Is It Worth the Upgrade? Flying Economy Comfort on Hawaiian Airlines

From the time you check-in til you reach the island state, experience the Aloha-feeling during your journey to the USA with Hawaiian Airlines. It’s not just colourful leis, the music or the food – it’s sharing the Hawaiian culture throughout the whole flight experience.

Hawaiian Airlines flight 452. Sydney to Honolulu. Flight time: 9 hours 50 minutes.

Sure, it’s not the longest flight in the world but 9.5 hours is a long time to sit on a plane, even if you are travelling to one of the most beautiful states of America. So, if you could pay USD$100 to fly with a little more comfort, would you do it?

I would. In fact, I did as I flew Hawaiian Airlines Economy Comfort three times.

I’ve been wanting to fly with Hawaiian Airlines for years after consistently being told by other Aussies that they are one of the best airlines for flight experience and safety – two things that rate high in my priority list.
Flying to Hawaii from Australia there are only two direct flight options – Hawaiian Airlines or Jetstar Australia – and I knew that I’d much prefer the begin my journey to America the right way, with the spirit of Aloha on Hawaiian’s full-service aircrafts.

Hawaiian Airlines Economy Comfort


Having begun rolling out in August, Hawaiian Airlines A330’s offer the new Extra Comfort cabin. While not a true ‘Premium’ cabin, the airline now offers customers economy seating but with significantly more leg room (6+ inches) plus a 36 inch seat recline, compared to 31-32″ in Economy.

I was sat in row 11, the aisle seat in the middle row of four which I’m going to call it and say it’s the best row for long-haul flights like the Sydney – Honolulu service. The ordinary hard shell bulk head has been removed and in place fitted with a sheer curtain that, while a little annoying when it was moved over my legs as people moved between cabins, gave me even more leg room than in a standard Economy Comfort seat.
Overall, the seats were comfortable though a little more padding would not have gone astray as they were quite firm. They even had flexible wings on the head rest to ensure you don’t end up drooling on your neighbours shoulder!

One thing I would have liked to have seen is a foldable footrest which would have really given the seats that extra comfort factor, but all in all it was a good seating experience.

Hawaiian Airlines Economy Comfort

Hawaiian Airlines Economy Comfort

Hawaiian Airlines Economy Comfort

In-Flight Entertainment

Each seat now comes fitted with a USB charge port as part of the touchscreen In-Flight Entertainment System.

While a few films (7 to be exact), a couple of TV shows, some Games, a few CD’s and some other services are free, for the most part the entertainment – including the movies you finally have hours to catch up on – is on pay-per-view. Uhrm… excuse me?!! Yes, that’s right.  For USD$7.99 you can watch a new release film.
If you’re an avid movie buff consider buying the ‘Unlimited Package’ for USD$6.99 and includes classic movies, current TV shows and complete music albums. For those with kids, the Keiki Package is a must and contains Disney classics and TV shows like Hannah Montana for USD$4.99.

*UPDATE: If you are flying in Economy Comfort, the Unlimited TV & More entertainment pack is now included in the cost of your ticket!*

Once you get over the shock of having to pay for films onboard, the IFE systems are actually pretty good. The touchscreen functions are fast, the clarity is very good and the extra options are good.

Hawaiian Airlines Economy Comfort


Being a night flight we were served with dinner on take-off and a light breakfast shortly before landing.

I found the dinner to be quite satisfying despite it’s appearance. We were served chicken on rice with steamed vegetables (no choice, thankfully it wasn’t fish…), a small salad and vinaigrette, cheese and crackers, and a TimTam for dessert. This came with water and soft drinks or juices. Additional beverages, including alcohol, and snacks can be purchased throughout the flight at an extra charge.

While I wasn’t awake during the breakfast meal service, one of the cabin members had left the snack pack on the empty seat next to me (something I was very thankful for because it was the start of a very busy day!) Inside was a croissant with butter and strawberry jam, a muffin, apple snack pack and vanilla yoghurt.

Hawaiian Airlines Economy Comfort

I also upgraded myself to Economy Comfort on my return Honolulu – Las Vegas flights. The meals and service didn’t vary by much except I was a bit disappointed in the food options.
For our meal on the six-hour and ten minute flight we were served with a fruit salad, cheese and crackers, an Alohamac (chocolate coated macadamia nuts) and choice of soft drink or juice. Later in the flight we were given a packet of chips.
While the meal was good it felt like it needed a sandwich or wrap to really make it a full-service meal… though maybe I’m a little spoilt from flying airlines that offer full-meals and snacks as part of the airfare, something that is rare with US Airlines.

Thankfully, you can buy assorted snacks and drinks onboard and so I stocked up on some chips, a chocolate bar and water before relaxing by watching a movie.

(You can find out more about what food service is going to be served onboard on the Hawaiian Airlines website)

Hawaiian Airlines Economy Comfort

The Extras

Arriving at Sydney Airport to check onto the flight the desk agents found that there was a problem with my ticket. Thankfully I spoke to Kathy, the Hawaiian Airlines desk manager, and along with a few phone calls to the people who organised my tickets she was able to get me on the flight… as long as I ran!
Scraping through in the nick of time I had time to de-stress at the gate as the friendly Hawaiian music played over the speakers, continuing in the airplane until push-back, but not before Kathy came onboard to hand over flight logs… and to make sure that I had got onboard.

Kathy was just the start of the exceptional service that was offered on Hawaiian Airlines. The whole crew always had a smile or a joke for you and were happy to chat about their home state (in fact, sometimes they liked to chat a little too much as service was, at times, rather slow. Lets call it “island time”.)
It’s a little bit corny – the soothing music and the “Aloooooooooooooha” you receive welcoming you onboard – but that’s the injection of Hawaiian spirit, of island hospitality, that was evident in everything that happens onboard.

