Why Hawaiian Airlines is installing flatbed business class seats

Hawaiian Airlines is adding flatbeds in business class. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines. 

Hawaiian Airlines is adding flatbeds in business class. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines. 

Want to fly to Hawaii in style? Or maybe you're planning a trip to Japan, China or Australia, and you're trying to get a cheap business class ticket? 

In a couple of years, Hawaiian Airlines might be your go-to carrier. Hawaiian announced this week it will install flatbed seats in business class on all of its Airbus A330s by 2017. It is going to a two-by-two-by configuration up front, while it also adds 28 more premium economy seats, all with 36 inches of pitch. The first of 22 aircraft will be reconfigured in September 2016.

You don't see a lot of flatbeds to Hawaii, especially on shorter routes like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas. While the flights can be as long as New York-Los Angeles, the business class seats on all airlines tend to be crummy recliners. That's because there isn't a lot of business traffic flying between the islands and the mainland. A lot of the travelers are looking for cheap flights for their vacations. Many others book with frequent flier points. 

But over the past few years, Hawaiian has expanded its business to more than simply taking Americans to the beach. Hawaiian now flies to Auckland, Sydney, Brisbane, Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo and Sapporo. Many of the customers from those markets are the same as Americans - people looking for a vacation in the tropics. But Hawaiian has also developed a new niche. With one stop, it can now get you from Asia, Australia or New Zealand to most of the largest U.S. cities. And in many cases, Hawaiian is the cheapest option.

Passengers can handle a tight squeeze in business class and economy on the way to Hawaii, but travelers flying from, say, Los Angeles to Sydney with a stop in Honolulu need more options. The extra seats in premium economy and the new flatbeds in business should make Hawaiian more competitive in attracting travelers flying between the U.S. mainland and far flung destinations.  Hawaiian will probably also sell slightly more business class seats to Hawaii, though I am not sure how much of a draw the new product will be - unless it is priced cheaply. People seem to value bargains over comfort when going to Hawaii.

Have you considered flying Hawaiian from the Mainland U.S. to Asia or Australia? Would you be more likely to do so once Hawaii installs its new configuration in business class and premium economy?