Turns out that after all these years, the cure to ridding myself from my flying jitters is as easy as a Business Class flight on Hawaiian Airlines.
My being a nervous flyer is hardly news to regular readers. For those of you who are new around here, you might ask why someone who suffers from aerophobia would choose a career that requires her to spend an absurdly high proportion of her life in the sky.
The simple answer is that my love of travel outweighs my fear of planes, and given I’m based in Australia, which is about as far away from anywhere as you can get, and my unfortunate lack of wings, I have little choice but to hitch a ride on a big aluminium bird if I want to get anywhere.
Is my fear rational? Nope. Do I know all the stats about how safe it is? Yep. Do I let it stop me? Never. But why, you might ask, am I bringing this up now?
Because I just enjoyed an overnight long-haul flight from Sydney to Oahu that was so effortless, comfortable and calm that the entire 9 hours and 45 minutes was entirely anxiety free. And that my friends is miraculous. In fact, it’s never ever happened before! Sure, a sexy business class seat helped, but honestly the entire experience from checking in at Sydney Airport to the inflight service and skipping out of Hawaii’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Hawaii was extraordinary.
Rocking up to Sydney airport the standard three hours pre-flight, I wasn’t expecting to be whisked through check in and customs at record speed thanks to the easy breezy business class check in process and the Express Path offered to business class passengers at customs.
It’s worth noting that I’m invited to check in two 32kg bags (per person) but as an obsessively light traveller, only wave off a tiny 13kg suitcase. While the Business class baggage allowance is extremely generous, passengers should ensure any inter-island connections are on the same ticket to avoid additional baggage fees for connecting flights)
After the seamless service and processing, I’m left with 2 hours and 45 minutes to entertain myself. That proves easy as Hawaiian Airlines Business class passengers are invited to enjoy lounge access at The House at Sydney Airport. There’s a range of amenities, including barista coffee, a full service bar, buffet bites and an à la carte menu. Plus, there’s fast free WIFI and for those in transit, the lounge also offers convenient shower rooms. I manage to squeeze in a couple of hours work, a decent chicken risotto to order and a nice glass of red, forgetting entirely to work myself up with my usual pre-flight jitters. Before I know it, my flight is being called.
On time! What sorcery is this?
Business class status also means I board first so there’s no standing around, and I’ve barely plonked my backside into my extremely comfortable seat, 1C, when an ameliorating Mai Tai is proffered, the crew somehow managing to mix a bespoke cocktail, exactly to my taste, before they’ve finished loading the plane. Oh, and it’s a very, very good Mai Tai – strong but with just the right mix of pineapple, lime juice and coconut, topped with a sliver of fresh pineapple.
I take it as a sign that I’m in for a good flight. In fact, sufficiently lulled by the Mai Tai and the mellifluous sounds of Hawaiian song by the time we begin our taxi down the runway, I pretty much forget I’m even on an airplane. Whilst I suspect some of the credit can go to the makers of Cruzan Rum, the bulk must go to the sublime Hawaiian Airlines service and my seriously cushy seat.
With just 18 seats in a 2-2-2 config, Hawaiian Airlines’ Business Class is pleasantly uncrowded. Each of the fully lie-flat beds are a generous 20.5 inches wide, which easily accommodates my plus sized rump. There’s a storage compartment for my shoes, which I promptly replace with the provided slippers, and an ottoman serves as both a footrest and a safety partition between seat and the aisle. Cleverly placed storage compartments allow me to keep water within reach and safely stow away my phone as I prepare for some rest.
I am wowed by the pretty amenity kit from eco conscious brand Kealopiko. It’s packed with essentials like earphones, earplugs, an eye mask, toothbrush and toothpaste, hydrating mist, lotion, lip balm, tissues, a bamboo comb, reef-safe sunscreen, and even a pen, all wrapped up in a pretty sustainably crafted case.
After take-off Hawaiian Airlines Business Class seats transform into fully flat beds spanning a length of 193 centimetres which the attentive crew zhuzhes up with a cozy mattress cover, blanket and an extremely cuddly pillow.
Operating the recline console is intuitive and effortless and includes two USB ports and a full AC power outlet so I can charge my devices while I snooze.
And snooze I do, for a personal best in flight record of six straight hours.
That leaves me with three and bit hours of consciousness to enjoy the services and the company of Hawaiian Airlines in Flight entertainment system, which is fairly unique. There’s no seat back screen, instead business passengers are offered high quality headphones and a large-format tablet that conveniently slip into a discreet arm that extends from the console as required and swivels to suit my preferred viewing angles.
Hawaiian Airlines actively encourages its passenger to travel Pono (to live in harmony with the islands and explore with care to preserve Hawaii’s precious natural resources, cultures and communities) and I love that all passengers on board international flights are introduced to best sustainable travel practice via a short but riveting video designed to enrich their experience whilst protecting Hawaii’s natural and cultural resources.
After that, and the in-flight safety briefing, there’s a reasonable selection of movies and popular TV shows on offer for all ages, plus games. I happily stick with the local content and enjoy a couple of Hawaiian food shows, in readiness for all the eating I plan to do when I arrive.
Along with those Mai Tais there is a good selection of complimentary beers and wines, as well as tea, coffee and water for those wishing to stay hydrated during the long flight. Sensible never was my thing so I enjoy a bold glass of red with my dinner, which includes a tasty beet salad with goat’s cheese starter, a hearty main of chicken with vegetable ratatouille and roasted potatoes and a wickedly creamy fruit confection for dessert.
As Hawaiian Airlines appear to have perfected time travel (or the fact that we’ve crossed the international date line and there’s a 20-hour time difference, but let’s not quibble), the flight manages to land in Honolulu several hours before it left Sydney, following a full cooked breakfast of frittata and sausages, pastries and fresh fruit. A lighter continental option is also on offer for those so inclined.
At Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, I’m greeted with the short immigration queues I’ve encountered on American soil. The process proves is as smooth as the flight, and within no time I’m in my hotel in Waikiki, fresh, ready to explore and already pumped full of the Aloha spirit.
I’m also looking forward to my next fabulous flight with Hawaiian Airlines to the US mainland where, as a domestic passenger, that transit is bound to be just as seamless.
Disclosure: I flew as a guest of Hawaiian Airlines, but all snoozing, Mai Tai guzzling and opinions are my own