I’m all about travelling in luxury for less and while I love a fancy flight at the pointy end of the plane, more often than not I will opt for a cheapie and spend my hard-earned on luxury experiences on the ground instead. Many Aussies give Jetstar a bad rap, but as it’s one of only a few budget airlines flying from Australia, I find myself booking Jetstar international flights often. The Jetstar flight to Hawaii is one of Jetstar’s longest routes. JQ3 from Sydney to Honolulu (SYD to HNL) is 10(ish) hours each way. The only other airlines that operate direct Sydney to Honolulu flights are Hawaiian Airlines and Qantas, but you can generally expect to pay double the cost of the Jetstar flight to Honolulu. Low Cost Carriers (LCC’s) are a no-brainer for short haul, everyone can put up with a little discomfort for an hour of so, but are the savings worth it for a longer trip? Read on to find out what it’s really like to fly Jetstar to Honolulu …
*** Updated June 2019 ***
Before You Fly Jetstar To Honolulu
I’ve booked a shit tonne of Jetstar International flights, but booking our flights was somewhat problematic this time around. We booked during one of Jetstar’s flash sales and while that did mean we secured two return tickets for only AUD$893.17 all in, it was not without compromise. We booked online and the site crashed multiple times mid way through under the strain of the extra traffic. It took us nearly three hours on multiple devices to finally secure our booking after being booted many times. Just like everyone else, we wanted to fly from Sydney to Honolulu on a Saturday and return on a Sunday to line up with my working week, but that would have added serious $$$ to the total. Instead we chose to fly on a Friday and return on a Thursday. Booking at less popular times is one of the best ways to secure a cheap flight. My travel style is luxury for less and so I was hell-bent on getting the cheapest flight possible to save my pennies for our time in Hawaii, particularly because the AUD was down against the greenback. Jetstar International, like every other budget airline, charges extra for everything. And I mean everything. We added 20kgs baggage on the way out and 40kgs on the return journey ($110) plus standard seat selection ($9pp each way) from the list of extras. As Club Jetstar members we got a discount of $29.20 off the extras. The Jetstar Dreamliner has a 3x3x3 seat configuration and we chose two aisle seats in the middle of the plane leaving an empty seat between us in the hopes it would stay empty. A few weeks before our flight we received an email from Jetstar offering us a business class upgrade for $300 per person each way. Jetstar International business class is not ‘real’ business class and there was no way I was going to drop AUD$1,200 bucks for a little extra room and some food. If it was comparable to my last trip on Emirates A380 business class I would have seriously thought about it. We often catch the train to the airport because despite the ridiculously expensive ticket (AUD$19) it’s still cheaper than a cab with only two of us. Due to the odd time of day, we couldn’t wrangle a lift to the station so we drove ourselves and asked our son to pick the car up when he had finished work. He forgot. It stayed there for a week. Thankfully when we returned it was still in one piece. The bonus was we could simply drive home from the station without needing a lift.
Checking In On JQ3 Sydney to Honolulu
We arrived at Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport 3h and 10m before our flight. I hate getting there so early, but we were ready to go and The Hubs was restless at home so we headed off a lot earlier than normal. Check in hadn’t opened when we arrived and the queue had already extended past the ropes. I died a little inside and resigned myself to a very long wait. It opened a few minutes later and despite two flights checking in simultaneously it moved fairly quickly. I have flown SYD to HNL multiple times and I have never had the third degree in the queue before, but we did this time. Multiple security staff were pre-screening passengers and after answering 56,000 questions I was finally the proud owner of a clearance sticker in the rear of my passport. Unlike when we flew to Ho Chi Minh City on Vietnam Airlines, customs, X-Ray, duty-free and TRS was a breeze. There was literally no one in front of us. With an hour to spare and no lounge access we cooled our heels at Maccas, mostly because I was too cheap to order in-flight food and it would be at least 12 hours before we would eat again. Had I known at the time that Sydney had a Plaza Premium Lounge I might have been tempted. We ambled over to gate 9 and waited again. They say patience is a virtue, but I must have missed out when they were dishing it out because waiting around kills me. The Hubs on the other hand has patience in spades and says he would rather be relaxed than rushed.
