The best business class seats on Sydney-Honolulu flights

By Chris C., June 20 2017
The best business class seats on Sydney-Honolulu flights

Whether you’re jetting to Hawaii for work or play, several airlines can take you there in business class, including Qantas, Hawaiian Airlines and low-cost option Jetstar.

On some flights: fully-flat beds with direct aisle access as travellers are now coming to expect, while on others, seats that simply recline rather than fold fully-flat on the journey of nine to eleven hours.

Australian Business Traveller ranks your options on the leisurely Sydney-Honolulu route.

1. Qantas Airbus A330 Business Suites

Now with fully-flat beds and direct aisle access from every seat, Qantas business class proves the best bet for a comfortable journey to Honolulu.

Upsides: A 1-2-1 seating layout caters for both solo travellers and high-flying couples, with single seats by the windows and pairs of seats in the centre, ensuring that you’ll never need to step over another passenger as you stand up, and won’t be stepped over yourself.

Each seat measures up at 55-58cm wide and can transform into a two-metre-long fully-flat bed, with pyjamas plus a mattress topper, blanket and pillow offered on overnight flights.

Before you drift off to sleep, your seat can also remain partially reclined during take-off and again on landing, cranking back by seven inches to avoid that ‘bolt upright’ feeling – with a fixed, 16-inch HD entertainment screen in front that can be tilted up or down to suit.

Qantas Platinum and other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers also enjoy access to the Qantas First Lounge in Sydney prior to these flights, including its day spa and Rockpool-inspired restaurant, as opposed to the Qantas Business Lounge offered to all other passengers.

Downsides: The Qantas Business Lounges in both Sydney and Honolulu aren’t quite so impressive design-wise, although still feature many of the usual amenities including pre-flight food, beverages and wireless Internet.

Couples, friends and colleagues travelling together will also find a fixed privacy divider in between the centre pairs of Business Suites – and while you can still lean forward to have a conversation, it’s not as ideal as being able to retract the divider.

Schedule: Qantas offers five flights a week in each direction, departing Sydney on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays (early evening departures) and Wednesdays and Fridays (late evening flights), all of which arrive in Hawaii in the morning on the same calendar date. Flights from Honolulu depart on the same days each week, either in the late morning or early afternoon.

AusBT review: Qantas Airbus A330 Business Suite

2. Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330 ‘First Class’/’Premium Cabin’

With a less-desirable 2-2-2 seating arrangement, Hawaiian Airlines is your next-best business class choice (sometimes branded as ‘First Class’ or ‘Premium Cabin’) – and with daily flights in each direction, may be the preferred option for business travellers requiring the most flexibility.

Upsides: Like Qantas, Hawaiian Airlines’ newest seats transform into fully-flat beds and offer USB and AC charging outlets to keep your own devices powered up.

A smaller cabin of just three rows also makes the service feel more intimate, while couples and other duos may prefer the cabin-wide 2-2-2 layout, as they can still sit next to each other while enjoying the view from the windows, with a retractable privacy divider in between making conversation easy.

Virgin Australia loyalists can also earn (and spend) Velocity Frequent Flyer points on these Hawaiian Airlines flights.

Downsides: Hawaiian’s flat beds measure-up at 1.93 metres from tip to tail, being shorter than those found aboard Qantas and in a shape that reduces the space available for sleeping:

Inflight entertainment is also provided via an iPad Pro rather than a fixed screen – although the seat does feature an iPad mount to avoid keeping your tray table deployed for the entire flight – and pyjamas aren’t offered, so do remember to BYO.

Hawaiian Airlines shares the Qantas Business Lounge in Sydney and offers its own Plumeria Lounge in Honolulu, but it should also be said that the airline is currently in the process of installing these newer seats across its Airbus A330 fleet, with works set to be completed by the end of 2017.

While flights to Australia are now served by the ‘upgraded’ planes more often than not, some jets are yet to be refurbished and feature reclining seats as opposed to fully-flat beds.

