Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hawaiian Airlines First Class on the A330-200 Part 1

Row 3 in the first class cabin.
(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
When the opportunity presents itself, go for it. My Hawaiian Miles account has been accruing miles for over seven years and I've only made a withdrawal once to augment my Hilton HHonors points for a hotel stay in New York City two years ago which still left almost a 100,000 miles left to spare. So a quick telephone call to the Hawaiian Miles service center a couple of days before the flight I was able to upgrade my coach ticket for a first class seat on one of Hawaiian's new Airbus A330-200 jets.

One nice thing about this flight HA18 and this aircraft departing from a gate at the international terminal is separate jetways are put into use, one that leads to the first class cabin and a second to economy. Since Hawaiian really makes their money on the coach seats, the airline is reputed to pack in as many coach seats as possible when choosing an airplane interior design. The coach cabin seats 276 in a 36 row 2-4-2 configuration on this wide-body jet. First class seats 18 in a 2-2-2 configuration in three rows. Only one restroom located behind the cockpit is designated for the first class passengers. If this one is occupied, two additional restrooms are located after the first three rows of the coach cabin.

Though the seats do not lie anywhere near flat, the seat do recline and come with a footrest. The seats feel roomy especially with the extra armrest space between seats. As usual for a first class cabin on a wide-body (and one filled with light packers), there is ample room to stow carry-on bags. I'm sure in the coach cabin the story is not the same.

A view of the cabin from my seat.
Each seat comes with a personal entertainment monitor with  a touch screen that is hidden in the armrest. A selection of movies, television shows, music and video games is offered.

There is something about Hawaiian's meal service with dishes by acclaimed Hawaii Chef Chai Chaowasaree. The flight attendants has the entire cabin withdraw their tray tables to lay the requisite cloth placemat/table cloth. I was seated in row 3H which is an the aisle seat in the last row. Flight attendants began serving to passengers in 3A and thus began a long upside-down "U" meal service working from the last row along one aisle of the cabin then to the first row then crossing over to the other aisle to serve passengers starting with row one and serving the seats in the third row along this aisle last. I sort of felt immobile beneath my tray table since it felt rather long before my meal was served.

I really shouldn't complain about this service since it's a first class meal rather than the smaller version served in the coach cabin. But is it a first class meal? This is where the meal service takes on a unusual method and design. After boarding the flight attendants pass out a menu that lists five entree and which each first class passenger picks three. This may explain why the service feels slow. Depending on which three each passenger orders the flight attendants prepares the three choices first for those passengers being served first.

My three mini-entrees: fish, cheese & crackers and spinach gnocchi.
The prosciutto-wrapped asparagus is hidden beneath the crackers.
My choices were the assorted cheese, grilled fresh catch and spinach gnocchi. There is no salad course. It's these three mini-entrees and then dessert. The cheeses with crackers with prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and fish with lemon butter sauce and mashed potatoes were fine. But the spinach gnocchi weren't the tender pillows I was expecting and it was cold. The other choices were crispy wonton tacos and Hawaiian-style chicken.

Dessert almost became a comedy: an ice cream dessert covered in a hard white chocolate shell, I'm guessing it's frozen and supposed to be defrosted a bit before serving which obviously it wasn't. I observed that the passengers could scarcely crack the candy shell with a spoon without some elbow grease. When I got my dessert I realized it was a challenge. How do you break the frozen exterior without letting the dessert or your spoon fly into the air. I dipped my spoon in my coffee and that helped to melt the white chocolate shell. The slight bitterness of the orange flavored interior indicates a liqueur is an ingredient in the dish.

The infamous hard white chocolate shell covered orange ice cream.
Since I already saw most of the films offered, I skipped the personal entertainment and watched a movie on my iPad instead. Once the cabin lights were dimmed I immediately noticed the colored mood lighting that is now characteristic of new jets.

The trademark of Hawaiian flight service is the hospitality of the airline's flight attendants and I really can't complain about their pleasant demeanor that began with serving a pre-flight Hawaiian Sunrise cocktail (guava and champagne). This flight number HA18 departed from Honolulu International (HNL) at 2:55pm and arrived at Las Vegas McCarran (LAS) at 11:35pm. It's my thing that I can't sleep on planes, even in first class so I was looking forward to checking into my hotel, unpacking, taking a shower and getting a good rest before the first day of at a business conference that I had to attend.

At this point I can say I'm going to call the airline tomorrow to see if I can get upgraded to the first class for the return trip. There's enough miles earned to spare. It's a 1:55am departure on Saturday morning so you can see why.


Calvin Brock said...

I would love to stop by. But, I think it might have to wait until this summer. I did not know that Serlkay had ever expanded its size. I must say that a succesful family owned business in this day and age is a very refreshing sight! As well as this is a very refreshing site! southwest airlines credit card

Fred Cox said...

I always like to travel with Hawaiian Airlines as it is the largest airline in Hawaii. It is the 8th largest commercial airline in the US.Soon i will go on next trip. Thanks for sharing blog..Check this Business class tickets New York

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