My only real complaint, aside from paying for the In-Flight Entertainment system, is that each passenger in Economy Comfort (cannot confirm for Economy) was given a blanket. After the dinner meal on my flight from Sydney to Honolulu I pulled it out of the packaging and began to get cosy for a nap but the smell of the blanket… well, it was pretty awful and definitely hadn’t been washed between the last flight (and if it had then they really need to change providers!) Instead, I bought one of their souvenir package blankets because the air conditioning was pretty cool and my cardigan wasn’t cutting it. Thankfully the blankets are a warm polar fleece and has served me well both while travelling in the US and since my return home. Not a big deal but remember to dress warm!


Now it’s over to you

Would you pay $100 to upgrade to Economy Comfort?

What’s your experience of Economy Plus cabins?

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DetailsHawaiian Airlines logo

Hawaiian Airlines
Extra Comfort Economy Includes:
  • Extra legroom (5 inches)
  • Extra recline (36 inches as opposed to economy’s 31-32 inches)
  • AC power jack
  • Priority boarding
  • Free on-demand seat-entertainment
  • Blanket and pillow set*

* only available on International routes//was not available on my flight (I paid for a blanket + pillow set)

Extra Comfort will be available on their A330 cabin to/from Honolulu from these destinations:

Domestic Routes

  • Las Vegas (LAS)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • New York (JFK)
  • Portland (PDX)
  • San Diego (SAN)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Seattle (SEA)

International Routes

  • Auckland, New Zealand (AKL)
  • Beijing, China (PEK)
  • Haneda-Tokyo, Japan (HND)
  • Osaka-Kansai, Japan (KIX)
  • Papeete, Tahiti (PPT)
  • Sydney, Australia (SYD)
  • Taipei, Taiwan (TPE)



Hawaiian Airlines has their own milage program, HawaiianMiles, but is a parter of Virgin’s Velocity program who also offer connecting flights from Sydney.


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My trip to the USA was arranged by Discover America.
Many thanks to Hawaiian Airlines for arranging my flights to and from America.
Upgrades to Economy Comfort (HNL – LAS return) and
First (HNL – SYD) were paid for by myself.

All thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.

Some images used are owned by Hawaiian Airlines.

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  • Reply
    October 20, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Yes, I would pay the $100 to upgrade. Through my experience it has typically been more than that though. Being fairly tall it’s definitely worth it for me.

  • Reply
    October 20, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Heck yeah Id pay the extra $100 to upgrade, totally worth it. Although it does sound that some of the finer details were not considered for your flights. Couldnt think of anything worse than the stinky used blanket. Ewwwh!

  • Reply
    Caroline Eubanks
    October 21, 2014 at 12:34 am

    I flew the route with JetStar from Sydney to Honolulu and wasn’t overly impressed, as I had forgotten you have to buy EVERYTHING (food, etc) and I was sitting next to a very large man who was taking over my space. But we flew Hawaiian for our inter-island flights and were always impressed.

  • Reply
    October 21, 2014 at 11:46 am

    I flew last year with JetStar from Sydney to Hawaii. One week before I due to leave JetStar called and said for $300 I could upgrade from Economy to Business Class… so I said yes!! (Seat not a bed, they don’t do beds) The food was good, the entertainment Ipad was ok and it was the best softest landing ever!!

    But really the best is Air New Zealand, flew to Sydney from LAX via Auckland, 1 month before I was due to leave I got the upgrade email… I put in a $300 bid for a Premium Economy seat and got it. Premium Economy with Air New Zealand is far comfier than Business Class with JetStar!! And it also got me a Air New Zealand lounge pass at LAX.

    I’m 6’1″ so I’m happy to pay $300 if it gets me a sizeable difference but I won’t pay $100 for a exit row seat, I’ll suck it up with a regular economy seat instead….

  • Reply
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    October 31, 2014 at 3:24 am

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    July 5, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    Absolutely! Hawaiian is a wonderful airline, we have flown with them on at least four trips, and their premium economy add on at $Australian 125 is the biggest bargain in the air. We will always fly with them in future, and if they start (it’s a persistent rumour) flying from New York to Paris or London soon, we will use them to get to Europe too.

    Sydney-Honolulu-New York-Paris sounds great to me, and beats the “pick your preferred war zone to fly over” route hands down!

  • Reply
    July 25, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    There are actually three direct flight options to Australia. Qantas also fly Airbus A330 aircraft between HNL and SYD

  • Reply
    Ben S.
    November 4, 2016 at 1:21 am

    Booked a trip to Hawaii from Oakland, CA later on this month, and I have already paid my $80 to upgrade to Economy Comfort — it’s $20 less than for us “North American mainland Haoles” to upgrade I guess. FYI, the new A330 service is now operating out of ALL three Bay Area airports (San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose) to/from Honolulu, as well as Kahului, Maui.

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    Scott Condie
    January 29, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    I flew HA 451 back to Sydney, AUS. With the upgraded A330 Extra comfort, we got seat 11J???
    With the solid panel directly in front of us, it was Impossible to extend my legs. ( I am 5’11”)
    (For the record, you cannot extend your legs. The cheaper cattle class seats have more room as you can extend them under the seat in front)
    They should call it extra knee space. To compound the issue, there was a solid panel behind me with an oxygen canister directly behind the seat. This stopped me from reclining more than 1–2 inches. At $175AUD it was a rip off.
    When questioning the cabin staff, she replied “what would you like me to do?” Ahhhh, upgrade please lady!!!!
    I can only suspect any seats in rows 11-12 will be rubbish and not worth the money. Behind the galley maybe where there is nothing solid in front or behind.
    Be careful when you choose your seats. Hawaïin Airlines is cashing in on something’s that not worth it in the upgraded Airbus A330

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