If you have access to software like ExpertFlyer, you can determine which seat your flight will have by the calling up the economy seat map. If there’s a row 13 in economy, you’ll find the older seats in business class – but if row 13 is absent, you’re on one of the newly-refitted birds.

Schedule: Hawaiian Airlines departs Sydney at 9:25pm each evening to reach Honolulu at 11:15am on the same calendar day. On the return, flights push back at 12:45pm, arriving in Sydney at 7:30pm on the next calendar day.

AusBT review: Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330 business class, Sydney-Honolulu

3. Jetstar Boeing 787 business class

For a lower-cost option that’s still better than economy, consider also Jetstar’s Boeing 787 ‘business class’ service, with reclining seats replacing fully-flat beds.

Upsides: When you’ve got some work to bash through along the way, you’ll appreciate having both AC and USB power outlets at every Jetstar business class seat…

… and when it comes to inflight entertainment, fixed seatback screens avoid the need to bring your own tablet or borrow one from the airline:

Downsides: Reclining seats aren’t an issue when watching a movie or remaining productive, but aren’t as appealing on overnight flights where sleep becomes the priority.

Lounge access is also available only to passengers booked on the more expensive Business Max fares – who can access the same Qantas Business Lounges in Sydney and Honolulu as used by Qantas passengers – although not to the remainder of Jetstar business class flyers.

Instead, that’s where a Qantas Club membership or Qantas Gold or Platinum frequent flyer card comes in handy, which does deliver lounge access to Jetstar passengers in both cities: or failing that, a top-tier AMEX card (such as the American Express Explorer Card) for use of the AMEX Lounge at Sydney Airport.

All things considered, it’s an experience more akin to what other airlines would describe as premium economy rather than business class, but as the classic saying goes, you get what you pay for.

Schedule: Jetstar offers six flights a week in each direction (no flights on Wednesdays), departing Sydney at 4:25pm to arrive at a brisk 6am in Honolulu on the same date. On the way home, flights take wing at 8:30am and return to Sydney at 2:50pm the following afternoon.

AusBT review: Jetstar Boeing 787 business class

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 27

From Melbourne I find Air New Zealand to be the best choice - still one stop at the fabulous ANZ lounge in Auckland. 777/787 all the way to Honolulu. No awkward Sydney connections.

20 Feb 2012

Total posts 67

I was going to ask. How much time do you lose if you take the non-direct widebody AirNewZealand option? Surely they have pretty good business class too.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jan 2015

Total posts 71

Totally Agree with Gswift. Have used NZ a couple of times now and am booked for Xmas. Its a 3 hour layover on the way to Honolulu but the NZ lounge is great and even better once the LA/SFO/YVR flights have been called for boarding around 7pm as it can be a bit crowded. On the way back I opt for an overnight stay and pick up NZ123 to Melb in the morning. There is an A320 that does connect with the NZ10 but no business class on the A320 so I overnight

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2013

Total posts 207

I've often thought it would be great if QF introduced a SYD-HNL-JFK service, especially now that their A330 fleet have the new Business Suites. The "Aloha Route" to the US East Coast would be great, given it would have two roughly similar length flights allowing for a full day's work on one leg and a full night's sleep on the other. The added bonus being the option to avoid LAX altogether and remain on QF metal all the way.  Currently only HA and B6 offer non-stop flights between HNL and JFK.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Jul 2016

Total posts 22

would QF be allowed to pick up passengers at HNL in both directions?  If not I doubt you could make the route viable.


07 Jan 2017

Total posts 31

No B6 nonstop services between HNL and JFK. The B6 fleet consists of narrow body aircraft only.


03 May 2013

Total posts 666

I think to be fair Jetstar also has an edge aircraft wise. The 787 is far superior to the A330 HA and QF use. So from a lower noise, higher humidity levels and lower cabin pressure setting those are definite pluses and a nice consolation for those travellers who may not be able to manage the more expensive HA and QF Business Class fares.

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