Going to SFO? Connect in Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines to avoid LAX

By John Walton, May 9 2011
Going to SFO? Connect in Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines to avoid LAX

With Qantas having axed its San Francisco flights this weekend, Hawaiian Airlines is looking to take up some of the slack.

The American airline hopes that business travellers heading from Sydney to the western US will prefer to connect in Honolulu rather than Los Angeles, and has a well-planned timetable of connections to ten US cities.

Hawaiian's Sherilyn Robinson, General Manager Sales and Marketing for Australia, explained why Honolulu is better than LAX.

"By flying via Honolulu, travellers can clear US customs quickly, without crowds, as Hawaiian's flights from Australia arrive late morning, outside the peak period," Robinson told Australian Business Traveller.

"Travellers can then connect with afternoon flights to the mainland, with no further formalities to complete when they reach the West Coast," Robinson continued. "They simply land, collect their luggage, and go on their way."

The airline is introducing Airbus A330 planes, initially on routes to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but currently uses Boeing 767 aircraft.

The 767s have a popular 2-3-2 Economy cabin layout with a 32 inch seat pitch (the space between your seat back and the one in front). That's an inch more than Qantas gives you. The in-flight entertainment options are overhead screens or rentable hand-held digital players for US$20. 

In business class, the cabin has a 2-2-2 layout, but with recliners rather than angled lie-flat seats or fully flat beds, which is a downside for the ten-hour overnight flight from Sydney to Honolulu. 


But for many business travellers, the option to avoid the hassle-prone, overcrowded and inconvenient LAX airport in Los Angeles may trump a more advanced seat.

Hawaiian has direct same-day connections to three airports in the San Francisco bay area: main airport SFO, plus Silicon Valley airport San Jose and Oakland airport in the East Bay.

The airline also flies direct from Honolulu to Seattle in Washington state, Portland in Oregon, Phoenix in Arizona, Las Vegas in Nevada, and Californian cities Sacramento, San Diego and Los Angeles.

There's a lounge in Honolulu for business class passengers waiting for their connecting flight, but you won't be there long -- connection times are very well scheduled. 

Australian Business Traveller made some test bookings for May and June this year, and most connections are at or under two hours eastbound to the US and around an hour westbound to Australia. 

That's just about enough time to clear customs and have a drink in the lounge before boarding your onward next flight.
Sydney to San Francisco, for example, is a 2h10m transit, while the return flight is an even more convenient 1h15m.

From Sydney to San Jose (more convenient for the southern end of the SF Bay Area), the connection is 2h15, and exactly an hour westbound from San Jose to Sydney.

Australian travellers can also top up their frequent flyer balances by flying Hawaiian. The airline is a partner in Velocity Rewards, the frequent flyer programme from Virgin Australia (and previously Virgin Blue, V Australia, Pacific Blue and Polynesian Blue).

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.


15 Apr 2011

Total posts 582

So I'm supposed to prefer to fly Hawaiian with a 20 year old plane and recliner in business, with a stop in the middle of nowhere than going either direct on the upper deck of the daily United service, or via Los Angeles with a flat bed on the A380, the chance to have a shower in the LAX lounge, and then jump on a quick AA shuttle?

LAX isn't the businessman's nightmare that is commonly portrayed - it's clean, has a pretty decent lounge, and is easy enough to use if you allow enough time and have a bit of patience...

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 667

Hey, thanks for your comment!

There's no one trans-Pacific option for everyone -- the complex combination of prices, schedules, seats, entertainment, frequent flyer programs, connection airports and so on is uniquely weighted for every flyer.

Your decision sounds like it's weighted in favour of certain considerations, and that's okay -- we've covered your options on United and Qantas previously, and reviewed their seats. But some of our readers might prefer to save a few thousand A$ and go via Honolulu.

We're aiming to provide a wide range of information to inform business travellers so that they can make the best decision for their own circumstances.

I'd love to hear from people who are passionate about LAX as a great option for connections, and would be happy to collate opinions and examples of effective itineraries -- my email's listed above.


15 Apr 2011

Total posts 582

Hey John - thanks for the response. I only just reread my comment - didn't realise it was so aggressive!! Sorry about that!! I guess that I've been spoilt with my travel, but thinking about it, I probably would consider Hawaiian in business if I was travelling on my own dollar (I would usually use QF premium economy or economy) if the price was right.

