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Hawaiian Airlines uses its Boeing 717 aircraft for the majority of its intra-island routes and as I was flying within the Hawaiian Islands last week, I had a chance to take a look at the First Class cabin that the airline offers on some of its shortest routes.
I rarely book a premium cabin when flying on short flights (I don’t see the point) but with the price difference between First and Economy Class sitting at a little over $30 when it came time for me to book this flight, it seemed silly not to pay the extra for a little more comfort…even for a flight of under an hour.
None of the airline statuses that I hold give me any benefits on Hawaiian Airlines so a ~$30 premium for access to a very basic lounge, priority check-in, priority boarding, and a seat with extra legroom seemed like a good idea…and it was.
First Class on Hawaiian’s Boeing 717
The First Class cabin on Hawaiian’s Boeing 717 aircraft is just two rows deep and offers just 8 seats.
The seats in the First Class cabin are 18.5″ wide and reminded me of the old-style First Class seats that American Airlines once offered (in the days before it effectively became a low-cost carrier across all cabins).
The seats feel spacious and are very comfortable…
…but while the seats in the second row have great legroom (approximately 37″ of pitch),…
…the seats in the first row have less legroom courtesy of the bulkhead.
That’s not to say that the legroom in row 1 is bad, it’s just not as good as the legroom in row 2.
In row 2, passengers may have to contend with the metal bars that join the row 1 seats to the aircraft floor but because the bars are located centrally, they don’t really get in the way.
If you have to sit in row 1, seat 1B is the one to select (if you can) as the bulkhead does not cover the whole area ahead of the seat so a passenger can extend their legs in the direction of the galley (when the flight attendants aren’t passing by).
If you’re traveling with hand baggage that you’d like to stow in one of the overhead bins, it’s worth making the effort to be one of the first to board – the first Class cabin has just 2 full-size overhead bins (and two slightly smaller overhead bins) and one of these is reserved for crew use only – space can be at a premium when all 8 seats in the cabin are occupied.
I’ve already mentioned that the seats in the First Class cabin are comfortable and, frankly, for an intra-island flight that’s probably the most important thing.
Considering how short some of the intra-island flights can be there isn’t much time to enjoy anything else that the seat area offers and that’s just as well – there’s isn’t much more to discuss!
There’s a good-size central armrest between the pairs of seats…
…and a small (and mostly not very useful) mini-table can be pulled out of the armrest.
The main tray table is stowed in the seat’s side armrest…
…and just as with most tray tables of this design, it can be deployed as a drinks table…
…or as a full table.
When deployed as a full table it feels flimsy and it bends whenever the slightest bit of pressure is applied so it’s far from ideal for anyone who may wish to get any work done.
Also within the side armrest, passengers will find the seat recline button (mostly unnecessary for flights as short as these)…
…and when looking straight up, passengers will find reading lights and air nozzles that allow them to regulate the temperature around their seat.
As far as the 717’s First Class cabin and seats are concerned, that’s it.
Entertainment, power & Wi-Fi
When looking straight ahead, a passenger cannot fail to notice that there isn’t an inflight entertainment screen on offer in the 717’s First Class cabin.
And, not only does the Hawaiian Airlines 717 not offer a seatback entertainment screen, but it also doesn’t offer any kind of entertainment, any kind of power (AC or USB), nor does it offer Wi-Fi.
If you weren’t alive in the 90s, this cabin would give you a pretty good idea of what travel back then was like.
To be fair to Hawaiian Airlines, none of these things are really needed on the kinds of flights that its 717s operate. Anyone who can’t survive for under an hour without airline-provided entertainment, Wi-Fi, or a way to charge their devices, has issues that go a lot deeper than the lack of facilities on the 717.
On board catering & service
On a flight of around 50 minutes, the flight attendants took orders for drinks during boarding and served the drinks with a packet of “snack mix” shortly after we leveled out.
Refills were offered as soon as the flight attendants noticed that one of the passengers had finished their drink, but nothing more substantial was offered (and it wasn’t really required).
From the moment I boarded to the moment I disembarked, the flight attendants were friendly, charming, and helpful. I watched them happily help passengers with various issues, the welcome announcement encouraged passengers (across all cabins) to use the call button above their heads if there was anything they required, and everything the flight attendants did appeared to be done with a smile.
The feeling onboard was so relaxed and friendly that I kept having to remind myself that I was flying short-haul within the US and not within Asia – this was a very happy flight to be on.
This may have been a very short flight but it was very nice nevertheless. The seats in the First Class cabin were spacious and comfortable, the flight attendants set a great atmosphere and I should probably give a shout-out to whichever member of the flight crew landed the 717 because it was one of the softest landings that I have ever experienced.
I’ve never flown between Hawaii and the mainland with Hawaiian Airlines but based on this short experience, I’d love to see if Hawaiian’s crews can replicate the same friendly atmosphere that I experienced on flights that are considerably longer. If they can, I’d happily make Hawaiian Airlines my airline of choice when flying to and from the islands.