After spending several days in both Maui and Honolulu, it was time to begin the journey back to the mainland, this time on a red-eye flight that would take me from Honolulu to Dallas and then onward to Washington, D.C.
American runs 1 to 2 red-eye flights a day from Honolulu to Dallas, and these flights are instrumental in getting passengers to the U.S. East Coast where the time difference is so far ahead of Hawaii.
Overall, the flight was quite pleasurable, and I was able to get several hours of sleep before arriving in Dallas and making my way on to my connecting flight. This review will look at the aircraft American flies on this route, the seats, onboard service, and what you can expect when you fly out of Hawaii to the mainland U.S.
Airline: American Airlines (AA)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Flight #: AA102
Route: Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) to Dallas Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW)
Date: December 20, 2020
Duration: 7 hrs 15 min
Cabin & Layout: Business Class (seated in First Class), 8-seats, 1-1-1 config
Typical Retail Cost: $1,136 per person one-way (my cost was approximately $300 one-way in economy class, upgraded using an upgrade certificate)
There are really only 2 ways to get back from Hawaii to the East Coast U.S. You can either take a flight to Los Angeles or another gateway city on the West Coast, overnight, and then continue onwards the next day — or you can take a red-eye flight leaving in the late evening from Honolulu, and arriving into the Midwest early the next morning in time for connecting flights.
Needing to be back in Washington, D.C., I opted for a red-eye flight. As an American Airlines Executive Platinum member, I had several systemwide upgrade vouchers to use, and I applied these to my reservation, taking me from Main Cabin to business class.
Normally, this flight is only sold with business class as the highest cabin of service, but interestingly, this plane featured first class seats beyond business class that were able to be reserved for no additional charge. While I’d only receive the service benefits of business class, I was able to sit in a much larger first class seat, so this review will feature a mix of highlights from the business class experience and the first class hard product.
Hot Tip: If you have miles to use, or are an elite member with systemwide upgrades, you can get great value out of using them to get to/from Hawaii. Keep in mind that you can upgrade up to 3 segments in this manner.
Depending on the season you’re traveling in, you’ll find either an early evening red-eye departure and/or a late evening red-eye departure. I booked onto the latter in order to maximize my rest onboard.
Typically, American’s flat-bed flights to Hawaii (from Dallas and Chicago) sell at the highest premium, so it’s not uncommon for these trips to be close to $2,000 round-trip in a premium cabin. It’s also a fairly tough route to upgrade on, but due to COVID-19 and a slump in demand for traffic to Hawaii, I was able to easily score an upgrade at booking.
At the Airport
Before you head to the check-in counters, you need to put your bag through one of the agriculture scanners — this won’t take more than a moment.
Since this flight leaves very late in the evening, check-in was quite a breeze as there was hardly anyone in the check-in queue. There were plexiglass shields at the counter to help provide a barrier between passengers and staff.
Because of my status, and because I was seated in business class, I was allowed to use the priority check-in lane, though it wouldn’t have made a difference on this flight as there was no one in the Main Cabin lane, either. I was checking 2 bags, and the agent promptly scanned everything and handed me a boarding pass to head through security. I was inside the secure area within a few minutes.
Due to COVID-19, all lounges within the airport were either closed, or had closed well before my arrival, so if you’re arriving early for your flight during the pandemic, you should be aware that your lounge options will be limited.
Honolulu’s airport does have a great feature, though. Because the airport is semi-outdoors, there is a gazebo within the middle of the terminal area, and you can take the elevator down and walk through the park to get there. It’s a very tranquil spot to relax, and in normal times, is directly near most of the airline clubs that would ordinarily be in operation. Since restaurants and other things to do are limited, it was really nice to sit in this park of sorts and get some fresh air before the long flight to Dallas.
Hot Tip: There’s really no need to arrive at the airport early for your flight during the pandemic — there are typically no lines at check-in or security and you’ll be in the gate area within just a few minutes.
This flight was operated by a Boeing 777-300ER, American’s flagship aircraft. This plane is normally divided into 4 sections — first class, business class, premium economy, and economy — but on this flight, only business class, premium economy, and economy were operating, and the first class seats were up for grabs by any business class passenger for no additional charge. This was where I was seated.
Hot Tip: American usually serves Hawaii with a 777-200 aircraft from Dallas and Chicago, though you’ll find the 777-300ER often subbed in for this plane. When you do, you may be able to select a first class seat if you’re ticketed in business class.
