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Home Travel Hawaiian Airlines Dreamliner sneak peek: New business class and economy cabins

Hawaiian Airlines Dreamliner sneak peek: New business class and economy cabins

by Staff

Travelers headed to Hawaii are about to enjoy an upgraded experience thanks to the stunning new cabins that Hawaiian Airlines has unveiled aboard its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, which it just started taking delivery of in February.

The Honolulu-based carrier will put these new planes into service in April. But we got a sneak peek at Hawaiian Airlines’ first Dreamliner Saturday during a stop at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), where we got to check out the new business-class and economy seats for ourselves.

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We also got to chat with the airline’s Chief Marketing Officer, Avi Mannis, to hear more about the innovative designs incorporated into the 787-9 and what passengers can expect.

“We knew that when we came to market with a new aircraft,” Mannis said, “we wanted to deliver something that elevated the level of service…in all the classes of service. This isn’t just about the new lie-flat business-class suites. It’s about delivering a better experience to the guest no matter where on the aircraft they’re sitting.”

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Here’s our first look at the new Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner and all the exciting new features on board.

Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 787-9 new business class

Perhaps most exciting of all, Hawaiian Airlines decided to install all-new suite-style Adient Aerospace Ascent seats aboard its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners for an experience it has dubbed, “Leihoku,” or lei of stars. Mannis noted that these suites, which were on order before the pandemic, have been a long time coming, especially as premium travel demand to Hawaii has boomed both during and after the pandemic.

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There are just 34 of these fixtures, each with a closing door for privacy. They are configured in a 1-2-1 pattern with 9 rows of single seats along each side of the cabin and 8 rows of two seats each running down the center.

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These are similar to Qatar Airways’ 787-9 business-class seats, where those along the cabin sides are angled out toward the windows.

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Seats in the middle section, however, have their head and backrests next to one another and are angled out toward the aisle. There are tiered privacy dividers between them that can be raised above eye level, or lowered all the way to seat level for passengers traveling together who want to create a more intimate shared space. To manipulate them, you can use electronic buttons, and to lower them, both passengers need to press the down arrow at the same time.

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All the business-class seats are 21 inches wide between armrests (though you can lower the adjustable armrest to open up five more inches) and recline to lie-flat beds that are around 77 inches long.

This is a far cry from the airline’s tightly packed 2-2-2 first-class seating aboard the A330, which are 19.5-20.5 inches wide and recline to 76-inch lie-flat beds, while first-class seats on its A321s are simple recliners.

The aesthetic of Leihoku should look familiar to the airline’s A330 first-class seats, though, with inky-brown upholstery reminiscent of the island’s rich, volcanic soils accented with turquoise trimming hearkening to the warm South Pacific waters.

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However, there are plenty of exciting technological features, too, like 18-inch entertainment screens (Hawaiian Airlines A330 first-class passengers borrow airline iPads for entertainment) along with universal power plugs and USB-A (but not USB-C) ports.

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Along their larger, aisle-side armrests, seats have dual-level surfaces (a wider one for devices and a narrower shelf for beverages), handheld remotes for the entertainment systems and a set of controls to maneuver the seats into various positions including upright for takeoff and landing, lounging positions and lie-flat bed mode.

There’s also a do-not-disturb button, which turns the seat number sign orange and should come in handy for overnight red-eyes where folks want to maximize their rest.

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The tray table slides out from beneath the entertainment screen and then pivots to become perpendicular to the seatback and can be moved forward and back if you need to get out of your seat.

When it comes time to extend the seat to bed mode, passengers are given fitted seat covers to provide some padding, plus medium-size pillows and light duvets. The foot cubbies are a little restrictive, but if your feet aren’t very large, you shouldn’t have trouble turning from side to side.

These seats have plenty more storage than their predecessors. Their seat-side cupboards have adjustable interior mirrors and enough space to stow headphones and amenity kits. Just to the side, there is a little rack with an extendable bar for stowing a phone, which is also handy since this is a Qi wireless charging surface.