Jetstar International Flights B787 Dreamliner Cabin
We were seated in row 29 on JQ3 which is pretty much smack bang in the middle of the plane. Our gamble of leaving the middle seat empty between us didn’t pay off on the full Sydney to Honolulu flight, but we had better luck when we flew from Sydney to Manila on Cebu Pacific and it has worked for me many times before so I’m not about to give up on it anytime soon. The Hubs simply swapped with the lovely lady who was in the middle and it worked out well all round as her husband was across the aisle. The Jetstar dreamliner is one of my favourite aircraft, second only to the A380. If you ever get a chance to fly Emirtates A380 first class jump on it. It’s amazing! The dreamliner is smooth and the cabin is reasonably quiet which makes for a much more relaxing journey. Legroom on Jetstar International flights is tight and The Hubs struggles with his long legs. The seats are narrow and we jostled elbows for room on the shared armrest all the way across the pacific. Overhead bins are ample and as long as you stick to your one bag 7kg carry on allowance you will be just fine. Jetstar flights haven’t yet jumped on the recent craze for making the mandatory safety video slightly more entertaining than watching paint dry. The only saving grace is that it was short. As you would expect the toilets are tiny and this trip I discovered an annoying design flaw that I had never consciously noticed before. The toilets face the rear of the plane and the toilet lid kept falling forward ensuring that you will to be hit in the back mid trickle. Jetstar if you are listening, please fit a locking device on the toilet lids. You can thank me later for this moment of brilliance.
In Flight Jetstar Sydney To Honolulu Flights (SYD to HNL)
Our Jetstar flight to Hawaii pushed back at exactly 5.45pm and we were in the air by 5.58pm. I can count on the fingers of one hand the amount of flights I have taken that pushed back exactly on time so it was a real treat. We had lots of kids on the flight and little miss just in front screamed like a banshee for the first hour. The Hubs had come off a night shift and been awake for roughly 36 hours by the time we boarded and was fast asleep before wheels up, but it was short lived. I had a little more sleep the night before and passed the first hour reading before my eyes grew heavy. I reclined the seat, positioned my neck pillow, closed my eyes and willed sleep to find me. It didn’t come easy with the hullabaloo of feeding time and the intermittent screaming of young people. The 9 hours seemed to stretch on endlessly and while I did rest my eyes I don’t think I actually slept. It was a relief when the captain announced we would be landing 20 minutes early.
Food & Drink On Board Jetstar Flights To Hawaii
There are two food services on the Jetstar flight to Honolulu. The first is around an hour after the take off and the last about two hours before landing. Guests who pre-order food are served first and then the cart rumbles around for purchases. You can of course purchase between services by using your call button. The limited menu is in the seat back and the best options seem to be the butter chicken ($22), baked cheesy macaroni ($10), the ham and cheese toastie ($9) and the pie and sausage roll combo ($9). Then menu changes frequently and I was a little disappointed to see the pumpkin and cous cous Sumo Salad that I love has been replaced by chicken penne pesto salad ($10) and a falafel, lentil and quinoa salad ($10). The one thing I did order was a Pepsi ($4), but I really wanted a Coke. As I was flipping through the menu I was surprised to find Jetstar had won a Proggy Award for Australia’s “Most Vegan Friendly Airline”. Who knew! Especially considering there was only actually two vegan friendly meals on the menu. For those that need a nightcap before drifting off, you can purchase beers (Corona, Pure Blonde, Great Northern and Amstel Light) and cider for $8 each, spirit minis (Canadian Club, Bundaberg Rum, Jim Beam Bourbon, Johnny Walker Red Whiskey, Smirnoff Vodka or Gordon’s Gin) with a mixer for $11 and wine (Samuel Wynn Crossing Giants Sauvignon Blanc and The Man From Nowhere Shiraz) for $9 while the De Bortoli sparkling Chardonnay comes in at a tenner. Jetstar International’s snacks are mostly $5 each and you can choose from Pringles, lollies, cheese & crackers, muffins, and protein bars among others. If you purchase a main meal you can add a snack for $2 and if you spend more than $10 on food and drinks in one transaction you get $10 of the gift range. Passengers who pay with a Jetstar Mastercard are treated to 10% off.
