Flight Review: Flying Extra Comfort with Hawaiian Airlines from New York City to Sydney via Honolulu

Last month I flew from New York City to Sydney, via Honolulu, with Hawaiian Airlines, who celebrated their 90th birthday last month. I’ve already written about how strong of an option the route is for those who can’t sleep on planes, but today I wanted to delve into the experience of upgrading your ticket from an Economy to an “Extra Comfort” seat. So is it worth the extra dollars? Read on to find out.

Leg One: JFK to HNL

Flight Number: HA51
Route: New York City (JFK) to Honolulu (HNL)
Class: Extra Comfort
Seat: 16A (Window Seat 2-4-2)
Aircraft Type: A330
Flight Time: 10 Hours 23 Minutes
On time? Yes, arrived 25 minutes early

Getting to JFK from Manhattan

As with most destinations in New York, you’re going to want to to use public transport to get to the airport. It’s reliable, frequent and a fraction of the cost of other options. However it’s worth noting that it now costs $7.75 (up from $5) for the AirTrain from Jamaica Station to JFK, and $7.75 off peak ($10.75 peak) for LIRR, or 2.75 for E and other lines. The extra money off-peak is worth it for LIRR, as you will likely have a seat and save yourself 15-20 minutes. But the sudden increase of the AirTrain by $2.75 in recent months is a bit ridiculous, for what is essentially a short Monorail ride.

Check-in at Terminal 5 at JFK

Now that the TWA Hotel is open, make sure you go check that space out if you arrive early enough, it’s connected into JetBlue’s Terminal 5 – which Hawaiian Airlines also calls home.

Check-in was quick and easy – though I was likely arriving a bit later than most, so was met by no line. There’s just the one service with Hawaiian to Honolulu from JFK. And a lot of people will have carry-ons only.

Interestingly, though I was told otherwise by customer service over Twitter, when I checked in, the two flights were treated as separate flights, so I only was checked in for my first flight at JFK and told to collect my bag at HNL – though I was told I should be able to leave it with baggage services if I wanted to. This wasn’t a problem by any means, but do keep it in mind for this service, which provides you with an overnight in Honolulu, that you will grab your bag from Honolulu before you head to your hotel (or whatever you may have organised).

Security and Dining at JFK’s Terminal 5

Though they’ve still got some work to do, the Terminal has improved their security process somewhat – it was notably shambolic the last time I was here. Also, Extra Comfort is supposed to come with Priority Screening at Security but I was pushed along the main queue with everyone else. The service does advertise Priority Screening as being available in Boston, Honolulu, New York, Oakland, Portland, San Diego and Seattle.

Once you get through security, there’s plenty of shopping and dining options in the modern terminal, which was packed while I was there. Unlike most terminals in the world, here you’ll find a NYC deli after security, where you can self serve platters of food, and pay by weight, or go to a number of counters and get a fresh, affordable meal. Being a morning flight, I had a breakfast burrito from the burger spot and it was excellent.

It’s a smaller terminal than most, with only 30 gates, so it’s a short walk no matter where you are. We were departing from the end of the terminal – Gate 30 – and it just took a few minutes to get there. It’s a very comfortable terminal – though I was surprised there wasn’t those new water bottle refilling stations that are at a lot of airports. There are bubblers, but it’s not quite the same.

Lounge Access

Though they codeshare with Virgin Australia, there’s no lounge access here for Velocity Frequent Flyers – that’s only available at the Sydney and Honolulu airports – nor do Extra Comfort passengers receive any special treatment in the lounge department.

Boarding the A330 to Honolulu

It’s always great to fly domestically in the US on a wide body jet, and with this just about the longest flight you can get (I think Boston to HNL is slightly longer), it’s very much needed. Especially being a day flight where you’re wanting to get up a bit more than on night flights.

Boarding for the flight was done by zone and quick and painless. Extra Comfort passengers enjoy early boarding. There was Hawaiian music, with live footage playing on the screens, as you boarded, which certainly set you in the mood for your destination.

About the Extra Comfort Seat

My seat, which is in the third row of the main cabin, was an Extra Comfort seat with extra legroom, and two international AC plugs under the seat – which was great. Often you have to share one between two. Not that it mattered – I didn’t have anyone sitting next to me. Since I was flying a day flight I did want to get some work done, so this was excellent on all counts.

If you want to feel extra special flying Extra Comfort, you can try and get a seat in the first two rows – as they have their own separate cabin just behind Business Class on the A330s. The legroom was fantastic (with five extra inches) and the recline incredibly comfortable. The movable headrests were excellent, and comfortable too.

In Flight Entertainment

In seat entertainment came on after take off, and turns off shortly before landing – so you’re not going to get gate to gate entertainment with this airline. There’s a USB charger and a headphone jack in the screen. There’s a good selection of new release cinema – including Asian cinema – and TV Shows, with entire seasons available. There’s no wi-fi on the wide body jets yet, but I’m told it’s coming.

What else comes with the Extra Comfort seat?

You don’t get any amenities kits on the first leg, that’s only provided on International flights. Though a pillow and blanket are waiting for you at your seat.

Meal Service

The first pass of the cabin was the “Pau Hana” snack cart shortly after take off, with things like chocolates, chips, bottles of water and ear buds for purchase. This was followed by a service with free non-alcoholic beverages.

