Flying from the west coast of the United States to Hawaii takes a good six hours. Choosing an airline is therefore important to maximise comfort on the long journey. There are two oneworld alliance airlines in the US now, which gives frequent flyers more choice than before.

I recently flew American Airlines from Los Angeles to Honolulu and took Alaska Airlines from Honolulu to Seattle on the return. Both flights were in first class, so who did it better and which airline should you choose for your trip?

Lounge Experience

On this trip, I had access to the American Airlines Flagship Lounge in Los Angeles. These are the premium facilities operated by the airline, and I was allowed in due to my status. Holding a first class ticket from LA to Honolulu will not get you in here usually, nor would it get you into the Admirals Club. The best feature of the lounge is the extensive food offering.

In Seattle, you have access to the Alaska Airlines lounges, which is included with your first class ticket. The relatively new North Satellite lounge at SeaTac is a wonderful lounge. There is a tended bar and wraparound windows overlooking the airport, plus a variety of seating. While there is not as much food variety, it comes out ahead of the competition in every other respect. Winner: Alaska Airlines.

Aircraft Cabin And Seating

American Airlines have plain grey bulkheads, Alaska Airlines have much more interesting to the eye patterned fabric bulkheads. The overall effect is that the Alaska aircraft felt more homely and pleasant compare to the no nonsense businesslike blandness of American. That being said, you don’t sit on a bulkhead, so what about the seats I sat in for six hours on each airline?

I hated about five hours of the AA experience due to some of the most uncomfortable seats I’ve had the misfortune of sitting in. There was not enough room for me (a petite 170cm/5’7″) to stretch out fully, the seats are rock hard, and just horrible. In contrast, Alaska Airlines furnished a seat that was supportive, cushiony soft and frankly nice to sit in. There is also more leg room so I could put my legs right out. Winner: Alaska Airlines, hands down.

West Coast To Hawaii Meal Service

Both airlines offer the ability to pre-order your meal before you fly, and I would recommend this on the west coast to Hawaii flights. Unfortunately, American Airlines were still operating their abbreviated pandemic service when I flew. The more elaborate service returned the day after I flew.

I loved the Alaska Airlines meal (Cage-free eggs folded around a filling of Parmesan cheese, toasted russet potatoes, thyme and garlic – served with seared, pork breakfast sausage and a crisp potato roesti) while AA’s chicken and polenta turned out to be chicken and a baked potato. Winner: Alaska Airlines, but since American Airlines do a mean ice cream sundae, this could possibly be a draw nowadays.

Staff Service

Quite frankly, Alaska Airlines is better than American Airlines at all touchpoints. The AS staff seem happy to be there, they are professional and friendly, plus sometimes go the extra mile.

I find the American Airlines people to be less motivated and unhappier as a general rule and it’s noticeable. Some are brilliant, but I rarely feel particularly welcome flying AA in domestic first class. Don’t get me wrong, they are always professional but in a perfunctory way as though they have to be, rather than wanting to be.

Overall Thoughts

Both airlines offer streaming entertainment to your device and WiFi, as is de rigueur these days. Both have a snack basket, both offer two by two seating, both offer proper meals on these long flights, so there are quite a number of similarities.

The upshot of my experiences flying from the west coast to Hawaii is take Alaska Airlines if at all possible. You will just have a more comfortable and a more premium experience. The fact they offer lounge access to paid first class passengers (at Alaska Airlines operated lounges) automatically means you’re getting more bang for your buck. That coupled with friendly staff, more comfortable seats and a decent on board food offering makes it a no brainer for me.

American Airlines are quite good on transatlantic flights and at the moment I think they are better than British Airways here. However, domestically they have never ever impressed me. I can remember only one or two flights where the staff were genuinely friendly and that was years and years ago now. It is what it is.

What do you think, do you prefer Alaska Airlines or American Airlines when flying west coast to Hawaii? Why? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Sean Kelley on Unsplash.