Entertainment On Jetstar Flights To Honolulu
The Jetstar dreamliner B787’s are equipped with seat back screens that offer music, movies and games at a cost of $10. You can share a screen if you want to double up on the headphone jacks, but it won’t be in stereo. Sure you save $1 when you pre-book, but I prefer to see what the movies are on offer before I commit. It’s a super simple card swipe to purchase if they are to your liking, but on this flight there was only one movie I was interested in watching and we really needed to get some sleep so I decided to pass. A few minutes later as I was playing around with the screen I realised it was unlocked and so I got to see A Bad Moms Christmas for nix. Winning! Headphones are supplied, but I prefer to bring my own for comfort’s sake. I wasn’t about to question the windfall and The Hubs was also blessed with free entertainment. If you are not so lucky, there is a free zone that offers TV and radio but don’t get excited, it’s not really TV, it’s actually just a whole bunch of Jetstar promos. The radio is not real radio either. It’s a selection of pod casts taken off Australian radio and just over an hour of music on loop from both Nova and Smooth. I did listen to smooth for a bit. The Healthwise section has two videos of natural scenes accompanied by soothing music. Curiosity got the better of me and I tested them out. Both clips feature some of Australia’s best beaches and were rather a nice background and a helluva lot better than the drone of the engines. I’m never sure whether watching the flight map is a good thing or a bad thing. I’m always curious to see where we are, but it can be rather disheartening when you have already had enough of being at 37,000ft to discover you still have seven hours to go. The time goes incredibly slowly when you are staring at the aircraft inch its way around the globe. If you are like me and always seem to be in possession of a half dead (at best) phone, take advantage of the in seat USB to disembark at 100%.
Arriving At Honolulu International Airport
One of the really cool things about flying from Sydney to Honolulu is that you cross the international date line. Hawaii is 21 hours behind Sydney so despite taking off at 5.45pm on Friday we actually landed at 7.30am on Friday. Of course you lose a day on the way back, but if you have to live any day twice it might as well be a Friday! I’ve been to Hawaii every year (sometimes twice in a year!) for the last eight years. The Hubs loves it and he can always convince me to return. Every single one of those eight years HNL has been undergoing renovations. I haven’t really seen the fruits of the toil, but I guess all good things take time. We landed 20 minutes early and it’s a hefty walk to immigration. HNL now has e-gates and unlike the Aussie ones families must use the same kiosk. We got big fat X’s on our printouts which meant to had to go to a human anyway. It happens to us every time. I’m resigned to it, but you cannot go straight to the counter without your printout so even when you know you will be denied auto entry you still have to do it. HNL have smaller than usual luggage carousels and the staff lift off some bags and stack them to keep the belts free. Make sure you check there first before waiting needlessly. Our bags were waiting in the stack and we exited very quickly. We arranged the cheapest transfers we could find through Hawaii23 and they were waiting for us across the street exactly as planned. Our driver warned us that the Friday morning peak would be disastrous, but it was more like the M5 on a Sunday arvo so we made good time and arrived at the Shoreline Hotel Waikiki 30 minutes later. The downside of landing at 6am is that your room is never ready at 7.30am when you arrive. With hardly any sleep the 3pm check in time seemed a very long way away. We headed to Ala Moana to pick out our T Mobile Tourist SIM and thankfully when we returned at 10.30am our room was ready. With my eyes hanging out of my head, I was asleep in minutes for a midday snooze.
And On The Way Home
Two days before our flight home The Hubs decided he wanted a window seat not the aisle seats I had booked. I accessed Jetstar’s ‘manage my booking’ section of the website with the intention of changing our seats and was surprised to find that one of the seats I had preselected had been changed. Given I paid $18 for the privilege of choosing our seats, I was rather annoyed to find we were no longer sitting together. I scanned the cabin map and could see that there were zero options for two seats together. I got on live chat straight away. The agent (Raewyn?) advised I had been moved for ‘operational reasons’ and offered zero solutions i.e. she told me she couldn’t do anything and to suck it up (paraphrasing, but you get the gist). She did suggest upgrading to business class at a cost of $3.3k which sure made the original email offer of $600 look good, but you can imagine my response. When I expressed my displeasure (i.e. demanded an explanation and a refund for the seat selection fee) after some back and forth and a lengthy delay she magnanimously offered a $9 refund for only the seat that had been changed, reasoning than the other remained as per my original selection. She stressed that this was a ‘goodwill’ gesture. I rather tactfully bluntly explained (I really should have taken screen shots of the chat!) that it was hardly a goodwill gesture given the service I paid for was not delivered. She advised I had paid for a standard seat and that’s what I had been given. I pointed out that my ticket price already includes a standard seat and if I wanted to take my chances on a random allocation I could have saved myself the $18. Exasperated she stated she had no authority to assist further and requested