Review: Hawaiian Airlines new Airbus A330 Premium Cabin (Sydney-Honolulu)

Overall Rating

By James Fordham, December 21 2016
Hawaiian Airlines new Airbus A330 Premium Cabin (Sydney-Honolulu)

Sydney - Honolulu

Aircraft Type

Airbus A330


Hawaiian Airlines



Cabin Class

Premium Cabin (Business Class)



The Good
  • Great in-flight dining
  • Comfortable lie-flat seat
  • Relaxed Hawaiian service
The Bad
  • Not every seat offers direct aisle access
  • iPad Pro setup can be confusing
  • Authentic Hawaiian touches


Long known as a leisure carrier, Hawaiian Airlines has recently started upgrading its fleet of A330 aircraft with new interiors and a brand new lie-flat seat in business class, which we had a chance to try on the inaugural flight from Sydney to Honolulu. So far, six of the Hawaiian Airlines fleet have been upgraded, with Sydney being one of the first destinations to receive the upgraded aircraft.


For Sydney departures, Hawaiian uses the Qantas International Business Class lounge at Sydney’s T1 International terminal, which you can read about here.

In Honolulu, they use the newly refurbished Plumeria Lounge that we wrote about earlier this year.

The lounge has a selection of fresh food (there were sandwiches and teriyaki meatballs on our visit)... well as miso soup, cup noodles, assorted packaged snacks and Hawaiian style biscuits.

Beverages on offer include soft drinks, tea/coffee/hot water, and a red and white wine.

The lounge has a decent amount of seating to cater for the morning Sydney flight, but keep in mind that it’s located in the domestic section of the airport, so you’ll need to allocate approximately 10 minutes to walk to the international part of the terminal. 


 Hawaiian has selected a custom seat design, created in conjunction with Italian firm Optimares. 

The new seat is our first encounter with this particular design and it has some interesting touches, including a ‘reclining wheel’ - a simple dial to raise or recline the seat instead of the usual mix of controls. While this reduces the total potential seat combinations, we liked the simplicity of this system.

In keeping with the Hawaiian theme, there is an image of the Hawaiian night sky at the back of the cabin...

...and the seat dividers even feature natural Hawaiian reeds integrated into them.

Coupled with the brown-leather upholstery, these touches give the new business class product a uniquely Hawaiian feel that we enjoyed.

On paper, the new lie-flat bed is well proportioned at 76-inches (6’4”, 193cm), consisting of the seat and an ottoman. However, the teardrop-shape means that not all of the space is fully usable – as someone that is 6’0”, I found the seat long enough to get a comfortable sleep on the way to Honololu, however taller travellers should be wary about expecting to use the full length of the seat for sleeping.  

The cabin layout of a 2-2-2 configuration means that not every seat gets direct aisle access, so opt for the two middle seats if possible. For those in seats without direct aisle access, your seat mate can step over you through the small gap between the ottoman and seat in front, while the ottoman also has a barrier to prevent your feet from dangling into the aisle.

Also new to the Hawaiian A330 service is a mattress pad to place on the seat before you go to sleep, as well as a large pillow and a thick quilt. We found this significantly increased the comfort of the seat and we were able to sleep 4-5 hours each way between Sydney and Honolulu. 

There's also a few cubby holes to store away miscellaneous items...

...and the in-seat power and sizable tray (pictured below with a 15" MacBook Pro) means you shouldn't have too much trouble getting some work done in the air. 


In-flight dining was one of the highlights of the flight. We tried the Mediterranean style salmon with tomato raisin mushroom sauce, sautéed vegetables and kipfler potatoes…

And the cheese and mushroom omelette with Lyonnaise potatoes and Tuscan cabbage sautéed with bacon strips….

Both dishes were of a high quality and the omelette in particular tasted like one you might get on the ground, and not the typical lifeless omelettes that we’re used to being served in the air.

Two white wines, two reds, and a prosecco are also on offer, along with three signature cocktails...

...including the ubiquitous Mai Tai...

...and a well presented dessert.

Entertainment & Service

Instead of a traditional in-flight entertainment system, Hawaiian has chosen to go with an iPad Pro based system, which is mounted on a stand that pops out of your seat.

The iPad Pro system is a little tricky to get working because one way blocks the power button, and the other way obstructs the earphone jack. They typically come fully charged and can last anywhere from 6 to 10 hours before they need to be connected to the in-seat USB charger. Once we got acquainted with the setup of the screen, the software is fast and videos are sharp. The selection isn’t huge but there’s a decent mix of movies and TV shows to keep you busy for the 10 hour flight.

Hawaiian has also introduced new amenity kits by local designer Sig Zane featuring a hand and body balm, lip balm and hydrating mist, dental kit, eye mask, a bamboo comb, and socks with a playful slipper design. 

The writer travelled to Honolulu as a guest of Hawaiian Airlines.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 453

The new flat beds are also available on HA's flights to BNE and AKL.


23 May 2014

Total posts 129

I'd like to try Hawaiian as an alternate way to the US sometime, especially if I'm flying somewhere that I'd need to connect to anyway. Just hesitant because I've had bad service experiences on US airlines in the past (United, American) and now avoid them - is Hawaiian a "typical" US carrier in terms of service, or something different? And can you earn status credits on Virgin Oz?

Looks like a pretty good product. The food looks especially nice.

I mean sure the 'direct aisle access' depends on having a short person in the aisle-side seat, but considering the carrier its a great improvement over what they had before.  Sure I'd have made the "lip" circle the entire footwell but that's me.

Good work HA on improving things!

16 Mar 2014

Total posts 22

You certainly earn SCs on Hawaiian. Return Business Class SYD/HNL nets a total of 360 SCs

16 Mar 2014

Total posts 22

Whoops, I I meant to say 32o SCs. being 160 each way

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 103

Are the lie flat seats horizontal or angled? The text does not say and I can't determine from the images....

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 453

They are flat (horizontal).

14 Sep 2017

Total posts 3

Hi, can I earn VA SC's while flying Hawaiian??

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