As for LAX - I agree it's not the perfect airport... But does such a thing even exist? I've never found an overwhelmingly good way of getting through but the comfort of the A380 over the 747 alternative has always encouraged me to be patient...

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 667

Oh, no worries, it's great that you're so passionate! (Ask me about trans-Atlantic options sometime...one of my real bugbears!)

I agree with you that QF's A380 business class flat-bed seats are a real draw, and I'd even say that one of the better (exit row) seats in Premium Economy could rival Hawaiian for comfort.

Hmm, perfect airports...I'm a fan of Changi, and if Hong Kong had a little more soul and class it'd be up there too. I do keep meaning to transit through Seoul one of these days to check it out -- it has an excellent reputation. Narita's also up there, especially for food. And, actually, SFO is exceedingly pleasant for a US airport.

My all-time favourite is Newquay Cornwall International Airport (formerly flying to Duesseldorf every third Saturday), which is the world's most perfect airport. It might be a glorified shed on a former airbase, but you can get a pint of proper bitter brewed not ten miles away and a hot and fresh Cornish pasty. Beats LHR T5 hands-down. ;)

Top tip though: when returning from abroad, there's only one customs inspector, who I seem to remember is named Dorcas or Dottie or Doreen. So pick a seat at the front of the plane.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Nov 2010

Total posts 60

I've done Sydney-LAX about 8 times and I always find the first day I'm there knocks me around due to the time difference and I end up having a huge sleep session to try and normalize, one recent trip I did a stopover in Hawaii first, stayed two days and then went on to San Francisco, that unwind at the start of the trip allowed me to be more productive once I arrived on the mainland, if it's something that can be worked into the schedule then I'd recommend giving it a go, (for me) avoiding LA is a bonus

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 667

There's something about that eastbound trip that really knocks me for six every time too. Westbound I'm normally fine, but, like you, I end up turning into Sleeping Beauty on arrival.

10 May 2011

Total posts 3

There is of course the option of taking Air New Zealand's flight from Auckland direct to San francisco, 6 times a week(excluding tuesday).

They have a fantastic product, and now use their 747's for this route. lie flat business class, premium economy and economy. The fares are very reasonable right now, and the connections from Australia are excellent.

Check them out.

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 667

Oh, absolutely -- and Air New Zealand's business is fully flat, not lie-flat!

Business Premier, Premium Economy and Economy on the 747 are world-class, and Business Premier is even better on the 777-300ER they use to LAX -- I rate the 777-300ER Business Premier as the best in the sky.

(Unfortunately, their Premium Economy on the 777-300ER is a real step backwards in terms of comfort, and their ten-abreast 3-4-3 high-density configuration on that plane is just diabolically cramped.)

The only caution I'd raise for connecting in Business via Auckland is the inconsistent trans-Tasman product, where "business" is usually the "economy with blocked off middle seat" style. I'm not sure that even avoiding LAX is worth sitting in Economy over the Tasman for a business class fare.

10 May 2011

Total posts 3

hi john,

There iare certain misconceptions about their inflight product over the tasman, so here are the facts.

Yes they have changed the business across the tasman and how you fly. The Airbus A320 service is now ALL economy, but the other flights, 767, 777 and 747 still have  business.

The reason for this was to increase market share, as you know, the tasman is probably the most competitive of any in the world.

What they decided to do was to allow customers the freedom of CHOICE.

Instead of bringing in a low cost carrier, they decided to use the same basic airline to, say hey, we can offer everything you want.

If you want to fly business, then book a flight on one of the 767, 777 or 747 flights.

If your price sensitive, then take a look at seats to suit.

Choice is a wonderful thing. Pay for just the seat, or pay for the seat +bag, or the works.....seat checked in bag and food.(includeds free drinks movies etc..)

This has been in windfall for Air NZ. A 25% increase in passenger numbers acrosss the tasman.

As for the premium economy on the 777-300...

they have recognised from feedback that their leg room of this product is not up to standard. They have listened to their customers, and in the next 6 months, they will be removing a row of premium economy, (6 seats) from this aircraft.

