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Aloha: Hawaiian Airlines’ New First Class Suites on the 787

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Looking to fly first class to Hawaii? It doesn't get any better than Hawaiian Airlines' new first class suites.

Most airlines fly narrowbody jets to and from Hawaii, with standard first class recliners at the front of the plane. And while you may occasionally find lie-flat seats to Hawaii, including Hawaiian Airlines' older Airbus A330s, those outdated seats fall far short of the airline's sterling service. 

Enter Hawaiian's brand-new first class suites on their Boeing 787 Dreamliners, which have changed the game. Dubbed Leihōkū suites, these are on par with (or even better than) the business class suites flying on the world's top-ranked airlines. 

The seats themselves are incredibly spacious and unbelievably private, with closing doors to shut out the rest of the cabin. And while the lack of lounge access beforehand and paltry inflight amenities stood out, so did Hawaiian's warm service onboard. 

Just weeks after these new suites finally entered service, I recently flew from San Francisco (SFO) to Honolulu (HNL). From the booking process to the incredibly spacious seats and Hawaiian's inflight service, here's what it was like.



How to Book Hawaiian Airlines First Class Suites

The first step to booking these beautiful Hawaiian Airlines First Class suites is to know which routes Hawaiian is flying its 787 Dreamliner. There aren't many of them – at least not yet.

Hawaiian launched this new bird flying from San Francisco to Honolulu on April 16. While I wasn't on the inaugural flight, I flew this route during the short one-month window when you could from SFO as Hawaiian shifted this plane to new markets in mid-May.

As of publication, you'll currently find the 787 Dreamliner equipped with these first class suites scheduled on the following routes:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL)one daily flight
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Maui (OGG) – starting Nov. 3, 2024
  • Phoenix (PHX) to Honolulu (HNL)through Nov. 2, 2024

That said, this could easily change. And over time, these suite-equipped 787s should become prevalent on more and more routes – including between Honolulu and the East Coast, Asia or even the South Pacific – as Hawaiian Airlines gets more jets delivered. 

But you also need to pay close attention to the individual flight, not just the route. Flying between Los Angeles and Honolulu, for example, Hawaiian also flies its older Airbus A330s several times a day. That means you'll need to zero in on the single frequency that flies aboard the 787 with these fancy first class suites. 

As of publication, flight numbers HA3 (LAX to HNL) and HA2 (HNL to LAX) are on the 787. On Google Flights, look for “individual suite” when searching for business or first class tickets. 


booking Hawaiian first class suites with google flights


Typically, you'll find fares north of $2,500 roundtrip to fly these stylish suites first class to Hawaii. But we've seen it dip below $1,500 on occasion, alerting Thrifty Traveler Premium members immediately when it happens.

But the best way to book these flights is with points and miles.

Hawaiian Airlines charges as low as 40,000 Hawaiian miles each way – and those miles are incredibly easy to earn. You can instantly transfer Amex Membership Rewards or Bilt points directly to Hawaiian miles. Hawaiian also sells seats for double this price … but if you hunt for these cheapest “saver” award seats, you can see that it sometimes costs the same number of miles for first class as it does for a standard award in economy.


Los Angeles to Honolulu first class with Hawaiian miles


Better yet, you can also book these flights with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points. While Virgin charges the same 40,000 points one-way, there are often transfer bonuses which can drop the number of points required down to as low as 31,000 each way.


thrifty traveler premium deal for hawaiian airlines first class


Get alerts like this to fly Hawaiian Airlines First Class to Hawaii! Sign up for Thrifty Traveler Premium today!

Since Virgin is a transfer partner with all the major banks, you can book these flights through Virgin whether you have Amex, Bilt, Chase, Capital One, or Citi points, too. This means points earned on top travel cards like the *chase sapphire preferred*, *amex gold*, or the *venture x*, can be used to book Hawaiin's first class suites.

