I’m going on vacation from the blog for the next week and a half, so get ready for a whole lot of Hawaiian. I’ll be back with more regular content on July 3.
I generally make it a point to not take inaugural flights. As a rule, I’m much more interested in seeing how a flight goes on a normal day than I am seeing one with all the festivities, but I made an exception this time. Hawaiian launched its Long Beach – Honolulu flight on June 1, and I accepted the invitation. Why? Well, there were three main reasons.
First, I wanted to try the A321neo, since I had yet to fly one. Second, I had several interviews that I was hoping to line up in Honolulu, and Hawaiian came through on all of them. Third, I was able to fly in First Class on the return on the A330, and I wanted to try those beds. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I was able to spend a few hours in Hawai’i as part of this. Even though being on the ground in Hawai’i for a mere 20 hours should be considered an unfair form of torture, it was still better than nothing.
[Disclosure: Hawaiian provided the flight and paid for the hotel night.]
My day started VERY early, far earlier than I expected. Even though the flight didn’t leave until 8:30am, I was told that I’d interview CEO Peter Ingram at 6:15am. I left home at 5:30am and found a ton of people at the curb looking for travelers on the flight. Inside the terminal, Hawaiian has been wedged into a sliver of the small ticket counter area.
I was through security quickly, and I found a number of people preparing for the event. I snuck away to do the interview with Peter and SVP Revenue Management and Network Planning Brent Overbeek. They were ready for the occasion.
There was a lot of local media in the gate area, but I was the only one taking the flight. So they did their TV shots and all that while the Hawaiian dancers and musicians entertained the growing crowd.
Then, the traditional blessing that Hawaiian gives for every new aircraft and new destination was given by Kahu Richard Kamanu. I had the good fortune of sitting next to him on the flight.
With that finished, it was time to board. Every passenger was given a lei as well as a little gift bag with Hawaiian goodies.
June 1, 2018
Hawaiian 69 Lv Long Beach 830a Arr Honolulu 1140a
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 11, Runway 30, Depart 5m Early
Honolulu (HNL): Gate E4, Runway 4R, Arrive 25m Early
N204HA, Airbus A321-271N (neo), Standard Hawaiian colors, 90% Full
Seat 1J, First Class
Flight Time 5h30m
On the aircraft, I put my stuff away and then walked aft to see the back cabin. The coach seats have a gray fabric which don’t have much color to them, but they did look nice.
From the back, I took this shot where two things stand out. First, that’s a huge bin. And second, there is no in-seat video. I spoke to Avi Mannis, SVP Marketing for Hawaiian about this and more when I was in Honolulu, and I’ll sprinkle what I learned throughout the trip report. Regarding the bins, Avi said they got the biggest ones the airplane could fit. Despite that, I still found it hard to find room for my bags in first class, so I’ll be curious to see how that works out. As for the entertainment, well, I’ll talk about that later.
I walked back up and took my seat, 1J. In First Class, the seats are recliners with leg rests, so it’s similar to what the A330 used to have before Hawaiian upgraded those to flat beds.
Since these airplanes can’t do much more than a 6 hour flight, the flat beds weren’t deemed necessary. I would tend to agree. The seats have manual controls on them, and there’s a little cubby on the side where the power outlet is hidden.
We pushed back five minutes early and then had a water cannon salute. It was nice of Hawaiian to pay extra for the full rainbow package.
Then it was just a couple more minutes until we were airborne. My first impression? That is a surprisingly quiet airplane. I really enjoyed the silence. We turned to the west and then headed out over the ocean. It was really cold in the cabin, so I opened up the blanket and cuddled up. (I liked the blanket and wanted to steal it, but I didn’t. Avi thanked me later.)
At this point, I started to feel that early wake-up call. In fact, I fell asleep. That is a rarity for me, but I didn’t fully wake up until about an hour and a half into the flight. At that point, the flight attendants quickly swarmed and asked if I wanted my macadamia nuts (I did) and breakfast (I did).
