Last updated: 04:00 PM ET, Thu June 09 2016

How Hawaiian Airlines is Reinventing Its Business Class

Airlines & Airports | Paul Thompson | June 09, 2016

How Hawaiian Airlines is Reinventing Its Business Class

Photos courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines

Beginning this fall, Hawaiian Airlines will begin flying with an updated interior, featuring a new Business Class with lie-flat seats on most of its long-haul fleet. The new seats and service upgrades will separate them from the pack of other domestic carriers based in the contiguous 48 states.

Italian seat manufacturer Optimares was chosen to design the new seats for the redesigned cabin. Mark Dunkerley, President and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, said the new product came as result of intensive research and guest feedback. “Together with our partners at Optimares and Paul Wylde, we have created a truly bespoke design that delivers world-class comfort and style, while staying true to our island roots. Whether traveling for business, with family or on a romantic retreat, the new premium cabin evokes an engaging bold, contemporary sense of Hawaii, complemented by the warm aloha spirit of our cabin crew.  We’re creating an environment of tranquility and comfort in the air.”

READ MORE: Hawaiian Airlines Set for A Banner Year

Hawaiian Airlines has been under pressure from low-cost carriers like Alaska and Virgin America, who have recently made inroads into Hawaii from the West Coast of the U.S. One way the airline will distinguish itself from the new challengers is by offering a brand new Business Class seat that lies completely flat. Alaska and Virgin America do not offer that. And while your flight from the mainland to Hawaii is likely a daytime flight, many return flights are “red-eyes” — meaning they leave Hawaii late at night and land on the mainland early the following morning.

If you’re going to splurge on a Hawaiian vacation, why not end it on a high note instead of complete exhaustion, wedged into a coach seat that reclines about 3 degrees instead of 180? “The product has been created for the unique needs and expectations of the Hawaiian Airlines guest, combining high-tech solutions and a truly innovative design,” said Alessandro Braca, CEO of Optimares.

West Coast design consultant Paul Wylde worked with the airline on its color palette, while Optimares joined the collaboration to ensure the seats were tailored to meet the needs of the Hawaiian traveler. Hawaiian even chose to reduce the number of seats in their A330s, from 294 to 278 in the new configuration, putting comfort first and going against the grain of many airlines squeezing in as many seats as possible.

The new Business Class is meant to evoke elements of the wind, sand and ocean. It folds flat into a 76-inch long bed. The seats will be configured in a 2-2-2 manner across each row. While many airlines are now giving direct aisle access to business passengers, Hawaiian Airlines says their arrangement is designed with couples in mind. After all, who goes to Hawaii alone? Interestingly, the new seats will not feature built-in entertainment, but will instead be equipped with “the next generation large format tablet.” According to, none of the Hawaiian fleet offers Wi-Fi at this time.

Each A330 will be appointed with 18 of the new Business Class seat, 68 “Extra Comfort” seats, and 192 Main Cabin (economy) seats. The A330 is Hawaiian’s primary aircraft serving the U.S. mainland and international routes to China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. The airline flies from eleven U.S. cities to Hawaii — more than any other airline.

READ MORE: 5 New Ways to Experience Hawaii

Between the islands themselves, the airline uses a smaller Boeing 717, which sits eight in First Class and 115 in Economy Class along with some 48-seat ATR 42 turboprop planes. Once on board, travelers are treated to island-inspired complimentary meals and made-in-Hawaii snacks to go along with the airline’s engaging presentation of the islands’ culture, people and aloha spirit throughout the flight.

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