Ascent business class seat in the new Boeing Dreamline is facing outward towards the window.

Hipa Hipa to Hawaiian Airlines’ excellent 787-9 up front product

Cartoon of passengers, flight attendant and pilots onboard an aircraftThe long wait at Hawaiian Airlines is over, as the carrier finally launched revenue service with the Boeing 787-9 twinjet on 15 April.

With its promise of a gorgeous new cabin, both up front and down back, we knew we had to try this Dreamliner as soon as it came out.

The airline provided Runway Girl Network with tickets in the cabin dubbed Leihōkū — meaning “lei of stars”, its newest class of premium travel — from San Francisco to Honolulu. It also provided return travel to Seattle in economy class. Our opinions, of course, remain our own.

But, spoiler alert, it isn’t hard to write an excellent review when everything is, well, excellent.

The adventure began at the airline’s first class check-in desk at SFO. There was no line, and a single agent had me on my way to Terminal 1 in no time.

Hawaiian aircraft parked at SFOBoarding began on time, and I made my way into the jet in Zone 1. First impressions are strong: tropical mood lighting, an overhead floral pattern of a native island plant and wood paneling that mimics the ribs of the iconic outrigger canoe set an immediate vibe.

Looking down the Hawaiian Dreamliner through business class.Walking down the aisle of this premium cabin, I first noticed the star lights on the ceiling. I’ve seen this sort of pleasant addition on other airlines, but Hawaiian adds another layer. The stars are meant to evoke the ancient seafaring Polynesians, who would have used the stars to guide them on their travels.

Purple LED lights over the overhead bins. Tiny 'star' lights are in view.

I settled into my suite, 9J, and dove right into what it has to offer.

Ascent business class seat in the new Boeing Dreamliner is facing towards the window. This is an overhead view of the seat in a dark, rich brown with aqua/blue accent around the rim of the seating platform.Hawaiian chose the Adient Aerospace Ascent suite. There are 34 in the cabin arranged in an industry standard 1-2-1 mixed herringbone configuration. Each seat has 77” of pitch, 21” of width and is full-flat capable.

The business class IFE screen has a mountain scene on it. A passenger's feet can be seen in the footwell.

It’s comfortable, though the footwell can be a bit tight. I took a short mid-flight power nap with the pillow and blanket.

Looking at the IFE screen rom the seated passenger's point of view. The door to the suite is closed, creating a very private space.Window seats face the windows, while interior seats face the aisle.

Close up of the suite door.Each seat has a privacy door, which at first felt kinda gimmicky but grew on me as the flight went on.

A close up of the door attachment.

Interior pairs have privacy screens which can be raised at any time, but only lowered if the folks in both seats hit the button at the same time.

Seat control showing the different positions, including lie-flat.Each suite has an 18” exceptionally crisp IFE screen, large rotating pull out tray table, a small storage cubby for headphones, a vanity mirror and a sconce light. There are three charging power methods: a Qi wireless surface, USB-A, and a universal port. The airline says there is a USB-C port, but I couldn’t find it.

A close up of the in-seat power, both AC and USB-A.

A small work area is cleverly split level, enabling drinks to have their own dedicated mini shelf.

A small work area is cleverly split level, enabling drinks to have their own dedicated mini shelf.

The cabin color palette contains plenty of browns and blues. The color of Hawaii’s volcanic soil can be seen in the seat upholstery while the carpets feature shades of ocean blue.

Most of the rest of the heavy lifting, color wise, is done by the overhead LED lighting.

A Hawaiian themed LED lighting display in the aircraft ceiling. Bright purples, blues and some pink cast a pretty glow around a Polynesian design.

Pre-departure beverages started off the service, with a choice between water, guava juice, and of course Mai Tai cocktails.

A passenger is holding up a drink in front of the IFE screen with a woman on the screen.

A ‘first class meal’ menu at the seat detailed the two brunch options for the flight, as well as an above average list of beverages. The cocktail list was especially promising, and I put in a request for one after departure.

An image of Hawaiian Airlines' first class meal menu

Service began not long after takeoff, with the tropical cocktail and a plate of delicious macadamia nuts serving as a starter.

Brunch appeared not long after. My first choice, an omelette, was long gone. But the pancakes held up fine. The fresh fruit was the highlight.

The entire affair lasted 90 minutes, after which I switched over to a constant stream of guava juice for the rest of the flight.

A display of pancakes, fruit and other items for brunch on the flight.

The inflight entertainment, a Panasonic Avionics system, is great. It can be controlled via touch or a small tethered remote.

A remote is stowed away and used to control the seats IFE system.

Hawaiian stocks an average selection of content with 60-ish movies and a similar number of TV shows. Some of TV shows have a few episodes each, while others are full seasons.

A close up of the Panasonic IFE screen and some of the content selections offered.The crew were very pleasant and proactive without being intrusive. They also offered me an economy meal to supplement the brunch option as my first option was already out. I’d be more than happy to fly with them again any day.

There is no Wi-Fi on board, though Hawaiian intends to outfit the jet with Starlink eventually. It’s the only significant issue with the jet, in my opinion.

We landed on time in Honolulu, and I regretted having to get off.

Close up of 787 engine out the window.For now the jet will stick largely to short-haul West Coast routes like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. I imagine it will eventually end up plying the carrier’s longer routes like Boston, Seoul and Sydney, but no commitments have been made yet.


If you’ve flown Hawaiian long-haul before, this is a huge upgrade from the airline’s existing 2-2-2 Airbus A330 premium cabin. And it finally places them in a competitive spot against their rivals, no matter the route it’s placed on.

Anyone can launch a new plane with a smashing hard product and decent meal. What puts Hawaiian over the top, though, are all those built-in cultural features.

I’ve already noted several, but there are proverbial Easter eggs hidden throughout the jet: patterned inlays on each economy cabin armrest, native floral patterns on each lavatory wall and figures in native Hawaiian dress.

A mini Hawaiian shit sits beside a butter tray.Consider too, the entryway. the carrier could have slapped a Hawaiian logo on the wall and called it good. But that extra mile to add the outrigger-inspired wood paneling, something uniquely Hawaiian, sets an immersive tone right out of the gate.

The whole of the experience is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Hawaiian’s new Leihōkū product is a memorable experience for all the right reasons.

A floral arrangement sits at the entrance of the Hawaiian Airlines 787-9 Dreamliner. ribbed wood paneling arch the entry way.Related Articles:

All images credited to the author,  Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren