Hawaii is a popular destination for a lot of reasons and the flight for most of us is relatively long — up to 10 hours from the East Coast. The top two questions we are often asked are – how can we upgrade to Hawaii and who has the best seat to Hawaii. We wrote about upgrading to business / first class a while ago. Not all business / first class seats are created equal and for such a long flight, if you are buying, upgrading or redeeming miles for a premium seat, seat comfort is important. But before we answer who has the best seat to Hawaii, let see who flies to Hawaii.
From the Continental US – Alaska Air, American, Continental, Delta, Hawaiian, United and US Airways are the only airlines that flies to Hawaii (Honolulu, Maui, Kona – Big Island, and Kaua’i). From the list — Alaska, Hawaii and US Airways has sub-part business / first class seats to Hawaii. They have a basic first class seat with 36 – 38 inches of legroom with limited seat recline. If you are flying first class with them to Hawaii, what you get is a glorified wider coach seat with extra padding.
As you can see above, the seat isn’t that much better than coach, but if you had a choice between that and coach, the first class product is better than coach. So who has a really good business / first class seat to Hawaii?
American, Delta, Continental and United send their international configured planes to Hawaii with almost lie-flat seats that recline almost 180 degrees. However, they do not send it from every hub. Here’s a list of flights that does have international configured business / first class seats –
American send their Boeing 767-300ER with international business class seats to Honolulu and Maui from Dallas. Continental send their Boeing 767-400 with BusinessFirst seats from Newark, Houston and Guam to Honolulu. Beginning October 30th, 2011 Continental will also send their Boeing 767-400 with BusinessFirst seats from Denver and San Francisco. Delta send their Airbus 330 from Atlanta to Honolulu (but only the non-stop flight and not the flight with a stopover in Salt Lake City). United will takeover Continental and the Continental routes above are the only routes that has the international configured business / first class seats. One thing you will notice is that no flights from Los Angeles from any carrier to Hawaii has premium configured seats, so avoid connecting in Los Angeles if you want a good premium seat to Hawaii.
If you compare the international configured business seat above versus the domestic first class with the likes of Alaska, Hawaii and US Airways, it is a huge difference. If you are redeeming miles, you are stuck with whatever carrier you have miles with, but redeem for the routes that have an international configured business class seat since you will likely have to connect to get to Hawaii. If you are paying for the seat, the seats are about even since American, Continental and Delta has about the same recline (about 160-170 degrees — so not true flat beds since they are angled) and they are all configured in a 2 x 2 x 2 seating. Our suggestion is pick you preferred airline and pick the routes that have international configured premium seats.