Boarding was quite chaotic on this flight, as are most flights that are filled with predominantly leisure passengers. Passengers were encouraged to space apart using social distancing markers on the floor, but these were completely ignored in favor of a mass stampede in boarding the aircraft.
While boarding groups were called, many passengers in later groups attempted to board first, making for a messy process. Passengers with disabilities were called, followed by those in Groups 1 and 2, and then remaining sections.
First Class (Sold as Business Class)
The first class cabin had 8 seats, each with direct aisle access. There were 2 rows of 4 seats, and even though this was the same layout as business class, these seats were far roomier, and there’s much more space to spread out.
Each seat folded into a fully lie-flat bed, and for this flight, a small pillow and blanket were provided. There was a large television monitor straight ahead, great for viewing movies while relaxing or eating. The seat overall had a ton more room than business class, and even accommodated a space where a companion could sit during meal times to dine with you.
The 1 unique feature about these first class seats was that they swivel inwards, towards the desk area against the window. Here, you can work in privacy, and there’s a large separate tray table where you can spread out. Since you face away from the aisle, it’s a perfect position to work without being disturbed by those walking past.
There’s also a removable tablet you can use to control every aspect of your suite, including seat position, lighting, inflight entertainment options, and privacy lighting.
If you wanted to dine with another passenger, you certainly could thanks to the oversized ottoman that doubles as a companion seat.
Your entire seat is controlled by a small screen next to your seat. This control is removable so you can keep it next to you as you sleep.
There were few amenities on this flight since it’s considered a domestic flight. There was no amenity kit, and only a simple blanket and pillow were provided. Unlike American’s premium transcontinental or oceangoing lights, this particular route did not feature any additional services like mattress pads, slippers, pajamas, or premium blankets. For the inflight entertainment, I was given a pair of noise-canceling headphones to use.
Hot Tip: Since this flight leaves very late, consider your clothing before boarding. You may want to change into something more comfortable in the terminal, allowing you to get right to sleep once the plane takes off.
Entertainment on this flight was provided via the built-in screens at each seat. Unlike in business class, the first class seats have televisions that already face the seat, so you can actually watch any programming from takeoff to landing without having to swing out the monitor into a viewable position. This was a great feature since you don’t have to cut off your movie early just to stow your television.
One thing that American tends to do well is inflight entertainment on these built-in screens, and there’s a large variety of movies and shows you can watch from pretty much any genre.
Meal and Service
Even with the late departure of this flight, dinner was served shortly after takeoff.
Thanks to pandemic procedures, there wasn’t a pre-departure beverage service, and drinks in the air were served in plastic cups, but it’s still nice to have a meal considering American has eliminated them on a vast majority of routes.
Here was the menu from the flight:
|Honolulu to Dallas Flight Menu|
|Signature Mai Tai cocktail and full bar menu|
|Small Plate||Roast Ponzu Cauliflower|
ginger tahini sauce
|Main Plates||Braised Beef Short Ribs|
wasabi mashed potatoes, baby bok choy, baby carrotsTeriyaki Salmon
Shanghai egg noodles, sauteed vegetables, teriyaki sauce
Edamame and Shiitake Mushroom Mezzaluna
sauteed mushrooms, edamame, teriyaki pomodoro sauce
|Prior to Arrival||Fresh Seasonal Dessert|
I selected the beef and everything was served on 1 tray due to COVID-19 precautions. The meal certainly wasn’t memorable, and you don’t fly American Airlines for the inflight food. It was tolerable considering I was hungry, but certainly not something I’d order on the ground. The bread roll was individually wrapped, and each of the food items was also covered for everyone’s protection.
Service on this flight was very abbreviated, mostly due to the social distancing protocols in place, though I would have appreciated a few more pass-throughs of the cabin seeing if anyone wanted any additional beverages.
You are required to keep your mask on throughout the entire flight and can remove it for brief moments to eat or drink. With this being a long flight, ensure you are wearing a comfortable mask!
Mask compliance seemed relatively good on this flight — while there weren’t many passengers up front, everyone seemed to willingly comply with the regulations. It’s worth noting that American does not provide masks onboard, but there are sanitizer wipes at each seat.
If you need to fly from Hawaii to the mainland, there’s no better option than a widebody plane with lie-flat seats. That said, if you’re a flyer who prefers daytime flights instead of red-eyes, you may not enjoy this particular routing.
American’s business and first class seats offer a solid option for catching some shut-eye on an overnight flight, though its catering does leave something to be desired. I would definitely consider this flight the next time I needed to get back from Hawaii, as it leaves you much closer to the East Coast for connections, and, for me, that’s really important.