Airline review: Hawaiian Airlines, Airbus A330, Extra Comfort (premium economy), Sydney to Honolulu

THE PLANE

Airbus A330. Hawaiian Airlines has 24 in its 63-strong passenger fleet. The airline recently announced it will purchase 10 new 787-9 aircraft, with rights to acquire an additional 10, and the first of these will join the fleet in 2021.

THE ROUTE

Sydney to Honolulu direct.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

HawaiianMiles. Not affiliated with a major airline alliance but points can be earned for Virgin Australia's Velocity program.

CLASS

Extra Comfort is Hawaiian Airlines' premium economy class, which launched in 2014. There are now 68 Extra Comfort seats on each of its A330s.

DURATION

Nine hours and 32 minutes, covering 8150 kilometres.

FREQUENCY

Daily

THE SEAT

Seat 21A on the window is part of a 2-4-2 configuration. Each Extra Comfort seat is 18 inches (45 centimetres) wide with a pitch of 36 inches (91.5 centimetres), as opposed to the standard economy seat pitch of 31 inches. My seat reclines six inches (15 centimetres) though, be aware, a few Extra Comfort seats are in front of bulkheads. All economy passengers have a charging port while Extra Comfort passengers also have an electric power outlet. I break one of my own rules of travel and work for hours on my computer before lying back and sleeping for a solid five or six hours.

BAGGAGE

An economy fare includes two checked pieces per person up to 32 kilograms and up to 158 linear centimetres, and two pieces of carry-on up to 115 linear centimetres.

CHECKING IN

When I arrive about three hours before the flight, the lines are minimal. Staff are relaxed and friendly and check-in is an absolute breeze.

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COMFORT

Extra Comfort is Zone 2 so you're called to board early. Before take-off, passengers travelling in those seats are given a small canvas bag containing useful things such as earplugs, tissues, a comb, earphones, eyeshades, moisturiser and toothpaste.

Yes, many things that used to come standard on international flights but, to be fair, flying internationally has never been more affordable than right now. The aircraft feels relatively new and is very clean. The cabin temperature is coolish but absolutely fine if, unlike me, you are smart enough to be carrying an extra layer. As we fly into the morning sun, crew are vigilant about keeping window shades down so passengers can sleep.

ENTERTAINMENT

All economy passengers have a nine-inch LCD touchscreen monitor. There's a reasonable range of movies such as A Star is Born starring Lady Gaga and the 1954 version of the same film with Judy Garland, though don't expect as broad a selection on the return flight. The short programs in the Hawaiian Skies section are well worth watching, especially those on Hawaiian food and culture.

SERVICE

Hawaiian Airlines won Best Airline Staff Service in North America at the 2016 Skytrax World Airline Awards and that high standard has been maintained. The service provided by our 10 Honolulu-based flight attendants is warm and attentive. An extra blanket is found for me quickly even though it's a relatively full flight. Water is offered regularly. There's a calm vibe on board throughout the flight.

FOOD

Within an hour of taking off, a plastic bag containing a chicken Caesar half-wrap, fresh apple slices and a shortbread biscuit is served along with the offer of complimentary juice, wine, spirits and Hawaii's own Maui Brewing craft beer.

Even though I ate a light meal at the airport as well as the meal on the plane I'm hungry again a few hours into the flight. Snacks are available for purchase and $US11 gets me a big bag of delicious salty little fried things and a massive chocolate bar. About 1.5 hours before we land, a typical US-airline-style breakfast of omelette, chicken sausage, roast potatoes, fruit and a muffin is served.

ONE MORE THING

While landing cards are being handed out there's an announcement made to remind passengers what date we'll be landing in Honolulu and the flight number. Seems like a small thing but it's a handy touch because I've almost always lost my ticket stub by then. Also, Hawaiian Airlines has a comprehensive and easy-to-navigate website that offers information for passengers with a disability and those travelling with children.

THE VERDICT

For an extra $A179 per sector (or $189 if you purchase at check in) between Australia and Hawaii, I think Extra Comfort, with its generous legroom and increased recline, is really good value. A bit more food – preferably served in reusable or recyclable containers – and it would be perfect.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

4.5

Elspeth Callender travelled as a guest of Hawaiian Airlines (hawaiianairlines.com.au) and Outrigger Resorts (outrigger.com). Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly state the price for Extra Comfort was $165 per sector.

See also: Twenty things that will shock first-time visitors to Hawaii

See also: Best time to visit Hawaii

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