastic on this flight, it was metal all the way! The metal fork made it so that I could enjoy my fruit without having to use my hands, and was such a shock, as I don’t think some airlines provide that to their premium class guests, let alone all guests in economy. Two big ticks for this avgeek!
Complimentary entertainment on the 767 was a main screen movie (Iron Man 3) or the radio channels (all featuring that “aloha spirit” of course). Add in the Hawaiian snacks that could be purchased and the drinks that scream “aloha” (Kona coffee, anyone?) you have a reassuring start to your trip. About an hour out from Honolulu, a second service began, this time offering all of-age guests a complimentary Hawaiian Rum Punch.
Descending into HNL the blue ocean brought with it the green of the islands and the red volcanic dirt that seemed to be present all around the island chain. Seeing reefs surrounding long stretches of sand or waves crashing against the beach brought an excitement to the cabin, knowing that they are ever so close to fun and enjoyment. For an avgeek, the approach to HNL can be even more interesting than the beaches close by. If you’re lucky you may be landing right next to Joint Base Pearl Hickam (what was once Hickam Air Force Base) and a variety of military aircraft that call this island home. This trip alone I managed to see all sizes and types of aircraft from giant C-5 Galaxy to the latest in Stealth Fighter technology, the F-22 Raptor (in the past I have even had a rare siting of the E-4, a converted 747 mobile command post).
Hitting the ground at HNL may bring an end to your time onboard Hawaiian, but it means only the start of your time in the Aloha State, where everything you have just experienced is meant to be normal; as you step off your flight into the terminal, you know you have arrived, with the humidity, the sunshine, and the aloha spirit that surrounds you, something a simple Mahalo (Hawaiian for thank you) won’t cover.
The flights in this review were provided by Hawaiian Airlines; all opinions & photos are my own.