United 777 First Class: San Francisco – Honolulu Review

On the day of departure, I was running pretty late for the airport. I had intended to take BART to the airport, but my sister instructed my brother to drop me off directly at SFO (something about trains being less than safe), and my brother would not budge. We came into a great deal of traffic about halfway there and when it became clear we’d never make it to the airport on time, my brother dropped me off at the downtown Berkeley BART station. I made it to the gate just as boarding began.

I was flying an old United 777. I realized this as soon as I sat down – not just because of how ancient the cabin looked, but when the flight attendant came around with a box of cassette tapes. My first thought was, “Did Blockbuster have a fire sale on their old VHS tapes?”

I was kind of thrown off and in disbelief when the FA walked up to me, holding a box of these like a peanut vendor at a ballpark, asking if I wanted to watch a movie that wasn’t on the IFE. This was before I checked out the IFE, so I was trying to imagine how awful it must be if they’re handing out tapes. I declined, and she made her way around the cabin, recommending films like “Meet the Millers” and other new releases I wasn’t paying attention to.

United Airlines 777 First Class Seat SFO - HNL
United First Class: Oddly configured seat

Lunch was served pretty quickly. I make it a point not to order chicken on a plane (it’s always crack powder dry) or steak (it’s always tough and overcooked), so I got the Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni. Oddly, there was a piece of smoked salmon along with some vegetables that were left untouched. It was a decent meal, though not terribly flavorful. The FA’s seemed friendly and enthusiastic about their jobs.

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni Pasta Dish
Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni Pasta Dish

Since I hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before, I dozed off after lunch. As old as this plane was, the fact that it had a lie-flat seat was pretty impressive. It was a short 5-hour flight that went by quickly. I would have a layover in Honolulu, where I was hoping to relax and prepare for the sleep deprivation that was to come.

Approaching HNL
Approaching Honolulu International Airport

Since this trip was so last-minute, I hadn’t had a chance to book my hotel yet. I stopped by the luggage carousel and quickly booked the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach. There were two reps from Speedi Shuttle standing nearby, offering rides to various hotels, including the Hyatt. The fare was $14 each way or $26 roundtrip. I was told the shuttle departs every 15 minutes.

It took nearly 45 minutes before the shuttle arrived. As soon as we entered the freeway, I understood why – traffic was insane! The hotel was just 9 miles from the airport, yet it took about an hour to get there. At least the shuttle was comfortable and air conditioned. I’m pretty sure our driver was on something, because in addition to being a weirdo, he circled the same hotel three times before dropping passengers off.

During the ride, we noticed a huge tent city right under a freeway overpass. One of the passengers sitting in front of me claimed “the government” pays to send homeless people from colder states to Hawaii during the winter so they don’t freeze to death. I have yet to find evidence that this is true, but if any of you can confirm/debunk this one way or another, I’m all ears.

I eventually made it to the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, an experience I’ll outline in the next post.

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  1. why not MAUI? I with my wife plan to visit MAUI for 5 days in mid or late April 2014. I checked on BA, united and AA and can’t find saver business or first class seat. Is it only first class to anywhere in Hawaii? I am in chicago and I have never been to Hawaai. what you think is the best miles to use on hawaai trip? I may do return to Buffalo new york as a stop over and than after 4 days return to ORD?
    How do i do that and whats your advice?

    • PointChaser

      I didn’t intend to stay in Hawaii. I was trying to line up my flying schedule so I could catch the A380 from Tokyo – Bangkok. Since I couldn’t find a direct flight out of SFO, I decided to route through Honolulu. It worked out so that I had to spend the night in HNL. If I was staying for longer, I would have definitely picked Maui.

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