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How to Fly in a Lie-Flat Seat to Hawaii

July 22, 2019
13 min read
AA new 777-200 retrofit (JT Genter photo)
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While some travelers would happily take any flight headed to Hawaii, others are a bit choosier. Naturally, we recommend you simply get to Hawaii however you can, but if you want the best seats your miles or money can buy, we're here to help you fly to the 50th state in a lie-flat business class seat. A bed in the sky certainly isn't necessary for the short five-hour options from the West Coast, but flights from the East Coast can go nine hours or more. That means it can easily take as long (or longer) to fly to Hawaii than to Europe.

No matter the length of the flight, the aircraft with lie-flat business class seats will give passengers extra space and generally better food and drink options thanks to bigger and better-stocked galleys.

Hawaiian Airlines brunch (Photo by Wallace Cotton / The Points Guy)

However, your options to fly to Hawaii in a premium lie-flat seat vary based on the time of year and the airline. So, we dug into the flight schedules for each airline flying between the US mainland and Hawaii to find all of the options that include lie-flat seats. Here's how they break down by carrier:

American Airlines

Review: Business class on American Airlines' 777-200 from Dallas/Forth Worth (DFW) to Kona (KOA)

In the current American Airlines flight schedule, there are four routes to Hawaii with lie-flat seats through the end of the year. Three of these routes are between Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and:

  • Honolulu (HNL) -- currently operating 2x daily. One of the daily flights is reduced to a Thursday-Monday schedule for the fall starting August 19.
  • Kona (KOA) -- operating daily through August 19 (flight 229/230)
  • Kahului (OGG) -- operating daily (flight 119/6) and a second daily through August 19 (flight 7/116)

These routes are operating using Boeing 777-200s. On this aircraft, abbreviated as 772, AA has two different configurations in business class. The good news is that both are lie-flat. The bad news is that you won't know whether you're going to get the “rocking” Zodiac Concept D seats or the much-better B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats until you know which aircraft is assigned to the flight, and even then it could change due to a last-minute equipment swap.

B/E Aerospace Super Diamond business class on some AA Boeing 777-200 aircraft. Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy.

The fourth route is between Chicago (ORD) and Honolulu (HNL) using American Airlines' Boeing 787-8, running from November 21-May 6 and then double-daily from December 18-January 6. All of AA's 787-8 have the Zodiac Concept D seats up front:

Business class seats on American Airlines' Boeing 787-8.

American Airlines' own AAdvantage program theoretically charges 55,000 miles for flights in business class saver awards between the US mainland and Hawaii. That's a jump from the previous rate of 40,000 miles each way that the airline charged through Jan. 15, 2019.

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But American Airlines is also now tacking on a 7,500-mile surcharge for booking flights that "includes travel on an aircraft that offers lie-flat seats." While AA seemed to struggle to code that surcharge in its system initially, this surcharge is now showing up:

Another frustration is that because of American Airlines' married-segment award availability, it can be incredibly difficult to find saver award availability on these routes, particularly on nonstop flights. In the example above, you can fly from DFW to Honolulu on August 4 as part of a saver award from Atlanta. But, if we search just the DFW to Honolulu route, it costs a whopping 145,000 miles.

Considering the only lie-flat options are from Dallas/Fort Worth to Hawaii and British Airways' recent award chart devaluation, there isn't much benefit to booking with Avios instead -- unless you're booking during a transfer bonus. If there's saver space on the nonstop flights from Dallas (which is a big if), award flights on these routes cost 62,000 Avios each way.

As long as you have the miles to spend, you can snag these lie-flat flights with American miles -- it just might cost more than you wish. We found that 87,500 miles is a common one-way price for a nonstop one-way lie-flat award to Hawaii on American.


Review: Business class on Delta's 767-400ER from Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) to Honolulu (HNL)

Delta operates seven routes with lie-flat seating between the mainland US and Hawaii using a mix of Boeing 767 and Airbus A330. Most of these flights through year-end will be on Boeing 767 aircraft with Thompson Vantage business class seating — at least until Delta's 767 start going in for retrofits later this year. While this product isn't going to compete with the new Delta One Suites, it still offers a comfortable lie-flat seat, and it's a definitely an improvement over the recliner-seat options.

