Home Airlines Flight Review: Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 Economy Class HNL-MCO

Flight Review: Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 Economy Class HNL-MCO

by joeheg

Sharon and I have gotten to the point where we’ve realized it’s not always necessary to fly in business class. Depending on the circumstances, we’d rather save the points or money and fly in economy class. On our flight home from Hawaii, we could have spent 30,000 HawaiianMiles for a Main Cabin seat or 130,000 points for a First Class seat.

Since we’d be transferring AMEX points for the tickets, we didn’t think it was worth an additional $2,000 for a lie-flat seat on the red-eye flight home. We’d rather save the points or money even if it means not sleeping on the flight. Who cares if we’re coming home and can crash in our own bed with our dog as soon as we unpack the car.

Getting back to our flight, we’d never flown with Hawaiian besides on inter-island flights. We were looking forward to seeing how the experience was different on one of their long-haul routes.

Hawaiian Airlines Flight 86
HNL-MCO
Airbus A330-200

Hawaiian Airlines flies the A330 on its long-haul routes. The aircraft has 18 lie-flat first-class seats and the rest of the 278 seats in a 2-4-2 economy configuration.

Sharon and I picked 2 of the window seats so we wouldn’t have to worry about any seatmates when we needed to get up during the 9-hour flight to use the bathroom.

Our flight left from the C gates of Honolulu Airport, which felt like an abandoned terminal that only hosts the one-off flights. We were transported to our gate by the Wiki-Wiki shuttle after leaving the Hawaiian Plumeria lounge.

I didn’t check to see what food options we’d receive on the plane so I walked to the nearest food outlet and purchased two sandwiches for the flight.

We started boarding as scheduled and we headed right down the near aisle to our seats.

Once on the plane, the pilot announced that there was a problem with the fuel system and we’d have to wait for maintenance to fix the issue before leaving (because we couldn’t fuel the plane).

As it turned out, we were on the same flight as some friends who were also on their anniversary trip. They splurged for the lie-flat seats at the front of the plane. We were messaging during the delay and as it turned out, first-class wasn’t as relaxing as you’d hope.

We have a crying one year old baby behind us and an already drunk couple behind us. So much for first class. Great to see you guys!

After 30 minutes the fueling issue was fixed. Here’s the announcement we got from the flight deck.

Thanks for your patience. The maintenance crew has fixed the problem with fueling the aircraft. We’ve loaded extra fuel, will ignore our carbon footprint and get you to Orlando close to your scheduled arrival time.

Since I had some time to settle in, we noticed the plane wasn’t very full. The flight crew asked passengers to stay in their assigned seats for takeoff until the seatbelt light was turned off to ensure the flight remained balanced.

It wasn’t a problem as I was able to put my backpack in the overhead and had plenty of legroom.

There weren’t any power outlets on the plane and Hawaiian doesn’t provide Wi-Fi. With no chance to get work done, I decided to check out the IFE system. There was a USB outlet and headphone jack so I was able to use my Bose noise-canceling headphones.

Sharon fell asleep soon after we took off, while I pulled out my iPad and started to watch Book of Boba Fett on Disney+, which I had downloaded before the flight.

About 90 minutes into the trip, the crew began the drink service, soon followed by the meal. I wasn’t expecting dinner, which was why I bought us sandwiches before the flight.

Since the flight was leaving from the airline’s home airport of Honolulu, you’d expect this would be the best meal the airline would provide.

We were given a small fruit tray, a bread product and fried tofu with a side of rice. FWIW, Sharon really dislikes tofu, while I’ll occasionally order it when I know it will be good. This wasn’t close to being good. In fact, the outside was hard and crispy but there was nothing left inside the cubes. I tried to mix everything together before realizing that the glaze had almost no flavor.

Instead of dinner, Sharon ate the turkey sandwich I purchased at the airport. I finished 1/2 of the tofu and the rice.

After the meal service, the crew collected the trays and the plane was set up for the overnight part of the flight.

When the lights were dimmed and window shades closed, the purple and blue lights were very calming.

Sharon headed to an empty middle row of four seats and fashioned a makeshift bed from her pillow and a few blankets.

I moved up to the empty row in front of us so I could fully recline my seat without bothering the passenger in the row behind us. I did notice that while the back reclined, the seat also slid forward, making it a more comfortable position for sleeping than the usual reclining seat.

Sharon slept for several hours in her “bed” while I watched my iPad until my Bose wireless headphones died. I put them into the case and looked for a movie on the IFE. However, I was thirsty and headed to the galley to grab a soda. The crew informed me that the middle area of the plane had sodas and snacks set out for mid-flight noshes. I probably chugged 3 Diet Cokes during the trip to stay awake.

