Shandelle Battersby takes one of the first flights out of Honolulu to Long Beach, California from Auckland on Hawaiian Airlines flights HA446 and HA70.
We journeyed to Honolulu on an A330 with a seat configuration of 2-4-2, while the flight to the US mainland was on a brand new A321neo (3-3). It's a real treat to fly in a new plane.
A new service: Hawaiian Airlines launched their latest route to Long Beach in May, another gateway into the southern part of the Golden State alongside its Los Angeles and San Diego services. Having flown directly into LAX recently from Auckland, the idea of avoiding the two-hour slog through its busy security queue is appealing — this way you clear Customs at Honolulu, then have a relaxed entry into mainland USA at Long Beach.
Class: Economy. You can upgrade to Extra Comfort for more leg room for $175 per international sector.
Price: Hawaiian Airlines' fares into any of its Southern California destinations start from $829 one-way. It operates daily flights from Honolulu to Long Beach, and you can connect via the airline's Auckland to Honolulu flights, Wednesday through Sunday (inclusive). This means you can fly in and out of any port for the same cost, giving you more freedom to explore the region.
My seats: 24B and 23C.
On time? The Auckland flight departs at 11.55pm, perfect for getting on board and going straight to sleep. We arrived in Honolulu at 10.30am as scheduled and I had just enough time to get through Customs, drop my bag off to go through to Long Beach and get to my gate upstairs ready to board at 12.30pm. Flight times are 8.5 and 5.5 hours respectively. There was no time to check out the new Plumeria Lounge at Honolulu unfortunately — guests can buy a pass to this lounge if they have more time to spare.
The airports: My two hours at Honolulu were my best experience of that airport yet, with fast-moving, orderly queues. Landing at the relaxed airport at Long Beach following a spectacular Southern California sunset reminded me of country airports in Australia or the Pacific Islands in small size and open-air facilities.
Fellow passengers: Mostly Americans out of Auckland and local holidaymakers out of Honolulu.
Food and drink: On the first flight guests are served a sandwich before the lights go out and a hot breakfast before landing. On the domestic flight there are local snacks for purchase followed by a complimentary meal and beverage service: today, a tasty warm teriyaki chicken sandwich and a bag of chips. Before landing we were offered another drink — I went for a guava cocktail made with a rum punch created for the airline by Kaua'i's Koloa Rum Company.
The toilets: Standard on both, though it's definitely a nicer experience to use a toilet on a new aircraft. We got a hot towel before arrival in Hawaii.
Entertainment: Both flights carried the same entertainment options; on the second flight, however, you needed your own device, the Hawaiian Airlines app, and to purchase a package for US$7.99.
The service: Friendly and relaxed. Mahalo!
The verdict: If you want to avoid the chaos that is LAX, Long Beach is an ideal gateway to SoCal — Anaheim's theme parks are 25 minutes' drive east while Hollywood is an hour or so north and San Diego under two hours' south. The other beach cities of the area (Huntington Beach, Laguna, etc) are fun to explore for a different take on the southern part of the state. Plus, you've got the appealing option of a Hawaiian stopover.