American Airlines Puts Premium Lie Flat Seats on Two Hawaii Routes

West Coast – Hawaii flights are about 5 hours long. That’s not much shorter than Eastbound flights from the Northeast to nearer Europe. Flights from the East Coast to Hawaii are longer than most Europe flights. And yet while there’s a product war across the Atlantic, trying to provide premium experiences that will attract lucrative business class flyers, premium cabins on Hawaii routes tend to be more modest.

Many Midwest and East Coast – Hawaii flights on United and Delta feature flat seats to be sure, but it’s almost never the airline’s latest product.

That’s because Hawaii is mostly a leisure route. There aren’t deep pocketed companies willing to shell out the premium for business class to Hawaii that there is for flights between, say, New York and London.

Nonetheless, the overall quality of seats from major hubs to the Islands has gone up. When United and Delta have ramped up their game to Hawaii they’ve restricted upgrades, though, treating better product like international.

American on the other hand just did something different with two flights. American’s latest schedule update puts international long haul widebody aircraft on two Hawaii routes, giving customers more premium cabin seats that are truly lie flat, with direct aisle access.

Los Angeles – Honolulu 1 of 6 daily operated by 777-200ER, replacing A321Sharklet
AA143 LAX1500 – 1900HNL 772 D
AA144 HNL2330 – 0706+1LAX 772 D

Phoenix – Honolulu 1 of 2 daily (excluding additional flights on seasonal basis) operated by A330-300, replacing 757
AA692 PHX1205 – 1555HNL 333 D
AA693 HNL2215 – 0709+1PHX 333 D

The Airbus A330 is a legacy US Airways aircraft, but it’s also an impressive plane, US Airways never got enough credit for leading the industry with the fully flat reverse herringbone direct aisle access Zodiac seat that was adopted by Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, and others (including American for its Boeing 777-300ER).

It’s an older version of the seat, in many cases showing wear, but it’s fantastic for flying to and from Hawaii.

Meanwhile the Boeing 777-200 has two different seats, the Zodiac ‘Concept D’ custom American Airlines seat (that American wound up suing Zodiac over their inability to deliver on time) and the better B/E Aerospace. There are also two different configurations of the plane, one that’s higher density. Naturally the higher density plane is going to be on the Hawaii route.

Boeing 777-200 Concept D Seat Business Class

American’s B/E Aerospace Super Diamond Seat, Onboard a Boeing 787-9

There are several interesting things about this:

  • These are Hawaii flights from the West, not the longest Hawaii flights
  • So it’s about aircraft utilization and adding seat capacity, especially during peak travel periods, not about the product
  • There’s no attempt at standardization, in each market it’s one flight with the bigger and better plane not an offering on all flights. That’s another reason you know it’s not a decision driven by product.
  • But it means savvy flyers can win out, upgrade chances may be better but in any case upgrades aren’t ‘restricted’

As well, American has added a Dallas-Ft. Worth – Lihue daily flight with a smaller international widebody, a Boeing 767-300ER, that will operate December 15 through January 7 and February 18 through April 2.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Always a crap shoot with lie flat Hawaii seats with American. Just flew DFW-OGG-DFW and was booked and paid for lie flat 767 -300 . WITHIN three hours of departure the seat map changed on each segment and equipment was swapped to old angle flat junk. This is pretty common and not a one off.
    If they had any ethic they would show the old angle seats at purchase and surprise you with a lie flat if they somehow manage to use the better equipment.
    United at least just consistently sells a crapy product with their 777 manual Barco Lounger , but doesn’t deceive you at the last minute

  2. They also do a last minute equipment change hnl/dfw, and you don’t get to also sit with family.

  3. Yep, Jim. Happened to us with a 3 year old. Separated all of us. I booked the seats 11 months out too. Then they separated us. Getting someone to switch was like pulling teeth. An ex-NBA player’s wife tried to convince me that our just-turned-3-year-old would be fine sitting alone. She didn’t want to switch where she would be directly across the aisle from her 8 year old but my 3 year old would be fine not being within sight of either of his parents. Good grief!

  4. Gary, as regards the LAX and PHX origins, would you know the dates when the equipment changes are in the schedules?

  5. @Jo — they’re rolling through the updates today, when I wrote about it this morning the data was updated in some systems and not yet others.

