Hawaiian Airlines: First class service with the spirit of aloha

Hawaiian Airlines has been around since 1929. It all started as Inter-Island Airways with two 8-seater Sikorsky S-38 amphibian aircraft and a Bellanca monoplane, providing sightseeing and inter-island service. Their first scheduled flight was on November 11, 1929 from Honolulu to Hilo with a stop at Maui. The trip took three hours and 15 minutes (It is just amazing how technology has advanced with inter-island flights taking less than an hour in 2017.) In 1941, they changed their name to Hawaiian Airlines and started Transpacific operations. Three new 24-passenger DC-3s flew in formation from Oakland, CA to Honolulu, HI in 13 hours and 54 minutes. It was the longest over-water flight made by a DC-3 (with today’s technology, this flight takes only five to six hours.)

In the same year I was born in Hawaii, Hawaiian Airlines introduced the Pualani (flower of the sky) logo which is still recognizable today (original logo was updated in 2001). I have been flying with Hawaiian Airlines since I was very little and wanted to share my first experience as a First Class passenger.

Hilo International Airport has a small lounge with televisions, pau hana snack mix, variety of Coca Cola products, and Hawaiian Paradise Coffee (the lounge at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport has an expanded interior and food/drink selection). Since I traveled for tradeshows, lounges were a way of life for me, not only to relax, but to recharge my spirit, mobile phone, and laptop. A few minutes before boarding is all we needed to go upstairs and have priority boarding.

A beautiful shot from the airplane of Mauna Kea.

A beautiful shot of Oahu before landing at Honolulu International Airport.

On The Rocks Premium Cocktails Mai Tai. Credit: Hawaiian Airlines
Upon boarding, your flight attendant offers you a beverage. Along with normal beverages in the main cabin, you can also choose from premium liquors, wine, beer, and crafted cocktails like a Mai Tai from On The Rocks Premium Cocktails in glass cups.

Credit: Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines also introduced Lie-Flat seating in the Premium Cabin if you’d like to sleep or recline on the long-haul flight to/from the mainland.

Credit: Hawaiian Airlines
There is also a divider in case you would like some privacy.

Credit: Hawaiian Airlines
There is a tablet holder that swings out from the center console. The flight attendants hand out iPads loaded with television shows and movies and headphones.

Snack service is Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts served on a ceramic plate with your choice of beverage. When I fly, ginger ale is my go-to beverage in case of turbulence. Motion sickness is not a good friend of mine.

Credit: Hawaiian Airlines
For lunch/dinner, Hawaiian Airlines is showcasing Hawaii’s new culinary talents. The current menu has been created by Chef Sheldon Simeon of Tin Roof Maui. He is from my hometown of Hilo and I was excited to try his culinary talents firsthand. If his name sounds familiar, Sheldon was on Bravo’s Top Chef Seasons 10 and 14.

You can choose from two appetizers: Roasted Beet Salad, macadamia nuts, lilikoi aioli, and arugula with Maui onion dressing or Kim Chee Shrimp Poke with salted cucumber and pickled Maui onions. I ordered the Roasted Beet Salad because I just love roasted beets! As a child, I was afraid of the reddish-purple beets my mom would fish out of a can and put on her salad. The color and scent of canned beets just didn’t appeal to me. But since I’ve been in the culinary world, fresh roasted beets have become a great friend to my taste buds. I just loved the salad! It had all the flavor notes that I look for from the bitter arugula, sweet beets and lilikoi, zingy maui onion, and rich, crunchy macadamia nuts. My mom ordered the Kim Chee Shrimp Poke and was pleasantly surprised by the flavor. It had a nice punchy fermented flavor from the kim chee which paired nicely with the shrimp. Due to the K-Drama fan base in Hawaii, Korean food is coming to the forefront. At KTA, they are now offering different varieties that you can buy by the pound just like poke.

You can choose from two main courses: Shoyu Roast Chicken with sweet corn relish and creamy mushroom rice or Ginger Scallion Pesto Udon Noodles, baby bok choy, and roasted mushrooms with sesame sauce. My mom and I both chose the Shoyu Roast Chicken and it was a homerun. The chicken was tender and had a nice shoyu flavor. The sweet corn relish was good, but would have liked something that spoke more Hawaiian or Asian like snow peas and chestnuts. I loved the mushroom rice. It reminded me of jook (Chinese rice porridge that my dad used to make with Thanksgiving leftovers) with earthy notes from the mushroom.

Dessert was Passion Chocolate Cake. It had a nice chocolate sponge cake on the bottom with a tangy passion fruit mousse on top. A great way to end a meal over the Pacific Ocean.

I am so glad I had my initial First Class experience with Hawaiian Airlines. Whether you are in the premium or main cabins, the aloha spirit is always present. I can’t wait for my next flight!

For more information:
  • Hawaii: Lihue (Kauai), Honolulu (Oahu), Kapalua (Molokai), Kahului (Maui), Hilo (Big Island), Kailua-Kona (Big Island)
  • Mainland: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, Oakland, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle
  • Asia and South Pacific: Pago Pago, Papeete, Auckland, Sydney, Brisbane, Tokyo-Haneda/Tokyo-Narita, Osaka-Kansai, Sapporo-Chitose, Seoul-Incheon, Beijing

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