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I recently had to attend a conference in Korea and flew Hawaiian Airlines first class from Honolulu, Hawaii to Incheon, Korea. Hawaiian airlines lie flat seats are really business class, but US domestic air carriers use confusing nomenclature.
While I was originally in government fare economy seats, I managed to upgrade both legs to lie flat seats with cash ($300) and points (45,000) using my The Platinum Card® from American Express (review) (terms apply) and American Express Hilton Honors Aspire card (review).
Hawaiian Airlines 459 and Hawaiian Airlines 460
Honolulu, Hawaii to Incheon (Seoul), Korea roundtrip
Aircraft: Airbus A330-200
Seats: 2B and 3J (Hawaiian Airlines First/Business class)
Booking Hawaiian Airlines Tickets with DTS
I booked these tickets through Defense Travel System (DTS). The other flights offered HNL-ICN were all Delta codeshares and had connections. The Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu, Hawaii to Incheon, Korea were the only government fares offered in DTS that were direct. Originally both directions were booked in economy, as is a requirement of government travel.
I added my Hawaiian Airlines frequently flier number to the DTS booking, so the flights were showing in my account before they even ticketed. Once the tickets were issued, I phoned Hawaiian with my record locator and asked about upgrades.
The agent was very helpful and let me know that for HNL-ICN there were no business class upgrades available but there was an extra comfort seat for $125. I thought that that was worth it for an 11 hour flight. I purchased this with my AMEX Platinum card and made sure Hawaiian Airlines was my airline choice for fee reimbursement.
The agent also let me know that I could upgrade the return ICN-HNL flight to business class for 45,000 Hawaiian miles. This seemed like a good deal as the business class tickets were $1500.
I transferred in American Express Membership Reward points to my Hawaiian Airlines account through the americanexpress.com MR portal. The points posted instantly while the rep was on phone and the upgrade was confirmed.
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When I checked in at the airport, I asked 1 more time about the cost of upgrading my flight from HNL-ICN. The check-in rep said there was 1 seat left at $550. I decided that was worth it for an 11 hour flight and put the charge on my AMEX Hilton Honors Aspire card, which has a $250 annual airline fee credit.
If the upgrade charge counts as an incidental fee, I should have only paid $300 for this business class upgrade for 11 hours. Not bad! I will update this post if/when the credit posts.
Boarding HA 459
Before first class guests were called for boarding active duty military were invited to board. I took the opportunity to get some photos of the cabin without anyone else on board.
The seat had power outlets and USB charging. A bottle of water was at every seat.
Flight attendants came around shortly after I was seated and offering mai tais,
The seats had an interesting control feature which was a wheel that transitioned you from full upright to full lie flat. It didn't allow you to individually control the foot rest or the angle of the seat.
The Hawaiian Airlines amenities kit was quite nice.
My favorite thing about this kit was the earplugs! Kits that don't include ear plugs don't make much sense to me. How are you supposed to sleep if you have to listen to everyone?
Other contents of the kit were: eye mask, earplugs, tissues, dental kit with toothbrush and toothpaste, hydrating face spray, hand lotion, lip balm, socks, wooden comb, and pen made of recycled materials.
There was a hot towel service after takeoff, followed by macadamia nuts and a drink service. I'm reading Start.: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, and Do Work That Matters on my Amazon Kindle Paperwhite.
iPads were then passed out along with headphones. There are no built in entertainment systems in Hawaiian business class. My right ear wasn't working so they swapped out with me. The movie selection was below average.
Service was in English and Korean. Most of the passengers in business class were Korean.
HA 549 Business Class Meal Service
Menus were at the seats when we boarded. Flight attendants came around and asked what entree we would like to choose, what drink we would like with lunch, and if we would like to be awakened for the meal service before landing.
Choices for entrees were:
- Chicken adobo with roasted cabbage, sweet onions and herb jasmine rice
- Simmered salmon with yuzu masago cream sauce, broccolini, and okinawa sweet potato puree
- Tofu, heart of palm, maitake mushrooms, eggplant and green onion with a ginger glace sauce and jasmine rice (vegetarian option)
I chose the salmon for my main.
The salad and soup to start were really nice. The silverware was chilled, which is a silly thing but every since I experienced this on Etihad for the first time, it's something I notice when I fly.
The salmon was not that good, nor was dessert very special or had good flavor.
With about 6 hours to go a spicy ramen noodle pool was offered. Before landing there was a mozzarella sandwich on an interesting tasting roll with fruit on the side. Hot tea and coffee were offered throughout the flight and there was a snack cart in the forward galley as well.
The pre-landing meal was 1.5 hours before landing and then the iPads were collected with about 40 mins to go.
Hawaiian Airlines Business Class Review Bottom Line
All in all, Hawaiian Airlines business class was a more pleasant way to spend 11 hours than in economy. I would have been disappointed if I had paid full cash value for the fare, but paying a few hundred dollars or thousand points to upgrade was worth it.
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