These days, most US airlines fly to Hawaii. It’s a massively popular leisure destination that has no problem attracting crowds. This means you have plenty of choice for getting between the mainland and paradise. But in a sea of choices, there’s still an obvious (and fun!) place to start — with the island’s namesake airline.
My family has been lucky enough to fly many airlines to Hawaii, but our favorite of them all has been Hawaiian Airlines. If you are trying to make this choice yourself, here are five reasons why we loved Hawaiian Airlines:
1. 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.
It’s fun to feel like you are already immersed a bit in Hawaii before you even leave the ground.
2. 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 each direction. Not all Hawaiian flights have the lie-flat seats, but many of them do and they are a nice way to cross the ocean.
Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard: Earn a 60,000-mile bonus for a limited time (after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days)
If you don’t have the miles, the cash prices in the lie-flat seats can sometimes be in the $600-ish range, so while that isn’t cheap, it might be worth it for a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip.
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.
That said, most people fly in economy, and Hawaiian Airlines is OK there, too — at least comparatively speaking.
3. The Food
Yes, Hawaiian Airlines food is above-average in first class, but again, that’s not where most people fly.
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.
On Southwest Airlines to Hawaii, you’re going to just 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 on flights back to the East Coast in economy.
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.
4. Hawaiian Airlines Awards Miles Based on Distance Flown
Unlike most US 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.
From Boston to Honolulu and back is more than 10,000 flown miles — the longest domestic route out there. 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. And, of course, you can add to your mileage with the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard that has upped its bonus to 60k miles for a limited time (after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days). 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.
5. The Service
An ode to Hawaiian Airlines is not complete without a nod to the service. On the whole, I’ve experienced and heard Hawaiian Airlines flight crews 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 folks going to paradise. Or maybe it’s a different corporate culture. The difference shows. A good or bad flight crew can make or break an in-flight experience — and on Hawaiian Airlines they are far more likely to enhance your flight to the Aloha State.
Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t operate out of all of the major US 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 preference for doing it again (hopefully in another lie-flat seat).