A small hurdle when booking with Virgin points is you'll need to call Virgin to book Hawaiian Airlines flights. These redemptions are not available to book online. But any dates you find on Hawaiian's website for 40,000 miles can typically be booked with Virgin over the phone.

In my case, we transferred 40,000 Amex points to Hawaiian, paying just a $5.60 tax bill on top of the miles for a one-way to Honolulu in brand-new first class suites.

At Thrifty Traveler, we don’t accept freebies. We use our own points, miles, or cash to pay for every single flight or hotel you see reviewed here – including this one.

About a week before my flight, I received an email asking if I'd like to purchase Hawaiian Airlines Premium Airport Service. After researching what was included, I decided it wasn't worthwhile for a flight into Honolulu: The airline charged $500 (for a party of two) for escorts through the terminal, baggage delivery, and a “Premium lei greeting” for arrivals.

Departing from (or connecting through) Honolulu, that premium service also includes access to the airline's private new “Apt. 1929” lounge, which looks quite fancy. 


hawaiian airlines lounge
Photo courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines


Can You Upgrade to Hawaiian First Class?

Travelers always ask if they can upgrade an economy ticket to first class.

In almost every case, it's better to book the cabin you want to fly than bank on an upgrade. There's no guarantee that an upgrade will be available – if it's possible at all.

With Hawaiian, it's a mixed bag. To be eligible for an upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines, you'll need to have purchased at least a Main Cabin economy ticket with cash – economy award redemptions or basic economy tickets are not eligible for upgrades, period.

And while it's possible to upgrade to first class with Hawaiian miles, it hinges on upgrade availability, which isn't a slam dunk. Hawaiian has two different levels of upgrades using miles, starting from 25,000 miles one-way for a “saver” upgrade between North America and Hawaii, and double that for a “flex” upgrade. In some cases, that charge of 50,000 miles or more to upgrade exceeds the cost of booking first class from the beginning. 


upgrade to first class with Hawaiian Airlines miles


You can also bid for an upgrade up to 28 hours before departure. If your bid is accepted, you'll get an email 48 hours to 24 hours prior to departure. Finally, day-of-departure upgrades may be available based on availability starting from $399 between the West Coast and Hawaii. I wouldn't count on these being available for Hawaiian's new first class suites, but it's worth checking with an agent at the airport if you're interested.


day of departure cash upgrade to Hawaiian Airlines first class


Checking In & Boarding Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines' check-in and boarding process is fairly standard, but one thing that's worth noting is that Hawaiian doesn't offer lounge access with your ticket when departing mainland U.S. airports.

Terminal A at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) was fairly empty when I arrived for my morning departure to Honolulu (HNL). You can choose to check-in online, at a kiosk, or with a Hawaiian Airlines agent at the desk. If you have bags to check, you'll have a dedicated check-in line when flying first class.


Hawaiian Airlines check in at SFO


While Hawaiian Airlines doesn't have a lounge at SFO (or any mainland U.S. airport) for its first class passengers, the Golden Gate Lounge at SFO is accessible for those with Priority Pass – a perk you can get with many premium travel cards.

The lounge wasn't crowded when I was there and had a good selection for breakfast. Personally, I didn't care for Hawaiian Airlines' inflight meal, so I'd recommend grabbing a bite to eat before your flight if you can – especially if they're serving breakfast onboard.


golden gate lounge sfo

golden gate lounge SFO food


If you're departing from Honolulu (HNL), all first class tickets get access to Hawaiian's Premier Club. And travelers flying all the way to East Coast cities like Boston (BOS) and New York City (JFK) can access The Plumeria Lounge.

You can also enter The Plumeria Lounge for free if you have Priority Pass, but Hawaiian restricts Priority Pass access to this lounge if it's full. This means first class ticketholders flying to the East Coast shouldn't have to wait to enter the lounge in Honolulu.