Photo by Julian Kheel / The Points Guy

The routes and dates that you'll find this lie-flat option to the 50th state:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) and Honolulu -- daily
  • Atlanta (ATL) and Honolulu -- daily through October 8, and then daily except Wednesdays through November 3
  • Detroit (DTW) and Honolulu -- Thursday-Monday now through September 2
  • Minneapolis St. Paul (MSP) and Honolulu -- daily except Tuesdays now through August 12, then Thursday-Monday from August 15-26
  • Salt Lake City (SLC) and Honolulu -- daily from October 27-28, October 30-November 3, November 7-11
  • New York Kennedy (JFK) to Honolulu -- December 21-23, 26-30 and January 1-4

In addition, Delta utilizes Airbus A330 aircraft for flights between hubs and Hawaii during the holidays. Here are the routes and dates for the A330 lie-flat options to Hawaii:

  • Atlanta and Honolulu -- one-off on October 1; November 4-5, 11-12, 14-19, 21-30; December 1-3, 4-10, 12-17, 19-31; daily from January 1-March 30
  • Salt Lake City and Honolulu -- November 4, 6, 13-18, 20-25, 27-30; December 1-2, 4-9, 11-16, 18-31; daily from January 1-March 30
  • Detroit and Honolulu -- December 21-23, 26-30 and January 2-5; February 15, 22
  • Minneapolis St. Paul and Honolulu -- December 21-31; Wednesday-Sunday from January 1-February 28; daily except Tuesday from March 1-30
  • Salt Lake City and Kahului (OGG) -- daily from December 21-January 5; Thursday-Sunday from January 9-February 29; Thursday-Monday from March 1-30

Since ditching its award chart years ago, Delta charges whatever it feels like for awards on its own flights. Currently, the Detroit to Honolulu route is available for no less than 95,000 SkyMiles:

And as much as 187,500 SkyMiles each way:

But there's a better way to book Delta award flights. For the same flight when Delta is charging 95,000 miles one-way, Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club is sometimes charging just 37,500 miles:

Hawaiian Airlines

Review: Business class on Hawaiian's A330 from Boston (BOS) to Honolulu (HNL)

Based in Hawaii, Hawaiian Airlines offers numerous flights between the US mainland and Hawaii, but it wasn't until May 2016 that it added lie-flat seats to its fleet. Thankfully, it's been quick to retrofit this product on its Airbus A330 aircraft and now Hawaiian is tied with United for the most routes with lie-flat business class seats between the US mainland and Hawaii.

Photo by Wallace Cotton / The Points Guy

Through the end of the year, I'm finding lie-flat seats on Hawaiian Airlines flights between:

  • Boston (BOS) and Honolulu -- daily except Wednesday through September 10; then daily except Wednesday-Thursday through at least year-end
  • Las Vegas (LAS) and Honolulu -- daily
  • Los Angeles (LAX) and Honolulu -- daily
  • Los Angeles and Kahului -- daily
  • New York Kennedy (JFK) and Honolulu -- daily
  • Phoenix (PHX) and Honolulu -- daily
  • San Diego (SAN) and Honolulu -- daily (with some exceptions)
  • San Francisco (SFO) and Honolulu -- daily through November 30; then December 2-7, 10-20, 24-27, 31
  • San Francisco and Kahului -- daily through September 3
  • Seattle (SEA) and Honolulu -- daily
  • Seattle and Kahului -- daily

Using Hawaiian Airlines' own HawaiianMiles program, you can book flights from anywhere in the US to Hawaii in lie-flat business class for as little as 40,000 miles each way. However, Hawaiian's mileage rates are now dynamic, meaning that first class awards now top out at 130,000 miles each way. Check out this post for everything you need to know about searching and booking Hawaiian miles for lie-flat seats to Hawaii.

