United upgrades 8 Hawaii routes with more lie-flats, larger wide-body jets

May 24, 2021

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If you’re headed to Hawaii this summer, United has a (plane) upgrade for you.

Over the weekend, the Chicago-based carrier upgauged eight Hawaii routes with larger wide-body jets outfitted with lie-flat Polaris pods and some with premium economy recliners as well.

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You’ll find the full list below of adjustments below, per Cirium timetables. Five routes to Honolulu (HNL) are getting larger jets, as well as one each to Lihue (LIH), Maui (OGG) and Kona (KOA). Note, of course, that schedules are always subject to change, especially as we’ve seen a plethora of last-minute adjustments during the pandemic.

Origin Destination Adjustment(s)
EWR HNL 1x daily Boeing 767-400ER replaces 767-300ER in August
IAD HNL 1x daily Boeing 767-400ER replaces 767-300ER in August, with daily service in July and August
LAX HNL 2x daily Boeing 777-300ER in July; 1x daily Boeing 777-300ER in August
ORD HNL 1x daily Boeing 777-300ER from July 1 through Sept. 7
SFO HNL Up to 4x daily Boeing 777-300ER in July and 1x daily in August; 1x daily Boeing 767-300ER in July, and 1x Boeing 777-200ER every other day in July and 2x daily in August
SFO LIH 1x daily Boeing 767-300ER from July 1 through Sept. 7
SFO OGG 1x daily Boeing 777-200ER in July
SFO KOA 1x daily Boeing 767-300 from July 1 through Sept. 7


Several routes will see United’s largest jet — the Boeing 777-300ER. This plane has 350 seats spread across three cabins: 60 lie-flat Polaris pods, 24 Premium Plus recliners and 266 coach seats, 62 of which are configured in an extra-legroom Economy Plus arrangement.

You can confirm that your flight is scheduled to be operated by a 777-300ER by taking a look at the seat map. If the Polaris cabin goes up to row 18, then you’re slated to fly the largest jet in United’s fleet.

Polaris on the 777-300ER (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Both the Newark (EWR) and Washington Dulles (IAD) routes to Honolulu (HNL) will be operated by the larger Boeing 767-400ER, replacing the -300ER that was originally on the schedule for August. None of United’s 767-400s have received the Polaris retrofit yet, so you’ll be flying in the dated Collins Diamond biz pods if you’re seated up front.

United recently brought the Boeing 767-400ER back from long-term storage to backfill for its Pratt & Whitney-powered Boeing 777-200s that are currently grounded following an uncontained engine failure on Feb. 20, and a subsequent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness directive requiring further engine inspections.

Elsewhere, United’s routes from San Francisco (SFO) to Kona (KOA) and Lihue (LIH) haven’t seen wide-body service in years. UA last flew a Boeing 777 between SFO and KOA in March 2018, while the route to LIH was last operated by a Boeing 767 wide-body in August 2012, per Cirium schedules.

That’ll change this summer when both routes will get one daily Boeing 767-300ER from July 1 through Sept. 7. The majority of the carrier’s Boeing 767-300s are outfitted with its latest cabins, including 30 lie-flat Polaris business-class pods and 184 coach seats.

United’s Polaris cabin on the Boeing 767 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The move to upgrade the equipment on a slew of Hawaii routes comes as long-haul travel is still a fraction of where it was before the pandemic. Despite some countries reopening to vaccinated travelers — and United adding new service there — the carrier still has a surplus of wide-body jets to either deploy domestically or park in storage.

Instead of grounding them, the carrier is scheduling them on high-demand frequencies to Hawaii, as well as select flights within the mainland, like Newark (EWR) to Las Vegas (LAS) and Chicago (ORD) to Orlando (MCO).

In fact, this latest capacity boost underscores that United seems to believe that there’s no shortage of demand for Hawaii flights. With a widespread vaccine rollout and recent relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, UA is likely betting that pandemic-weary travelers are gearing up for a summer of adventure.

Hawaii has been open to tourists sans quarantine since late 2020, and demand to travel to the Aloha State only appears to be growing. There are even reports that Hawaii could soon announce a system for travelers vaccinated outside of the state to travel to and around Hawaii without any quarantine or pre-departure testing.

All in, United plans 21 routes to Hawaii this summer, including brand-new service between Orange County, California (SNA) and HNL, as well as long-haul flights from Chicago (ORD) to Kona (KOA) and from Newark (EWR) to Maui (OGG).

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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