I arrived at the gate in San Francisco about an hour before departure and found it to be quite busy. Despite plenty of nearby seating, people were still crowding the gate area.


seating at hawaiian airlines gate SFO

hawaiian airlines gate SFO


First class passengers board just after Hawaiian's pre-boarding for passengers who need a little extra time. On my flight, there were a lot of passengers pre-boarding so there was a short wait before first class passengers were able to board.

We boarded at the door just behind the first class cabin, right into a galley with a modern look and wood-finished flooring. And the crew's Hawaiian-themed uniforms looked sharp.


Hawaiian airlines boarding door


As soon as I took a left to find my seat, I could tell this was going to be a good flight. The Hawaiian boarding music with video on the seat monitors was a nice touch, putting me in vacation mode right from the start.


Hawaiian Airlines First Class Cabin Aboard the 787

There's a lot to love about Hawaiian's first class cabin on its new 787 Dreamliners.

For starters, it's incredibly spacious. The dark brown seats with light blue accents really pop, while the lighting overhead brings a sense of calm as soon as you step on the plane.


Hawaiian Airlines first class cabin from behind


There are a total of 34 first class seats spread across nine rows in a 1-2-1 configuration on Hawaiian's 787s. All window seats (A and J) angle toward the window, making them the best option for solo travelers as they provide the most privacy by far.


Hawaiian first class cabin window seats

Hawaiian Airlines first class window


Those traveling with a companion may prefer to choose the middle section of seats (C and G), which angle toward the aisle. Since you'll be facing away from each other, it may be a little awkward to have a conversation during the flight. There's also a privacy divider if you don't know your neighbor.


hawaiian airlines first class cabin center section

hawaiian first class center seats


If you're traveling with an infant, you may want to choose seats 2C or 2G, since these have built-in bassinets in front of the seat.


bassinet seats Hawaiian first class


Looking up, the starry ceiling brings a relaxing feel to the cabin. It may be a little gimmicky but it had a cool effect when the lighting was dimmed. Plus, it goes with the airline's Leihōkū theme, which means “lei of stars.”


start on celing Hawaiian Airlines


There are overhead lights above the seats but you won't find any personal air vents. This shouldn't be too much of an issue as I thought the cabin had a perfect temperature throughout the flight: I never felt too hot or too cold.


no air vents on Hawaiian's 787 Dreamliner


There are two lavatories for the first class cabin: one at the front and one at the rear. Both are typical airplane bathrooms, but since this is a brand-new plane, it seemed cleaner than your average onboard lavatory. There's a diaper-changing table that folds down for parents traveling with infants.


Hawaiian Airlines bathroom on the 787


Overall, I was incredibly impressed with the first class cabin on Hawaiian's new 787 Dreamliner. When the doors are closed on the suites, it gives everyone their own personal space, which adds a level of comfort you don't get in other first class cabins.


hawaiian airlines first class doors closed

Hawaiian Airlines first class cabin from above


Hawaiian Airlines 787 First Class Suites

Flying in a lie-flat seat is a nice way to kick off a vacation to Hawaii … but your own individual suite? That's a dream come true.


Hawaiian Airlines first class suite in lie-flat mode


I chose window seat 5A and was immediately impressed with how spacious the suites were on Hawaiian's 787 Dreamliner. The lamp provides a nice ambiance, much like the excellent Hawaiian boarding music.


first class suite window seat on Hawaiian Airlines 787

Hawaiian Airlines first class suite from above


If you want some privacy during your flight, the sliding doors provide you with your own little pod. The doors don't latch but it still does the job if you want to shut off the outside world for a bit.


hawaiian first class door shut

Hawaiian first class 787 door shut inside


Inside the suite, the console table is on the small side but I was impressed with the stylish, marble-like finish. This was probably the newest aircraft I've ever flown, and it was obviously in mint condition.


console and tray table in Hawaiian first class

console close up Hawaiian first class


Under the monitor, you'll find the tray table, which expands and swivels to your liking. I found it to be quite sturdy and there was plenty of space to use a laptop. The slip-proof surface is a great detail that can save you from a spilled beverage during turbulence.


tray table on Hawaiian first class with laptop

Hawaiian first class tray table laptop


There's no shortage of legroom in Hawaiian's first class suites. And while the seat width isn't as wide as the seats you'll find flying ANA business class or other prestigious international airlines, there's still plenty of room to get comfortable.