More legroom, a softer seat...so hopefully it will once again be a real winner in the eyes of those who travel in this class.

As for the 3-4-3 in economy. This is the same as emirates.

It is also a fact that the seats are the same width as their seats on the 747, no different. Where there seems to be the problem, is when customers put there seats back, and the person behind find that their IFE screen is right in there face. Or, people wanting to use a laptop have found that they cannot fully utilise this, as the seat infront is so close they cannot open up their screen fully. To counter this they need to put their seat ALSO in recline.

Its an ongoing process, customer feedback. As i have experinced if you make the time to put in feedback, things change with this airline.

The IFE on this aircraft is really amazing. You can at a touch of the screen interact  with the inflight conceirge, and immediately get a result. feedback questions answered. Order inflight snacks, drinks,.

Remember this is a aircraft with new innovations. They are still fine tuning this product. Its way ahead of any competion so far.

In economy you get 3 choices for dinner. 1 cold and 2 hot options. You can buy business class wines, if you choose to. You have the choice of buying cuddle class, and as i beleive this is pretty much sold out over the next 6 months.

Induction ovens(Aworld first in all cabins)

Having spoken to some Air NZ crew. there have been problems with these, but have rectified most the problems with the maker, through a software update.

So soon, you will once again be able to enjoy, freshly made burgers, toasted sandwiches, in economy.

As for business class. Yes i agreee. They now really have an amazing product. fully flat bed, even better than before, their own inflight galley specialist, with fresh food from scratch.

I appreciate your feedback and comments, and look forward to some more.




15 Apr 2011

Total posts 582

You say that the all economy A320s have been a windfall for ANZ across the tasman (with a 25% increase in flyers) - totally wrong... Ticket sales are up around 12-14%, but their yields have plummeted... They are also faced with a significantly higher fuel bill (due to the heavier aircraft), so the general consensus is actually that they aren't making any extra $$ off these routes... 

Your second point - Premium Economy on the 77W... Yes, extra legroom is on the way and greatly appreciated... It's a shame that ANZ went with such a cramped cabin in the first place, and they now need to bring the soft product back up to the level it is on the 747 and 772 (ie predeparture drinks etc)... And what's this about softer seats?? All they are doing is spacing the seats out a bit more...

77W economy - yes, 3-4-3 is the same as EK... So? It's still reidiculously cramped and crowded. The seat width is the same, like you say, but the aisles are about 30cm wide which is simply ridiculously difficult to navigate. The IFE is great - nothing better than any other modern airline (ie ICE, QF A380, SQ, EY etc) 

Induction ovens - oh right!! So that's why they're serving soggy beef casseroles in aluminium trays?

Sorry to be so blunt and negative, but face the reality. Air NZ is simply catching up with the rest of the industry... And they're not doing it too well. Maybe explore the facts before preaching for ANZ...


15 Apr 2011

Total posts 582

And since when was the Tasman one of the most competitive routes in the world??

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 667

Hi Andrew, and thanks for your in-depth comments! (As a Wellingtonian myself at the mo, apologies for taking some time to come back to you -- I was enjoying the gorgeous autumn evening we had tonight!)

And also as a Wellingtonian, clearly your suggestion for trans-Tasman service on anything other than an A320 is impractical for us. But let's consider the JAFAs for a moment...

So let's say I want to go from Auckland to Sydney, which I'll assume is the most popular route and thus most likely to have larger planes. For a flight tomorrow, only two of my five options are non-A320s, and I have to hover over the "1 flight" option to check. On Saturday? Only one of four isn't an A320. There's no clear distinction in pricing or advertised service between the A320s and the 767s. And, obviously, no 747s or 777s. You mention choice: how does a confusing product selection page that only people who are familiar with the difference between a 763 and a 322 understand help to make a choice? 

And I'm pretty sure the Tasman isn't the most competitive in the world. Two major players -- Qantas/Jetconnect and Air New Zealand, plus significant minor roles from Pacific Blue, Jetstar & Emirates, and cameos from China Airlines, LAN and Aerolineas Argentinas. Am I forgetting anyone? Try a Japanese market. Or Dublin-London. Or NYC to the LA city-region. Or, closer to home, Sydney-Melbourne.

