5 reasons to fly Hawaiian Airlines to Hawaii

Nov 13, 2019

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If you tilt your head west — way west — and think you hear the faint sound of a Hawaiian rendition of “Happy Birthday,” you’re probably right. Hawaiian Airlines is celebrating its 90th birthday this week. In 1929, the airline launched with two Sikorsky S-38 amphibian aircraft, offering interisland service in Hawaii.

Inter-Island Airways (now Hawaiian Airlines) Sikorsky S-43 in flight past an unidentified mountainous coastline somewhere in the Hawaiian Islands circa 1935–1940. (Photo courtesy of National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)
Inter-Island Airways (now Hawaiian Airlines) Sikorsky S-43 in flight past an unidentified mountainous coastline somewhere in the Hawaiian Islands circa 1935–1940. (Photo courtesy of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

Now, 90 years later, Hawaiian Airlines is a long-haul international carrier with service from mainland U.S. gateways to the Hawaiian Islands, as well as service to destinations that include Tahiti, Tokyo and Sydney.

While Hawaiian Airlines’ routes of today go beyond the islands, it’s certainly best known to most of us for transporting mainland Americans to Hawaii and vice versa. And, while most major U.S. airlines fly to Hawaii, an obvious place to start is with the island’s namesake airline.

My family has been lucky enough to fly many airlines and many routes to Hawaii, but Hawaiian Airlines is our favorite of the bunch. If you’re trying to make this choice yourself, here are five reasons we loved Hawaiian Airlines.

Related: Best ways to redeem points and miles on Hawaiian Airlines

The aloha spirit

Most airlines try to make flights to Hawaii feel at least a little special, but Hawaiian just does it better. There is Hawaiian music during boarding, mai tais available (free in first class), an island color scheme onboard, island-themed crew uniforms and a company that is truly rooted in all things Hawaii.

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Start the trip to Hawaii with a mai tai. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

It’s fun to feel like you’re already immersed a bit in Hawaii before you leave the ground.

The seats

Hawaiian Airlines offers some nice lie-flat seats in first class that can sometimes be bought for a reasonable number of miles or cash. Here’s how you can book Hawaiian’s first class seats to Hawaii from 40,000 miles in each direction. Not all Hawaiian Airlines flights have lie-flat seats, but many of them do and they’re a great way to cross the ocean.

Related: Flying Hawaiian Airlines first class with the whole family 

If you don’t have the miles, the cash prices in the lie-flat seats can sometimes be found in the $600-ish range, so while that isn’t cheap, it might be worth it for a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip.

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Comfortable lie-flat seats. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

If first class is out of range, there are also Extra Comfort seats available in economy to give you extra space plus some priority boarding and check-in perks at a lower price point.

Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian extra comfort (Photo courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines)

That said, most people fly in economy, and Hawaiian Airlines is OK there, too — at least comparatively speaking.

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

The food

Yes, Hawaiian Airlines’ food is above average in first class, but again, that’s not where most people fly.

(Photo by Wallace Cotton / The Points Guy)
A first-class meal on Hawaiian (Photo by Wallace Cotton/The Points Guy)

What’s more impressive to me is that Hawaiian Airlines still serves real hot meals at no extra charge in economy — and sometimes two meals on the longest domestic flights, as shown below.

(Photo by Wallace Cotton / The Points Guy)
Hawaiian’s economy meal (Photo by Wallace Cotton/The Points Guy)

On Southwest Airlines to Hawaii, you’re just going to get a snack box, so a hot meal on Hawaiian is a big step up in helping pass the time over the Pacific. Here’s a peek at the additional round of food you may get when it’s close to landing time for flights back to the East Coast in economy.

Related: The 2019 best airlines for families

Snack time! (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

You’ll find a guava juice mix available on board Hawaiian Airlines flights, and you can get a free glass of wine with your meal, too — even in economy.

Hawaiian Airlines awards miles based on distance flown

Unlike most U.S. airlines that operate flights to Hawaii, Hawaiian Airlines still awards miles based on how far you fly — not how much you pay for your ticket. So, if you can pick up a cheap fare to Hawaii on Hawaiian, you’ll still earn a bunch of miles.

Boston to Honolulu is more than 5,000 flown miles, the longest domestic route in the US. That one round-trip would earn you more than enough miles in Hawaiian’s frequent flyer program to book a 7,500 mile island-hopper award. Economy award flights from the West Coast to Hawaii and back start at 20,000 miles each way.

You can also transfer miles from the Amex Membership Rewards program to Hawaiian or transfer them for free with someone who has a cobranded Hawaiian credit card.

The service

An ode to Hawaiian Airlines is not complete without a nod to the service. On the whole, I’ve experienced Hawaiian Airlines flight crews to be friendly and more accommodating than the average domestic flight crew. Maybe it’s because they largely live in Hawaii. Maybe it’s because they are working flights filled with people going to paradise. Or maybe it’s a different corporate culture. Whatever it is, the difference shows. A good or bad flight crew can make or break an in-flight experience, and on Hawaiian Airlines, the crew is far more likely to enhance your flight to the Aloha State.

Bottom line

Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t operate out of all of the major U.S. airports. You will find Hawaiian operating in many cities on the West Coast, and as far east as Phoenix and Las Vegas as well as nonstop from Boston and New York’s JFK. But even if you have to connect on the West Coast to fly to or from Hawaii on Hawaiian, that’s not the worst idea (especially with kids who don’t sleep well on planes).

Now that I have flown Hawaiian Airlines to Hawaii, I have a strong desire to do it again (hopefully in another lie-flat seat).

To listen to an interview with Brian Kelly talking to the CEO of Hawaiian Airlines listen here:

Featured image courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines

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