Hawaiian first class legroom


The biggest downside to Hawaiian's first class suites is the narrow footwell. This means there isn't much room for storage – or to move your feet around when you're fully reclined in lie-flat mode.


footwell Hawaiian Airlines first class


As for storage, you'll need to keep most of your belongings in the overhead bin for takeoff and landing.

There isn't much room to stow anything inside the suite. Other than the small space in the footwell, there's only a small nook to store personal items where the headphones usually hang. There's also a mirror behind the door to this compartment if you want to freshen up at your seat.


storage in Hawaiian first class


When that door is closed, it has a nice clean look. This space also includes a reading light you push to activate as well as a wireless charging pad for your phone. I wasn't able to get the wireless charging port to work during my flight … but that could very well have been a user error – I don't use these often.

In any case, it looks slick and includes an expandable strap to keep your phone secure while charging.


wireless charging hawaiian first class


I had no issues charging my phone by plugging it into the standard USB port just below the built-in power inside every suite. You'll also find a wired remote here to control the entertainment screen.


power in hawaiian's first class suites


There aren't any physical window shades. Instead, the amount of light allowed through the window can be controlled by the push of a button. Along with three dim settings on the lamp, you can create a pretty cool ambiance in your suite.


hawaiian airlines lighting ambiance


When you're ready to kick back and relax, or lie flat and take a nap, you can adjust your seat with the push of a button. There are three pre-set settings, which will hold when the light turns blue.


seat settings in Hawaiian first class


Halfway between upright and lie-flat mode, you can kick back while watching a movie or enjoying a good book.


arm rest hawaiian airlines first class


The headrest is adjustable if you want to lean to either side and take a snooze while seated in this position. There's also an adjustable armrest on the aisle side that raises or lowers to whatever level is required.


headrest hawaiian airlines first class

arm rest hawaiian airlines first


Adjusting your seat all the way to lie-flat mode will be best if you're trying to get a solid night's sleep. Since I was on a daytime flight, I didn't sleep at all.


hawaiian airlines first class suite from above in lie-flat mode

hawaiian airlines first class suite lie-flat mode


I tested the lie-flat mode briefly at the beginning and tried to take a quick nap close to the end of the flight. It was fairly comfortable and I'm sure I could've slept a little if I was tired.


lie-flat mode on Hawaiian Airlines first class


Still, the narrow footwell meant my feet felt cramped. To be honest, I think Zipair's business class seat, which I flew to Japan recently, was more comfortable than this Hawaiian Airlines seat in lie-flat mode – even though the space while seated seemed similar.


footwell feet Hawaiian airlines first class


Overall, Hawaiian's first class suites on its 787 Dreamliner have a ton of space when seated upright or reclined. It's an attractive and comfortable seat – and a huge step above Hawaiian's older A330 first class seats.


Hawaiian airlines first class suite inside


Amenities & Entertainment in Hawaiian Airlines First Class

Hawaiian Airlines gets high marks for its large monitor, entertainment options, and overall ambiance. But it's not going to win any awards for its amenities in first class – or lack thereof. 

While many airlines offer an amenity kit stuffed with extras like an eye mask, toothbrush, and socks when flying international business class (or even some transcontinental flights), Hawaiian Airlines doesn't give out amenity kits to its first class passengers when flying to Hawaii. Even worse, there was absolutely no inflight Wi-Fi available – though the airline is planning to install Wi-Fi later on.

