Trip Report: New York to Honolulu on Delta 495 JFK-HNL First Class

PROS
  • Wi-Fi (with some freebies for T-mobile customers)
  • Very competitive fare in First
  • Lie-flat seat
  • Great service
  • Surprisingly good food and bev
  • Personal air vents
  • Convenient time – leave JFK at 9am, land HNL at 3pm. Direct 10 hour flight

CONS
  • Lots of vacationers = Noisy flight
  • Seasonal, so both United and Hawaiian's prices jump up when service ends in mid-March

(NOTE: the return flight was nearly identical – crew, plane, and even a bunch of the passengers, so no need for a separate review. It's a redeye leaving HNL at 5pm and landing JFK at 9am. Menu from that flight is in the food section)

 

How I did it

$1712 per-person round-trip. Details here, but the short story is that there's basically zero premium cabin award seats on this route, and none at the Saver level. I'll earn a total of ≈ 8,000 Delta miles and 7,000 American Express points for this flight (i.e., around $225 worth of points).

 

Boarding

The gate agent was fantastic at managing the chaotic gaggle of gate lice into two orderly lines: premium and everyone else. Disabled and Diamond Medallion members were allowed pre-boarding.

We boarded at the center of the plane so that made boarding a bit more calm than on, say, JetBlue Mint where everyone boards by walking through First. That said, it's still a 40 person First Class cabin with lots of tourists, families, and old folks so it was still pretty hectic. This 767 has an updated cabin with modern overhead bins and lie-flat seats. Delta's seats are very open so they don't feel as private as some of their international competitors. The window seats in odd-numbered rows feel a bit more private than the even-numbered ones.

A Westin pillow and blanket were waiting for me at my seat, as was a Tumi amenity kit, a bottle of water, and a packet of almonds.

Pre-departure Mai-tais, orange juice, and water were served (Who cares if it's 9am!) Menus came out and I was greeted by name when the FA came to take my order.

Westin pillow and blanket, Tumi amenity kit, headphones, almonds, and water at our seats

an ethernet jack?!

yay for gaspers!
40-ish people in the First Class cabin

seats are fully lie-flat but the leg hole is a little tight...

Mai-tai at 9am? Don't mind if I do!


This plane also has new, higher-speed GoGo Wi-Fi – $9.95 for a whole-flight pass or $3 for 30 minutes. T-Mobile users get free text and chat plus one free hour of internet access.

T-mobile customers get a few free Wi-Fi perks

Food

Lunch was served about 90 minutes into the flight. The flavors were more interesting than I was expecting... maybe all this Food Network mania in the US is finally improving the national palette. I had the lamb and it was quite tasty. I also had the ice cream because nothing on vacation has calories, right? The tray table is innovative, but its design requires you to move everything off of your workspace to open it.

Lunch menu (click to enlarge)
Beverage menu
I had the lamb

Cuban sandwich for pre-landing snack
Chocolate ice cream
An hour or two after the first meal service the flight attendants came through with a snack basket. For the pre-landing lunch I had the cuban sandwich and another Mai Tai, both were tasty. Delta's food has been hit and miss for me, but their hot sandwiches have all been consistently good.

The return flight is a redeye. We had a 3 hour layover from our flight from Kona, so I decided to skip the in-flight meal and instead eat at the fabulous Nico's Pier 38 (which is quite close to the airport, actually). Once we were airborne I went straight to sleep. Besides taste, the other reason for skipping in the flight meal is that a 3pm dinner in HNL is right around my normal 9pm dinnertime in NYC and I've found that the timed-fasting thing really does help with my jetlag.

Had some fairly restful sleep and woke up 90 minutes before landing.  Gotta say the breakfast was the best I've ever had on an American airline. The fruit was so perfect I thought I was on ANA or Korean!

Pre-landing oatmeal breakfast
Return flight menu

On both flights we all got chocolate-covered macadamia nuts just before landing.

aww nuts!

On the ground

Lyft and Uber are both quite popular in Honolulu. Lyft isn't allowed to pick you up at the airport; neither is Uber, but apparently they're doing it anyway.  Both can drop you off at HNL no problem. Prices are similar to New York or San Francisco.





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