Stylish cylindrical sconce lights and flip-out reading lights create an updated look while wooden accent paneling and cabin ceilings dotted by star-like lighting features evoke the seafaring past of the ancient Hawaiians.

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One downside is the lack of overhead air nozzles, so passengers are at the mercy of flight attendants to keep the cabin at a comfortable temperature.

There are just two lavatories for the cabin, one at the front near the forward galley, and one by the aft galley. Both have sleek finishes and current hygienic features including touch-free sinks and toilet flushing.

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Overall, the look is contemporary, chic and sleek, but with enough Hawaiian flair to convey the airline’s signature brand of hospitality.

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Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 787-9 Extra Comfort

Hawaiian Airlines’ Boeing 787-9 economy section comprises a total of 266 seats, 79 of which – mostly located along the sides in the forward section and the first row of the aft section – are designated as Extra Comfort.

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All seats in economy, including the Extra Comfort ones, are Collins Aerospace Aspire fixtures laid out in a standard 3-3-3 pattern. The seats have a slimline profile, but are more padded than what you’ll find on a low-cost carrier, and are upholstered in the same palette of teal and chocolate as the seats in business class with plant-like patterning.

Like regular economy seats, those in Extra Comfort are around 17.5 inches wide between armrests, but have 35 inches of pitch, which is 4 more than standard economy. They recline three inches.

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In addition to USB-A and USB-C ports embedded in their 12-inch HD touchscreen entertainment monitors, Extra Comfort seats share two universal power plugs per three-seat block. In all other ways, though, they’re identical to the regular economy seats.

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For comparison’s sake, economy and Extra Comfort seats on the airline’s Airbus A330s are mostly laid out in a 2-4-2 pattern. These jets have 68 Extra Comfort seats aboard with 36 inches of pitch, while their 192 standard economy seats have 31 inches of pitch – the same as on the Dreamliner. Their entertainment screens are 9 inches across diagonally and have embedded USB-A ports.

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The economy section has a total of six lavatories; five in the central are separating the two economy cabins and one at the very back of the plane near the main galley.

Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 787-9 economy seats

Hawaiian Airlines’ latest economy seats are the same as those in Extra Comfort, but have just 31 inches of pitch, and there are a few rows in a 2-3-2 pattern toward the back of the aircraft.

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Their tray tables pop down from the preceding seatback and are maneuverable forward and backward by about 3 inches.

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Their touchscreen entertainment systems are 12 inches across diagonally and have embedded USB-A and USB-C ports. These seats do not have AC power plugs, though.

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The headrests have side wings to cradle your head but do not adjust up and down. Overall, they are a nice but only slight update over the airline’s economy seats on its other aircraft.

Other Hawaiian accents

Perceptive passengers will notice a few other Hawaiian-specific features board the airline’s Boeing 787-9s, including an entry area near door 2L with wooden slats inspired by native Hawaiian hardwood that resembles the ribbing of an outrigger canoe, leaf-like texturing along the ceiling panels and purple lighting reminiscent of the islands’ tropical flora.

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“All of our competitors fly the same aircraft,” Mannis told us, “so a lot of what differentiates the experience beyond our frontline employees and the hospitality we deliver is the story behind the design.” That was key, he said, to differentiating the experience of flying a Hawaiian Airlines 787-9 versus that of a competitor.

“In Hawaii, we have such a rich storytelling tradition,” Mannis said. “We always start with a story. In this case it’s the story of Pacific voyagers who traveled by canoe across vast distances in the Pacific. Once you have that story down, you can build detail into the design … that is immersive and makes it feel different than getting on anyone else’s 787.”