Hawaiian does provide a pillow and blanket but these items are about the same quality you'd get back in economy flying other airlines.


pillow and blanket in Hawaiian Airlines first class


The flimsy pillow and thin blanket work in a pinch but the bedding is far superior on other airlines that have similar luxurious suites. It seems strange that Hawaiian offers such a luxurious seat and skimps out on the bedding to this degree.

It's nice to have if you're looking to get some sleep onboard, but I'd say this is far from the most comfortable bed I've had on an airplane. And yet it could be the best option currently flying to Hawaii.


Hawaiian first class bed


One thing I did love was the inflight magazine. It's nice to have reading material at your seat and it includes some good articles about Hawaii to get you ready for your vacation. My favorite part is studying the route map.


inflight magazine on Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines route map from inflight magazine


You'll find over-the-ear headphones stored in the small compartment. These are pretty standard headphones for first class. I wouldn't say there's much to them but they were comfortable and certainly much better quality than what you'd get in economy.


headphones in hawaiian first class


The 18-inch seatback monitor was a highlight. While it wasn't the biggest screen in the world, it seemed quite large while sitting inside the suite – and the quality was crystal clear. You can use the touch screen but I found it easier to use the wired remote when I was relaxing in my seat.


monitor in Hawaiian Airlines first class


There were plenty of movies, TV series, music, and games to choose from, including new releases, Hawaiian television, and options for the kids. I especially liked the extensive selection of Hawaiian music available.


movies on hawaiian airlines

hana hou tv Hawaiian Airlines

music selection flying Hawaiian Airlines


Aside from playing a really strange game called “Luggage Lane” for a few minutes and watching When You Finish Saving The World, I followed along with the moving map on screen while listening to the sweet melodies of Hawaiian guitar.


game luggage lane on Hawaiian Airlines

moving map Hawaiian Airlines


Hawaiian Airlines First Class Service & Dining

From beginning to end, Hawaiian Airlines' service was excellent. In my mind, it rivals top international airlines for attentiveness and attention to detail – so, needless to say, it was a huge step above the typical service you'll receive flying other U.S. carriers.

However, the inflight meal was mediocre at best.

During boarding, the flight attendant offered a choice of juice, prosecco, or a combination of both. He suggested prosecco with guava juice, which was delicious.


Hawaiian Airlines pre-departure beverage, prosecco with guava juice


The service was very efficient. Menus were handed out quickly and meal orders were taken before takeoff. The menus are very well-designed, too.


hawaiian airlines first class menu

menu for hawaiian airlines first class


Once we were at cruising altitude, I ordered Hawaiian's signature Mai Tai, which was served with Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts. The nuts were tasty and the Mai Tai presented well but was a little tangy for my taste: I prefer the dark rum-style Mai Tai I had once I got to Hawaii.


Mai Tai and Macadamia Nuts on Hawaiian Airlines first class


For breakfast, I got pancakes with tropical fruit compote and pork sausage. It came with a croissant, butter, raspberry jam, syrup, and fruit, along with a glass of water.


breakfast in hawaiian airlines first class


The highlight of the meal was the plate of fruit. I don't care for many inflight meals – especially breakfast – but this meal was particularly bland and forgettable. The croissant was cold, and there wasn't much flavor to either the pancakes or the sausage. Thankfully, the syrup added a bit of much-needed sweetness.


pancakes on Hawaiian Airlines


But how cute is this: The salt and pepper shakers are folded into the shape of a Hawaiian shirt! The branded glassware and silverware were really nice as well.


Hawaiian airlines salt and pepper shirt


For dessert, a brownie garnished with a strawberry was served. To drink, I went with a coffee with Bailey's. This was the best part of the meal service by far: The brownie was tasty and the spiked coffee was, too.


brownie and coffee flying Hawaiian Airlines first class


After the meals were cleared, we were given a small snack mix with mini pretzels, honey sesame sticks, and cheddar corn sticks. It was a nice, salty snack. 


snack mix on Hawaiian Airlines


I was really impressed with the attentive service. I had asked for a couple of glasses of water throughout the flight so the flight attendant knew I liked to stay hydrated. He was on point refilling my water whenever it was empty and even called me by name each time.

