Hello. Long time lurker but wanted to join to share my recent experience on UA 63 (EWR to HNL) and compare to DL's long-haul flight (ATL-HNL). Plus, reading A.net prepared me when Island Air shut down. Sorry, no pictures.
For me, there's nothing like visiting Hawaii. I've been six times in the past 5 years. Due to my wife's illness, I go by myself and can only be gone a few days, so the flight itself is part of the overall "vacation" experience and I fly first.
Hometown airport is now BDL. Choices for this most recent trip were between UA through EWR on a 764, or DL through ATL on the A333. Unfortunately, American doesn't have an early enough flight to make a connection at DFW to get on the 772. For this trip, UA first was less expensive, so they were the winner. I previously took this flight a few years ago when it departed in the afternoon and arrived in HNL around 7:00 pm.
In April, I flew DL's A333 to ATL-HNL so I'll provide my thoughts on the two journeys.
In short, however, while UA's flight was fine, DL's flight and overall experience offered something a little more special.
BDL-EWR. 6:00 a.m. flight, uneventful. Very anxious when I booked, though, because when weather is bad, this flight can get cancelled, especially if it's UA Express. Luckily, the rain in EWR started only after we boarded to HNL, so no problem with delays, and we took off on time.
Airport (EWR) experience. I was a bit dismayed to find out that the United Club in Terminal C is being renovated, and, as a result you can't use a One Time pass. Since I don't fly too often I'm not a member of any airline club, but I always buy the 1-day pass for a snack and trying out the shower facilities. More important, the connecting time was only 1 hour between landing and boarding, so that would have been cutting it close. Airport experience edge goes to DL and ATL. The 6:00 a.m. BDL-ATL gives me about 2 hours including the walk from A/B to E or F where the HNL flight departs, and that's plenty of time to enjoy the club facilities (and shower).
Seat - 764 vs A333. I like the 764 and this time took 6D (which is a single seat in the middle), having aisle access on both sides. Seatguru is correct that they serve from the back (quicker), but you get bumped on both sides. This compares to DL's seat. The UA seat is angled less than the DL reverse herringbone, so a better feel than sitting sideways on takeoff than on the A333. Also, it was easier to get out of the UA seat when it was fully extended, than in the DL seat, maybe slightly less of a coffin feel. (First world problems, but I get up a lot). Both UA and DL had wide selection of movies and TV. However, UA didn't offer any music through their IFE. I searched through Audio and it only had Podcasts, but no music. That's a bit of a miss, for me, since having background music is nice when reading. For those UA folks, did i just miss it? Comfort wise, both UA and DL seats are good for long haul flights, but with DL having window seats with aisle access, they get the nod.
Flight Experience - Here is really where DL has something extra. While UA has Hawaiian music playing, there was nothing else on the flight saying "Hawaii". DL gives out Mai Tai's on it's Hawaii bound and departing flights. That makes it special, and the FA's on DL seem to be in a good mood and enjoy handing them out. The DL FA's were also much more welcoming as we boarded, laughing and joking. It just seemed to start the journey off a bit more special. DL provides Tumi amenity kits, while UA does not, and I'd say DL treats the flight more in their "international long-haul" style than UA does (this didn't feel like the new Polaris service). Please correct me if I'm mistaken.
Food - Because the UA EWR-HNL flight leaves at 8:30, initial meal was breakfast, which was fine. The "mid-flight" snack was fine as well, but nothing special. I say "mid-flight" because UA served it right about 5:30 to go (so halfway), right as we headed past the California coastline. I was kind of surprised that it wasn't served closer to landing, let's say 2-3 hours to go. Foodwise, thought, DL really shines here and has stepped it up, and I noticed a change between 2016 and 2017 when i took the same flight. DL provides menus of the options (none on UA), and both meals were really good. I recall taking the EWR-HNL flight in 2013 when it was a 1:00 pm flight, the lunch and pre-landing were better quality.
Restrooms. I only mention this because it's kind of funny. On the A333, there are 2 restrooms behind the cockpit for first class. On the 764, the restrooms for first are behind the mid-cabin galley, and basically in the economy section. Announcements are made these are for first class, and there's a see-through curtain, but you kind of feel bad for the folks in those first economy rows having to watch all the first class passengers use them.
All in all, I enjoyed my UA flight and please don't interpret my comments as bashing them. Would I take UA again, sure. For those of you on this forum who work for UA, feel free to share my thoughts about some of the little things. For example, for the pre-flight drink, UA could offer guava or papaya juice (similar to HA) or develop their own signature Hawaiian-style cocktail that would be suitable for a 8:30 flight or for later in the flight. Maybe as part of IFE, they offer Hawaiian selections of Hawaiian-themed movies or music (HA does this, of course). For food, could UA offer more of a Hawaiian themed menu for the main or pre-arrival snack? I know catering isn't flight specific, but that could enhance the Hawaiian feel during the flight.
Island Air. My flight BDL-EWR-LIH was November 13th. I had been reading A.net a few weeks ago, and read about the bankruptcy filing, so I immediately purchased a HA HNL-EWR ticket just in case Island Air shut down. As it happened, on Friday, Nov. 10th at 2:30 I received the email from United they were ceasing operations and was advised they would be contacting me in the next few days (not an option) or I could call, which I did. I got through in about 1/2 hour, even before the reservations representative knew about it. She had to put me on hold to find out what I was talking about. Anyway, once back on, they were very quick to rebook me on HA, a different flight. So as it turned out, I was booked on 2 HA flights HNL-LIH on the same day, and I used the one I purchased since it was earlier (and as it turns out, non-refundable - oops). Thank you to United for the proactive email notification.
Thanks for letting me share my observations.