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The plane’s lighting effects, for instance, were programmed to mimic Hawaiian optics like the archipelago’s stunning Technicolor sunsets and misty midday sun. Carpeting and seat accents have aqua patterning that is a play on the color saturation and gradients of Pacific waveforms and currents. Squint your eyes slightly and look at the wall stenciling near the lavatories and you might feel like you’re taking a snooze in the shadow of an indigenous tree. Speaking of which, this is Mannis’s favorite touch: Each of the lavatory’s floral wall patterning is of a different Hawaiian plant, so you might want to try visiting them all during a long flight between the Mainland and Hawaii.

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Each Hawaiian Airlines 787-9 will be given a culturally significant name derived from the stars and constellations used by Polynesian navigators. With the tail number N781HA, this particular plane’s official name is Kapuahi, which is the Hawaiian word for the star Aldebaran.

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Flyers will find Hawaiian language labeling on seats and other signs throughout the cabin, too, while the lavatory signs have male and female figures in traditional Hawaiian garb. Once in the lavatories, take a moment to look down – the black flooring shimmers like a newly cooled lava flow.

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Though small, these facets help to imbue the flight experience with a uniquely Hawaiian ambience that communicates the carrier’s heritage and home.

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We asked Mannis if any of that Hawaiian-specific character is likely to fade once the airline merges with Alaska. Though he could not give any details at this point, Mannis did aver that, “Alaska is committed to keeping the Hawaiian Airlines brand and they see the value in a brand like ours that really stands for a place and has such great consumer love around it.”

Where will the Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 787-9 fly?

So far, the airline has revealed plans to fly its new Boeing 787-9s on just a handful of routes as it continues to take delivery of its full order of 12 Dreamliners.

Initially, the jets will operate certain flights on the following routes:

  • Between Honolulu and San Francisco daily from April 15-May 13, 2024
  • Between Honolulu and Los Angeles on select flights starting May 14, 2024
  • Between Honolulu and Phoenix on select flights starting May 15, 2024

Schedules for an aircraft’s debut into service sometimes change, though, so always double-check the aircraft operating flights you are interested in directly on Hawaiian Airlines’ site before making a reservation.

How to book a flight on the Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 787-9

If you want to experience Hawaiian Airlines’ new Boeing 787-9s for yourself, there are a few possible ways of booking.

First, you can simply make your reservations directly through the Hawaiian Airlines website, which will have the most current information on schedules and aircraft and use one of the best credit cards for booking flights to earn the most points or miles.

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There are also several ways to redeem points or miles for flights on Hawaiian Airlines including using the airline’s own HawaiianMiles program, or partners like Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and JetBlue True Blue.

Without getting too granular, here’s a look at sample starting round-trip airfares and mileage redemptions on the airline’s upcoming flights from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Honolulu Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) over the next few months. These prices are specifically for flights operated by the Dreamliner, and award availability is currently scarce, though it will hopefully open up slightly as more the jets go into service.

Class Economy Extra Comfort Business class
Airfare $605.40 $784.40 $3,020.50
HawaiianMiles 40,000 miles N/A 80,000 miles
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points 40,000 points N/A 80,000 points
JetBlue TrueBlue points 40,000 points N/A 100,000 points

As always, be sure to double-check your flight numbers and aircraft type before booking to ensure that your itinerary will indeed be operated by a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

Bottom line

It’s been a long time coming, but Hawaiian Airlines’ Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is finally here and preparing to go into service next month.

Our quick overview of the aircraft at LAX revealed that its interiors are as exciting as we anticipated, with all-new business-class suites that are a huge leap forward for the carrier. The Extra Comfort and economy seats are looking pretty spruce, too, and the uniquely Hawaiian decor elements help create an island-inspired vibe as soon as you set foot on board.

Time will tell how the airline’s character and route network will evolve pending Alaska Airlines’ acquisition of Hawaiian Airlines. But hopefully these planes will remain in service for some time to come so travelers get to experience Hawaiian’s distinctive sense of aloha coupled with competitive, contemporary seats and amenities.

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