As usual on Hawaiian morning flights, there was no choice. I just had the fruit and “Portuguese style sausage” since the quiche didn’t really interest me. Avi told me that they do offer choices on lunch/dinner flights but just not at breakfast. They are also finally experimenting with limited special meals, including a vegetarian option, in some cases. That’s long overdue.
While the tray was sitting there, I decided it was time to play with inflight entertainment. That, I should note, doesn’t include wifi. Hawaiian has still avoided putting wifi on flights. There were coverage issues previously, and there’s also the problem of needing more bandwidth for widebodies. But ultimately, Avi said, they’ll probably revisit and decide if they should change their minds in the next year.
There is also no in-seat video on Hawaiian’s A321neo. First Class passengers get small tablets, but others have to download an app (Android users can do it onboard, but Apple users have to do it before travel) in order to stream video. Apparently Hawaiian will roll out a functional app for the whole airline that includes entertainment in the fall, so that will be an improvement.
I wanted to try the system, so I tried to log in. I had some issues with it initially saying the access point was full, but it eventually connected. Video costs money to watch onboard, so I didn’t want to test that (since it was free for First Class passengers on the tablet). Instead, I flipped on my favorite radio option, Territorial Airwaves, and listened. That worked fine except it stopped every 10 minutes and the network prompted me to sign in again for some unknown reason.
Once the meal tray was cleared, I decided to break out the tiny tablet. Avi told me that they are looking at options to accommodate a bigger tablet, and that’s a good thing. This is really small.
In most rows in First Class, there is a place to hang the tablet on the seatback in front. But since I was in row 1, there wasn’t that option. At first, I just assumed it had to be put on the tray. Then I realized something. The tray comes out half-folded from the armrest. I saw a little flap when I opened it, so I flipped that up and could rest the tablet on it.
That afternoon, I realized I was doing it wrong. Avi explained that I was supposed to open the tray table fully and then that holder would flip around from the bottom to hold the tablet without getting in the way of the top of the tray. I wish I had known that, and Avi admitted they probably need to find a better way of explaining the mechanics.
There was a bit of chop on much of the flight, and every time it started, the seatbelt sign came on for long periods of time. I think the crew just forgot, because at one point, they flipped it on again even though it was already on. (You can tell because there’s an automated announcement that goes off every time.)
After watching The Darkest Hour, we had about an hour and a half left. I filled out my agriculture form, and talked to the excellent crew. This was their first trip working the A321neo, and it sounds like it takes some getting used to. Remember, they are used to working widebodies, so preparing meals from a smaller galley like this is a big shift.
As we got closer, the chop picked up. At that point, I struck up a conversation with Kahu Richard Kamanu, the man who blessed the flight. We had a great conversation for the last hour of the ride ranging from religion to Hawaiian history. He has apparently done this for the last twenty years for Hawaiian, and he had just flown out to Long Beach for the night.
Soon, we were descending and I could barely see O’ahu through the clouds. We went out to sea and then circled back to land on runway 4R. That day, Honolulu had completely changed its terminal/gate/baggage numbering systems so there was a fair bit of confusion in the terminal.
The old Interisland Terminal, where Hawaiian checks everyone in, is now called Terminal 1. The old Overseas Terminal is now Terminal 2, and the new commuter terminal is Terminal 3. Baggage claims are now numbered instead of lettered, and gates are now alphanumeric instead of numbered. So what the day before would have seen us park at gate 15 on the Central concourse in the Overseas Terminal became gate E4 in Terminal 2.
I was off quickly since I was in row 1, and I headed out to an afternoon of interviews. Overall, I thought the A321 was nice. Of course, it wasn’t nearly as nice as flying a widebody, especially in the front cabin. But that’s just not an option for Long Beach. The A321neo allows this kind of flight to exist from Long Beach, and so it’s well worth the more spartan experience. I do think they need to reconsider the inflight entertainment options, but other than that, I enjoyed the usual Hawaiian service.