About an hour before landing, we were notified about last call for drinks. I got a glass of prosecco to enjoy while filling out Hawaii's agricultural form. The flight attendants collect these forms before landing in Hawaii.


prosecco on Hawaiian Airlines


On initial descent, cookies from the Honolulu Cookie Company were handed out in first class. It was a nice treat to end an excellent flight.


honolulu cookie on hawaiian airlines first class


The personal service from start to finish stood out even more than the brand-new suites: I don't remember the last time I had such outstanding inflight service.

We landed on time around 11 a.m., and yet it almost felt I had already spent five hours in Hawaii flying Hawaiian Airlines. It was time to experience “Lei Day” – an annual festival held on May 1.


honolulu from hawaiian airlines flight


Bottom Line

Hawaiian Airlines First Class aboard its new 787 Dreamliner equipped with fully enclosed suites is the best way to fly to Hawaii. There simply isn't another seat currently flying to Hawaii that comes close to the comfort and service you'll get with Hawaiian Airlines on this new plane.

It wasn't perfect: The bedding was quite poor and the food was mediocre. Yet I wouldn't hesitate to book Hawaiian Airlines' first class suites when a deal comes around again for my next trip to the Aloha State. 


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

4 Responses

  • Great Post, been waiting to see these in action.

    You may want to add this tidbit as well, since I was able to book Econ and upgrade 5 seats LAX-OGG for this upcoming December.

    You are able to book Econ seats through Amex Travel, saving an additional 35% with the Business Platinum rebate with Hawaiian Airlines selected. I did this, and it is confirmed working. Great deal when there are cheap economy seats and upgrade space.

  • Hawaiian Airlines’ 787 Dreamliner is my fav so far, although it’s the only 787 I’ve ever flown on! I took the flight from HNL to SFO on May 6 in 1st, so I got to check out the Premier Club, which wasn’t that exciting (lots to drink but no food except tiny bags of pretzels and a bit crowded). Since going to SFO is an afternoon/evening flight, it included dinner, which I thought was good. My aircraft was N780HA, which is actually the older of Hawaiian’s two Dreamliners but was delivered several weeks after the newer N781HA… and I found out that the two 787s were being alternated on the route between SFO and HNL. So I’m wondering, do you know which 787 you flew on? Thanks.

  • Myself, my preference still lies with the A-330, and it’s 2-2-2 Configuration, though fewer Seats up-front, the AB and HJ allows the Couple to strategically have inbound and outbound farewell views of Diamond Head in the case of Oahu, this over the 787 Configuration of 1-2-1. Professionally before Retirement, Hawaii had myself with 92 R/T’s to Hawaii since 1986 for business and pleasure, with Honolulu 90% of the time the initial arrival location. Hawaiian itself bills the service as Business now, as compared to First, which may explain the food issues, being early morning and now, more Red-Eyes. Pre-Millennia, with a large bank of miles, Delta was my Carrier, and the L-1011, though not Flat Seats, was exceptional in the Food Category, with C Coarse Meals, and Ice Cream Sundays of one’s choice. That said AA using Single Aisle, I moved to Hawaiian and felt their Service, Accommodations and Livery the best over the past 24 years, though an Annual trip is now the Rule. I am a little concerned with Boeing, and all the Governmental interference with Carriers and potential mergers, but will certainly based on Service offered out of Sky Harbor use Hawaiian and whatever Equipment they choose to go in the front cabin.

  • The 787 is a beautiful aircraft with great video entertainment but having flown United for 40 years, their Polaris Business seats/lie flat are more spacious. First class on the 787 is really Business. I must say that Hawaiian flight attendant are very helpful and kind and I can’t always say that about United.
    All considered though my trip from Oahu to Phoenix and back was very enjoyable!

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