  6. The cheapest award I am seeing is 135K miles for first class using AA miles as I can’t see a single date that AA has saver award availability, so 135K is the cheapest for a ticket. What points to book this would you suggest? I am thinking maybe Amex rewards as the best paid flights look to be about $1200, so that’s less then a penny to redeem AA points?

  7. The real problem is the time one departs, we arrive from other cities, and find a seat that will not lie flat,

    If it was only a 5 hour trip it might be different, lie flat or UA for this guy..

  8. Thanks, Gary. I appreciate your speedy reply. I’ll keep my eye on it, too, as I live in PHX and have a personal interest in this opportunity.

  9. Just to put these award seats into historical perspective:
    The award chart from the 1980s showed a mileage level of 75,000 to HNL from ANY domestic
    Which was round trip.
    In first class
    For TWO people.

  10. I my wife, son, and I already had a flight book to LIH through LAX a couple weeks back. After reading this article, we were able to snag some business saver level from LIH back to BNA via DFW for three of us around New Years. I could not believe there was any business saver level on a lay flat much less three of them AND over new years holiday. Thanks so much for the update on their additional flights to Hawaii.

  11. I’m flying DFW-OGG next May.. and American just switched out the 767 flight I had originally booked in favor of a 777-200. Any idea which seats/configuration?

  12. My husband & I have a flight booked from Phoenix to Honolulu mid Oct. We are on the list to be upgraded to first class (paid upgrade with AA points we’ve earned. We celebrate our Anniversary almost every year this way. Unfortunately our only experience flying with American was to Kona for our sons wedding and it was horrible ! The plane was so old the seats has ash trays in the arm rest, and it was beat up. We were told that the planes would be switched to newer Airbus a330, by this trip but online it is still showing the older plane. My husband did purchase the better seats at the front, but I’m not looking forward to this flight. We are also loyal Delta flyers, get great perks and have always had a nice flight. One more bad experience on this trip and we’ll cut our cards up and be done with Americian!

  13. Okay, signing up for DFW to OGG on March 14, 2018. Can I expect a 777-200 with lie flat seats in F class or an older model with standard non lie flat seats? Thanks….flying the A321 to OGG in coach is even better than the 777-200 without lie flat. The A321 is awesome!

  14. Does anyone know what the current 757 FC provisioning is on HNL-PHX flights (e.g. AA 693) ? The AA seat map is showing 3 rows in first class, with economy rows starting at row 8. This doesn’t match any of the Seatguru maps that I can find, so I am just trying to decide if first class is worth it. Thanks in advance!

  15. Hi Gary, I have the 1500 flight out of LAX(143) to HNL. I was hoping to get the lie down seats for my mother, but the equipment is a 32B with regular side by side seats. Do you think it’s possible this could change?


  16. I have a DFW flight to OGG January 29 in first class on American Airlines. I believe it is a 777-200 airplane. C\What type of seats can I expect?

  17. I have flights booked on 772 AA DFW to OGG in May 2018. First class seat 4A on one flight and Premimum Economy seat 13J on other one with request for upgrade. What type of seats can I expect please?

  18. HNL to PHX 693 – Option to use other airlines out of Hawaii – we thought we would try to book our clients on AA – Bad choice – Aside from the higher cost – Boarding – was group 1 – however 40 people moved to board – no designation for first class – started boarding and did not scan for 20 minutes – Asked agent if we missed our boarding and he said no everyone was boarding together – if I had a problem bring it up with AA – VIP flying tonight always fly first- every other airline has a designation ( I know ive been in the game for over 30 years )- this is the first time I have ever experienced this poor of service – Makes AA Hawaii look very bad – Maybe you commuter flights not such a big deal – but your long haul ,, disappointing. HNL AA- due to poor attitude of agent- He could have saved it and turned it around however he decided not to. I hope this was an isolated incident – please speak with your GM- in HNL as re training seems to be in order. If this is your boarding process – clients pay the higher rate to be treated at a higher standard- nothing wrong with purchasing a seat but at a higher rate and special promised amenities – a rush to mass cattle board and sitting on the plane for delay 30 minutes. Service not delivered tonight

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