You have two main options for building your Hawaiian balance for one of these flights. The Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard is currently offering a 60,000-mile bonus after you spend $2,000 on the card in the first 90 days. Plus, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points from cards such as the American Express® Gold Card to HawaiianMiles at a 1:1 ratio.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is another way of booking Hawaiian lie-flat flights on the cheap, with awards costing just 40,000 miles each way from the West Coast or 65,000 miles each way between Hawaii and the East Coast. However, these awards aren't searchable or bookable on Flying Club's website, so you're going to need to call Virgin Atlantic to book these awards.

Korean Air points are much harder to get now that Chase is no longer a transfer partner, but you can redeem just 60,000 miles round-trip for Hawaiian Airlines first class between the US mainland and Hawaii. That makes KAL miles potentially the best option -- if you can get them.

You can also redeem JetBlue TrueBlue points to fly Hawaiian Airlines award flights, but the rates aren't great starting at 45,000 points one-way from the West Coast and a whopping 70,000 points one-way from the East Coast to Hawaii.


Review: Business class on United's 767-400 from Honolulu (HNL) to Newark (EWR)

Last, but certainly not least, is the airline that claims to have the most flights between the US mainland and Hawaii. However, far from all of them have lie-flat seats in business class. Your best bets are going to be on United wide-body aircraft: Boeing 767, 777 and 787.

While you can reliably get lie-flat seats on these aircraft types, the exact seating type is going to depend on the model and whether or not it's been retrofit with Polaris business class seating. If not, you're either going to get a decent ex-Continental B/E Aerospace Diamond seat:

Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy

Or you might end up on United's widely panned 2-4-2 business class. Yep, that's two middle seats in business class. That's decent for families with little kids, but not great for the rest of us. So, you're going to want to double check the seat map before you book to see what you're going to get.

Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy

Looking through the schedule, I found lie-flat business class seats on the following 11 routes between:

  • Chicago O'Hare (ORD) and Honolulu -- using a Boeing 777
  • Chicago O'Hare and Kahului -- using a Boeing 777
  • Denver (DEN) and Honolulu -- using a Boeing 777
  • Denver and Kahului -- using a Boeing 777
  • Denver and Kona -- using a Boeing 757-200
  • Denver and Lihu (LIH) -- using a Boeing 757-200
  • Houston (IAH) and Honolulu -- using a Boeing 777
  • Los Angeles (LAX) and Honolulu -- using a Boeing 777
  • Newark (EWR) and Honolulu -- using a Boeing 767-400ER
  • San Francisco (SFO) and Honolulu -- using a Boeing 777
  • Washington DC (IAD) and Honolulu -- using a Boeing 767-300ER

Business-class saver award flights using MileagePlus are going to cost 45,000 United miles. But, that's only if you can find saver award availability. The trouble is there's not much of that to be found. In fact, as part of researching this piece, I searched the entire schedule for all 11 of these routes and there wasn't a single date with saver award availability in a lie-flat business class seat.

Also theoretically, you can book United saver business class awards to Hawaii for just 12,500 Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles each way -- miles which you can accumulate by transferring from Citi ThankYou Points at a 1:1 ratio. However, you're going to have to call Miles & Smiles to search and book this availability, and I haven't seen a successful data point on utilizing this newly-found sweet spot yet.

The next-best option would be Asiana miles. Using Asiana -- which is a transfer partner (3:1) of Marriott -- you can book United business class awards between the US mainland and Hawaii for 27,500 miles each way. Or, you can redeem Singapore KrisFlyer miles between the US mainland and Hawaii for 34,500 miles each way in business class.

But in reality, flying in United lie-flat seat to Hawaii using miles is going to most frequently cost you 90,000 United miles each way.

Airlines Without Lie-Flat Seats to Hawaii

Alaska, Southwest, and Sun Country: All of these carriers fly between the US and Hawaii, but unless you have a really empty flight and luck into "poor man's business class" — three economy seats all to yourself — you aren't going to get a lie-flat seat on any of them.

Featured image by JT Genter
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.