Home Airlines What It’s Like To Fly On Delta To Hawaii (Spoiler Alert: It’s Not Great)

What It’s Like To Fly On Delta To Hawaii (Spoiler Alert: It’s Not Great)

by joeheg

When I was looking for flights to Hawaii, I was well aware that the options weren’t great. US carriers view a flight to Hawaii the same as any other domestic US flight. While you’ll be flying over the Pacific Ocean for up to six hours, you’ll only get limited services and the same seat that you’ll get flying from Atlanta to Salt Lake City.

Unlike the “preferred” domestic routes of JFK-LAX, you’ll see no lie-flat beds in first class. At best you’ll get a recliner. In fact, the last time we visited Hawaii, ten years ago, we flew with Alaska Airlines in the pleather recliner First Class seats.

After flying with Icelandair in economy from JFK-KEF, I decided it was worth saving the miles that airlines were charging to sit up front and booked flights on Delta from Orlando to Lihue, Kauai for 17,500 Delta SkyMiles.

Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper

Maybe I was crazy to book a 4,833 mile trip in Delta Economy.

Our flight to LAX was due to leave Orlando at 7 AM, which was why we booked a room at the Hyatt Regency located in the terminal. Even with leaving our room at 5:30, we found a massive line at the Delta bag drop when we arrived. We self-tagged our bags and got on the line for bag drop off, but the queue extended beyond the switchbacks, so it 20 minutes before we reached the Delta agent at the start of the overflow section of the line. It was now 6 AM and we still had 4 switchbacks to go through. Sharon politely explained to the employee that our anniversary flight to Hawaii, with a connection in LAX, started boarding in 20 minutes.

I give airline staff credit when it’s due and a Delta agent pulled us out of line and led us directly to a desk where the agent checked our IDs, weighed our bags and let us go. (Note from Sharon: we admittedly cut our time shorter than we should have [insert side eye to Joe] but even if we had arrived the recommended 2 hours before our flight, at the rate that queue was moving, we still would have missed our plane if I hadn’t done something)

The TSA line was long but the CLEAR line with TSA PreCheck access was almost empty. It’s well worth the money to avoid the lines at Orlando airport.

To make a long story short, we got on the plane. Our flight from Orlando-Los Angeles was on a 737-900.

With us having to wake up at 4:45 AM even with staying at the airport, we were dead tired when we got on the plane. Sharon was sleeping before we started to taxi and I nodded off shortly after we got off the ground.

When I woke up I was happy to find that our plane was outfitted with ViaSat internet service. For $5, I was able to get an internet connection with my phone for the entire flight. I’d gladly pay for the ViaSat service and get a useful connection when it comes to inflight Wi-Fi.

I only used the IFE for the airshow to check our progress and I used the USB connection to charge my phone. The crew made two trips through the cabin for the inflight service and offered either Biscoff cookies or Goldfish crackers and a selection of beverages.

Fortunately, when we arrived at the Delta SkyClub at LAX, we could eat a decent breakfast.

I say that because it’s the closest thing we’d get to a meal before arriving in Hawaii.

We had enough trouble getting between terminals at LAX and just made it onto our flight from TBIT to Hawaii. Little did I know that we were about to take a trip back in time.

Our 757-200 had some legroom (or knee room) issues.

Of course, that matters who you ask. Sharon had no problems with the legroom.

This is why my 6-foot tall body has a problem with paying for 2 extra legroom seats that only one of us will benefit from. In this picture, also notice the power plugs located down by your feet.

I wanted to use our own entertainment because this was the display of the small IFE screen for the beginning of our trip. Really Delta, does your IFE system still run on Linux?

I can’t even start to explain how disappointed I was with Delta when I saw this was the plane that they decided to put on the LAX-LIH route. I’d expect it on a flight from MCO-JFK on JetBlue but on a 6-hour flight where you’re charging leisure travelers top dollar to get to Hawaii, it’s unacceptable.

To make matters worse, the only Wi-Fi offered was by GoGo and I wasn’t going to pay $25 for sub-par coverage. Instead, I watched movies I’d downloaded to my iPad before the flight in the Delta SkyClub. It pays to be prepared.

The only thing the IFE was good for was watching the airshow, making it look like we were so much closer to Hawaii than we actually were. Come on, the plane is bigger than Hawaii!!!

While we love some Biscoff cookies, having that (or more Goldfish) as the only option for the two runs through the cabin was disappointing.

Before I totally trash Delta, I have to remind myself that I only paid 17,500 SkyMiles for the entire journey. With Delta’s desire to set the value of SkyMiles at 1 cent each, that means I paid $175 to get from Orlando to Kauai.

Whatever you think of SkyMiles (or SkyPesos), that’s a pretty good value. At the end of the day, we got to Hawaii. Our seats weren’t entirely uncomfortable and the price was great.

Sharon and I realize that this is the way that most people travel and when it comes down to it, we were happy to get to Hawaii as quickly as possible and it wasn’t worth the extra miles to pay the price Delta was charging for seats in the front of the plane. For those extra miles, we’d rather take two or three extra trips instead of having extra legroom on a domestic flight for 6 hours. YMMV.

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DC not in DC March 18, 2022 - 4:31 pm

United has plenty of lie flats to HNL and LIH. My wife and I are in Kauai this week and we flew here on a United 757-200 with lie flats and will return this weekend on the same.

Outbound was DEN-LIH and return is LIH-LAX.

Alaska and Southwest have zero lie flats in their fleets, so it’s not fair to compare them with airlines that have lie flats in their fleets.

If Delta has zero lie flats to Hawaii, that’s because Delta hates passengers flying to Hawaii.

Brad March 18, 2022 - 6:01 pm

Why are you crazy for booking economy. 99% of people fly that way. I fly back and forth to Singapore in economy frequently and I’m still alive. I’d rather spend more money on my resort then having a bigger seat for 6 hours. If 4 inches more leg room will keep you alive then I understand.

Brad March 18, 2022 - 6:03 pm

Oh sorry I didn’t finish reading when I wrote that. Yep having extras trips is better then the extra leg room.

JohnB July 3, 2022 - 4:03 pm

@DC not in DC,

Delta has lie flat on some flights to Hawaii. Just like AA and UA. As I understand Hawaiian has the most lie flats. People need to understand that the reason so many aircraft with lie flat seats were on Hawaii routes is because those aircraft were not being used on overseas routes. Things have changed very rapidly and now many airlines have narrow gauge aircraft flying to Hawaii.


I think lie flat is really nice for flights back to the mainland, as the vast majority of those flights are overnight, red eye flights. Please post more about your Hawaii trip. Interested to hear about crowding, etc.


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