United’s upgrading 8 Hawaii routes with its nicest wide-body jets

Jun 28, 2021

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Traveling to Hawaii this winter? Well, your plane might’ve just been upgraded.

Over the weekend, United Airlines filed a notable schedule update to eight of its Hawaii routes from the mainland, per Cirium schedules. The Chicago-based carrier removed its high-density Pratt & Whitney-powered Boeing 777s from the routes and instead swapped in some of its nicest jets in the fleet for much of the winter season.

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The eight routes getting a (plane) upgrade between October 2021 and March 2022 include:

Destination Origin Equipment change
Honolulu (HNL) Chicago (ORD) 1x daily Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
HNL Denver (DEN) 1x daily Boeing 777-200, 1x daily 767-300 and some Boeing 757-200
HNL Houston (IAH) 1x daily Boeing 777-200
HNL Los Angeles (LAX) 1x daily Boeing 777-300
HNL San Francisco (SFO) 1x daily Boeing 777-300, 2x daily Boeing 757-300
Maui (OGG) DEN A mix of the Boeing 777-200 and Boeing 767-300
OGG ORD 5x weekly Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
OGG SFO A mix of the Boeing 767-300 and Boeing 757-200


In confirming the move, United’s citing strong demand as the reason for the upgrade, with the full statement below:

As travel demand to Hawaii remains high, United has loaded our planned flights to the islands through March 2022. We’re extending travel options to the islands that customers enjoyed like our additional Denver-Maui flights and offering more travel experiences with more premium seats on more routes. We will offer Polaris lie-flat seats and United Premium Plus on more routes throughout the winter schedule. While we anticipate the Pratt and Whitney 777s returning soon, we want to minimize any potential customer disruption given the aircraft’s large capacity and the strong bookings we’re seeing to Hawaii for the Winter season.

The move to swap the jets on the aforementioned Hawaii routes comes as United’s Pratt & Whitney-powered Boeing 777s remain grounded following a mid-flight engine failure on Feb. 20, 2021. The carrier parked this sub-fleet of 777s just days after the accident, and there’s still no timeline yet for when these planes will return to the sky.

The Federal Aviation Administration has since issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) that requires all U.S. aircraft with certain Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines to undergo further inspections.

United’s adding Polaris and Premium Plus seats to many Hawaii routes (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Historically, United has deployed these jets on some of its busiest domestic routes, especially on those with strong demand for coach seats. The jet’s woefully outdated cabin features 28 forward- and rear-facing business-class seats arranged in a very tight 2-4-2 configuration. The 336 economy seats are outfitted in a 3-4-3 configuration without any seat-back entertainment.

Compared to the Pratt & Whitney-powered Boeing 777s, United’s replacement planes represent a major upgrade.

Related: Every United business-class seat ranked from best to worst

Except for the narrow-body Boeing 757-300, the replacement jets feature United’s top-notch Polaris cabin (except for just a handful of Boeing 767-300s). Travelers in the pointy end of the plane will enjoy lie-flat biz pods with direct aisle access, along with updated inflight entertainment screens, a dedicated storage compartment and other modern touches.

Additionally, the Boeing 777-200s (powered by GE engines) and -300s, as well as the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, offer United’s Premium Plus cabin, which features extra-reclining seats with leg-rests, additional pitch and larger entertainment screens.

United Premium Plus (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

For now, the carrier is selling Premium Plus as a separate cabin on routes east of California. For flights to and from Los Angeles and San Francisco, savvy travelers can book a coach ticket and select a premium economy recliner for the cost of an extra-legroom Economy Plus seat. (For many Premier elites, this will be a free upgrade.)

Though United’s replacing the Pratt & Whitney-powered Boeing 777s on its Hawaii routes throughout the winter, the plane is still on the schedule for other domestic flights, including between Washington/Dulles (IAD) and San Francisco (SFO), as well as seven other transcons. Of course, that’s subject to change based on when the planes are ungrounded.

In addition to the equipment swaps, United made notable adjustments to its two newest Hawaii flagship routes.

The carrier’s flight from Newark (EWR) to Maui (OGG) will be extended from March 27 and May 5 with four-weekly frequencies. Additionally, the 4,213-mile route between Chicago (ORD) and Kona (KOA) will now fly between Jan. 8 and April 30 with a varying number of weekly frequencies.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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