Unlike Delta, they don’t provide their equivalent “Comfort Plus” passengers with complimentary alcoholic beverages. Though free wine does come for all guests with the main meal service. The initial drinks were served with a “Pineapple Coconut Breakfast Bite”. An announcement encouraged guests to reuse their plastic cups, part of the airline’s ongoing green commitment, which is something a few airlines are starting to push harder of late, and it’s great to see.

For the main meal, served about 90 minutes into the flight, hot vegetarian noodles were served to all guests, with water and a Greek salad and also a famous Honolulu Cookie Company pineapple cookie. This came with red or white wine, or a variety of non-alcoholic beverages.

About 80 minutes before landing there was a snack service with a vegetarian sandwich, chocolate and pretzels, with drinks. A hot towel was provided beforehand.

If you wanted a drink or snack for the 6 hours in between services, they asked you to go to the galley at the front or the back of economy, rather than push the bell. I prefer this to be honest, though they were still happy to assist you with whatever you needed should you have pushed the bell. The customer service was wonderful.

Arriving in Honolulu

On this particular flight, you enjoy a night in Honolulu between legs, which is wonderful. You’ll need to organise your own hotel and transfers though (unless it’s included in the particular package you’ve got your hands on).

I booked a night at a hotel on Waikiki Beach before I arrived, but I organised the shuttle when I got to the airport. It cost US$16 each way and made it super easy way to get to my hotel for the night – just  in time for sunset too thanks to the early arrival! They picked me up on time the next morning too. I stayed at the Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger while in Honolulu, an affordable hotel with a great view and comfortable bed.

Leg Two: HNL to SYD

Flight Number: HA451
Route: Honolulu (HNL) to Sydney (SYD)
Class: Extra Comfort
Seat: 18B (Side Aisle, 2-4-2 Layout)
Aircraft Type: A330
Flight Time: 10 Hours 20 Minutes
On time? Late departure, but arrived just about on time.

After a lovely sleep in Honolulu, flight HA451 departed just after lunch for another ten hours onto Sydney. This is where their international offerings came up for Extra Comfort passengers – so while the plane was the same, here’s a look at what changed for the route.

Honolulu International Airport: Check-In and Lounge Access

Unlike a JFK, the Priority Security here meant I was through in minutes, and self check in couldn’t have been easier. Once through security, you take the Wiki Wiki Shuttle from terminal 1 to 2, and then the Delta Sky Club takes Velocity (Virgin Australia) Gold and Platinum Members, with complimentary food and drink. If you were a similar frequent flyer with Hawaiian, you’d enjoy their facilities – though Extra Comfort tickets alone don’t get you into any lounges. Though you are among the first to board!

The Extra Comfort Amenities Kit

As an Extra Comfort passenger on an International flight, you get to enjoy what I believe is the same Amenities bag that is provided to First Class passengers. It arrives before take off and includes a comb, earbuds, earplugs, eyeshade, hand and body balm, hydrating mist, pen, lip balm, tissues and toothbrush with toothpaste. Normal economy passengers still get a kit of their own, but it’s a much smaller offering.

Meal Service

Pretzels and drinks were served half an hour after take off, with spirits and beer and wine available. The main meal service came about two hours in, meatballs with vegetables and rice, coleslaw, a cookie and a moistened towelette. It was a decent meal – though unlike other airlines, they only offer one option. So if you have dietary issues make sure to get your requests in before you fly.

The second meal service – which like the last one was a cold sandwich with a chocolate with drinks – was served two hours before landing, with a hot towel just beforehand.

Comfort

The seats were comfortable, as they were on the last flight, though this particular A330 was a bit older. In fact, a sign on board indicated that this plane was the first in their fleet. So there were some more substantial temperature variations, and the seats and screens were a bit older. But it was a comfortable flight all the same. I also enjoyed that they had coconut soap in the bathrooms on both flights – it just made it all feel a little bit fancier.

In Flight Entertainment

Same as the previous flight, and no difference in the fact it was turned on after take off, and turned off 15 minutes before landing.

Final Verdict

The Economy Plus offering is comparable to the Economy X service that their partner airline Virgin Australia offer – better seats towards the front of the cabin (with the first few in a mini-cabin section of their own, and a couple of seats further back in the plane in the exit row), with some better amenities, premium treatment at security and during boarding, and international AC plugs (which Virgin have yet to introduce).

If you can get into that private mini-cabin, it’s particularly worthwhile, though ultimately the cost to benefit ratio is something you have to keep in mind. Given these are both ten hour day flights, I would say it’s very much worth it, particularly if you have to work. For the route from New York, the cost is A$225 and for the route to Sydney, the cost is A$179.

Honestly, it’s a bit pricey for what you’re provided, but if you have to work, and are in need of that extra comfort, it’s great. If you’re looking to save some dollars, I would suggest getting it for the Sydney international leg over the domestic leg, given the fact they don’t provide as much to the guest on the latter services, and once you get over that $200 mark it’s pushing its value.

Overall though, no matter where you sit, this is a fantastic flight, with this route in particular one of the best long hauls in the world. Who would turn down two day flights and a night in Hawaii on the way?

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

For more details on Hawaiian Airlines’ Extra Comfort offerings, head HERE.

What’s New at the Airline: Hawaiian Airlines just launched a new route from Honolulu to Fukuoka, Japan. A Kahului to Las Vegas flight is launching shortly too.

The author flew at his own expense with an upgrade provided by Hawaiian Airlines. The author stayed as a guest of the Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger while in Honolulu.

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

Tags: , , , ,