After watching “Free Guy”, I put my headphones back in and finished binge-watching my show. I was interrupted when we crossed over Texas and the breakfast service started.

It wasn’t much. A tangerine, muffin, cookie, cheddar cheese and crackers. But heck, it was free and enough to fill us up when it felt like it was 3 AM. That’s why I think it’s silly to sleep on red-eye flights going home when I have nothing to do the next day. Sure, it’s different if you have something to do but I’d rather pretend that I’m trying to stay up all night than going to sleep and waking up in what feels like the middle of the night.

Final Thoughts

I wanted to try Hawaiian Airlines’ long-haul service compared to taking a connecting flight on another airline. Turns out, there’s a big difference between the two. Flying from Orlando to LA and onward to Hawaii, Delta only provided two beverage services and some cookies on each flight. I’m not sure if this is different if you’re flying to Hawaii from ATL or New York. The Hawaiian airplane was also a long-haul aircraft with 2 aisles instead of the narrow-body airplanes that Delta flies MCO-LAX and LAX-LIH.

The only downside of flying on Hawaiian was the lack of internet access onboard. Since we were flying them on the redeye home, this wasn’t a huge issue. If we were flying there during the day, being offline for 10 hours may be a concern.

I’ll write about our Delta flights to Hawaii in another post.

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6 comments

John B March 11, 2022 - 2:47 pm

We changed from EWR>HNL direct non stop round trip on United to JFK>HNL direct non stop round trip on Hawaiian. Even tho we lived less than 10 miles from EWR it was worth it for the superior experience on Hawaiian. We were also always connecting at HNL for HNL>KOA and were burned a few times with United. The Hawaiian planes seemed newer and nicer, the service was def WAY better, and rater than waiting for 10h45min to be embraced by home after we boarded in the Northeast, we were home as soon as we boarded Hawaiian in JFK. We always booked I believe row 34 k,l, It was one of two bulkhead exit rows. The flight attendant jump seat faced us but they were only in it during takeoff and landing ad when we would hangout, talk story, etc. It was awesome, gave me tons of leg room, had no seatmates other than each other and was way cheaper than business class. That was before I got old and was able to travel. I hope to get back home some day to Kohala, Moku o Keawe, Hawai’i (or at least my ashes will).

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Island Miler March 11, 2022 - 4:51 pm

I commend you for flying Hawaiian so far. My butt goes numb on flights between Hawaii and the West Coast. Would it kill them to pad the seats a bit more? The meal service is also a joke and has been for a long time now. If you fly from the West Coast, things are even worse as you get a bag of chips and a (often nasty) sandwich. The only saving grace for me is the 2+4+2 configuration. Otherwise, I much prefer flying Alaska!

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joeheg March 11, 2022 - 10:52 pm

I did get up to stretch, grab a soda and take a bathroom break every 2 hours or so.

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Oren March 14, 2022 - 7:23 am

We had just flown on the HNL-MCO to go visit WDW and Universal parks during spring break. We decided not to spend an additional $1700 per passenger x 4 for the low flat beds for a $500 ticket despite the temptation to have our little ones get a good night’s sleep before operation Disney World. Instead, we sprung for the premium economy seats for an additional $100 or so to get more legroom, outlets and a spaced cabin that would allow us to recline our seats without worrying about the people behind us. On the way home to HNL we also managed to book the bulkhead seats for additional maneuverability whenever one of the little ones needed something.

Since US airlines stopped serving meals on economy domestic flights many many years ago, getting not one, but two meals us really a bonus.

The main reason we chose Hawaiian for this trip through wasn’t the tofu or the wide body plane. The real value of this flight is that it was the only direct flight to Orlando. Personally, I value a direct flight way more than any attribute of a flight other than safety of course. I even ate the tofu, which I generally don’t, and liked it.

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Jordan March 18, 2022 - 8:15 am

It sounds like you didn’t do enough research regarding delta. For their flagship services, you have to connect through ATL or DTW for Hawaiian flights. Another option is SLC, but won’t include meals. All three of these routes use 757s, 767s, or A330s from MCO and all use A330s, internationally configured, to get to HNL. In addition, delta recently expanded their A330 service to Hawaii and will include more flagship service destinations.

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Glenn March 20, 2022 - 6:17 pm

They offer wine with your meal. 🤙 And much less chance of your bags not getting there with you since you don’t need to change plane.

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