Moving on to Premium Economy, as we reported today, yep, the legroom's being boosted. I told them on the plane in February that their legroom was mad, and you know we've written extensively about it -- and caught some flak for it by people who think we're Air New Zealand bashing. (That flak's pretty much unfair: I sing Air NZ's praises for domestic mainline, regional NZ, 747 and 777-300ER Business Premier, which I maintain is a contender for the best business class in the sky.) But it's the inconsistency in the airline's products that really gets me -- plus, of course, the mentality of actually inflicing that Richard Simmons safety video that's nearly as offensive as it is banal and irritating on passengers. I don't understand it. Nothing to Hide was funny; Crazy About Rugby too. But the Lycra-clad loon and the puppet? No.

It's patently untrue for you to suggest that the Ecobnomy seats on the 777-300ER are the same width as on the 747, especially when Air New Zealand's own materials (let alone pure geometry) say they're not. And yes, Emirates uses the high-density configuration too, as does Air France-KLM, domestic Japanese routes and various low-cost carriers. I avoid flying Economy on those airlines too. I also note that you've neatly avoided (a) the two inches seat pitch cut from 747 to 77W, and (b) the enormous entertainment system box jutting into the reduced legroom.

I don't doubt that the entertainment system is great. But for me -- and for many -- the space is the most important thing. And that's where Air New Zealand fall down. Maybe they're not interested in business travellers travelling alone, and they assume that people travel in pairs and can cuddle up to the person next to them for some extra room. Or maybe everyone working on the new seats was under 5'10" tall -- although a frequent flyer friend of mine is notably shorter than me (I can rest my arm on his shoulder) and feels squashed in both Economy and Premium Economy.

Whatever the reason, Air New Zealand needs to take a serious look at its quality control, focus group and testing process. We've by no means been the only ones saying "premium economy legroom and 3-4-3 on a 777 is a horrible mistake" since February; it's just a shame it's taken four and a half months for anyone high up in Air New Zealand to listen.

Again, Andrew, thank you for taking the time to put forward your views -- it's always a pleasure to hear from someone so passionate about their airline!


10 May 2011

Total posts 3

Hi John, thanks also for your in-depth comments!

This is what its about. People talking about different products, airlines, its what...i'm sure the airlines have someone scanning the internet for comments such as ours!....

Like every airline, things aren't perfect.

The points i probably didn't make clear were about the economy seats on the 777-300 compared to the 747. On the 747, your entertainment handset is in the arm rest, and it sticks out. With the 777-300 as you well know is in the seat in front, so the width of the 777 seat is the same as the 747.I actually measured on my last trip, the width and its ...from inboard of each arm rest 4 millimetres smaller, but take away the hanset issue on the 747 its the same. however we'll, i'm sure agree to disagree:)

Your point with the um, booking of flights..ie the seat only, seat + bag etc.

I did a false booking to see how i could see what i was getting. I don't know whether its because i fly alot or what, but i found it perfectly easy to understand what i was getting if i booked, only the seat, or wanted the works.

I guess its all to do with being familiar with the booking process.

I fly all sorts of airlines when needed, (not just Airnz), and to put them in perspective against many, they are actually really good.

If not for there food, then the crew make up for it.

I had a word with one of the managers last week from Airnz, and was telling me that the 777-300 is being tweeked every month, so that they can deliver a more impressive product.There will always be teething problems with new food, ovens, and different seating.

He added, thats why feedback from customers is needed, so they change things.

I also note about your soggy meal,lol.(from am) I found out from him also that they are  making changes to that tray.

Have a great week , as i'm off to LA tomorrow, on the 777-300! i'll report my findings to see if anything has changed


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 May 2011

Total posts 1

Of all the US carriers I have flown, Hawaiian is pretty good. You can tell its a small operation and the crew are friendly and helpful. Especially once they transition to the A330. I will say however that the Honolulu customs/immigration hall is an ABSOLUTE nightmare anytime of day..and I have a US passport! I've arrived morning, night, midday its always bad. Its old, the officers are slow and the line is always huge. Further I flew in in November and the walk is very long now though its still better then those hideous wikiwiki buses they used to cram us onto to get to immigration. Hawaiian is good if you are going to Vegas - they fly direct or used to from HNL.

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