I start a live chat with customer service. Okey dokey then. Bryan advised we had been moved for ‘safety reasons’ due to ‘balance issues’. As a frequent flyer I understand the concept of balancing the aircraft well, but given the flight was full and someone else was now occupying the seat they moved me out of I wasn’t buying the BS excuse for a second. He also advised many people on the flight had been moved (probably BS also and not sure how that was supposed to make me feel any better) and he was unable to find two seats together. Oh and the business class upgrade was no longer a possibility as it was now sold out. He offered to refund both the seat selection fees plus provide a $50 flight voucher for future use. I pushed to be told the real reason we had been moved, but it was never forthcoming. I was not entirely happy, but was reluctant to waste anymore of my time precious time in Honolulu trying to sort it out so I left it there. We arrived at HNL at 6.30am for our 8.30am flight. We waited in the line for about 30 minutes and when we reached the front I asked if there was any chance of changing our seats so that we were seated together. The agent looked confused and presented us with boarding passes for seats 29E&F. Maybe Bryan worked his magic after all. Hawaii is a shoppers paradise and we booked 40kgs of luggage for the return journey (double what we came with) to accommodate our purchases. Whenever we travel to Hawaii we always stack a medium sized Samsonite inside a large Samsonite and pack the inner case with the bare necessaries. Both always come home brimming. We carry a portable scale and weighed in just 200g over our 40kg limit after a lot of shuffling the night before. They didn’t weigh our hand luggage like they did in Sydney, but both pieces were right on the 7kg allowance. We couldn’t have maximised it any better if we had tried. Lucky I took that extra top back to H&M after I discovered a make up stain and resisted that extra pair of pants at Calvin Klein. HNL exit procedures require shoes and jackets to be removed for X-Ray which always takes a little longer, but the queue was short and moved quickly. After a speedy breakfast at California Pizza Kitchen we made the long trek to gate 32. Don’t under estimate the walk. Once onboard we experienced some issues with ‘bags’ and despite initially being told we would get away early, we were actually 30 minutes late taking off. 5 F22 fighters were taxiing at the same time as us and in the pilot’s words ‘that’s not something you see every day’. Daytime flights always seem to drag on endlessly and unlike on the way over we didn’t miraculous snag free entertainment. The Hubs paid the $10, but I finished the book I started on the way over, tried to sleep and failed miserably, then passed the remainder of the time playing around on my phone. More than once I wished Jetstar International offered in flight WiFi like Virgin Domestic does. I would have happily paid for it. We arrived roughly on time in Sydney despite the late departure and for once the airport was deserted. The downside of speeding through immigration is that the luggage takes ages and our bags were almost the last off the plane. The wait was so long that I admit to secretly googling ‘where is lost luggage’ when there was only a handful of us left. It was a relief to see our silver Samsonite’s finally appear. We headed straight for the station for our train trip home.
The Final Word Jetstar To Honolulu
Jetstar International is an LCC and does not pretend to be anything else. It’s almost an Australian national pastime to crucify them for their faults and everyone seems to have a horror story (seriously check out the visitor posts on their Facebook page for laughs), but you get what you pay for. If you want all the bells and whistles then you shouldn’t be on Jetstar International, but if you want a modern aircraft with sound safety standards at a reasonable price then they might just work for you. Despite my frustrations over the hiccups on some flights, I will fly Jetstar again. I used my $50 voucher towards a Jetstar domestic flight to Tasmania and I used the $300 vouchers towards Jetstar tickets to Tokyo in May 2019. I’m sure that’s exactly what they count on and why they hand out vouchers rather than cash. It’s a brilliant strategy to get you to spend more money with them and clearly worked on me. In hindsight I should have complained about the delay in Thailand as I’m sure I could have wrangled some more vouchers from them. Oh well, you live and learn!
Other Jetstar International Flights
Jetstar to Bali
I’ve been to Bali 11 times all of which of where on Jetstar bar three. We flew Air Asia business class once, Air Asia economy once and my very first flight was on Garuda Indonesia. Every flight has been fuss free.
September 2015 Jetstar JQ28 to HKT – SYD – Jetstar Flight Diverted to MEL
On my third trip to Thailand with Jetstar we landed in Melbourne rather than Sydney. We spent three hours on the tarmac while they fixed a mechanical issue. Unfortunately while we were waiting the crew timed out and had to be replaced before we could continue to Sydney. It added a good five hours to our return journey which was not ideal. We were not permitted to disembark and Jetstar offered nothing other than water during the delay. It was made all the more frustrating by the fact we were travelling with friends with small children after an overnight flight. The littlest member of our group was celebrating her 6th birthday and I’m sure she would have rather not have done it sitting on the plane at Tullamarine.
September 2018 Jetstar JQ61 SYD – SGN – Jetstar Cancelled Flight
Three hours before lift off on our first Jetstar flight to Ho Chi Minh City we got a text from Jetstar advising our flight had been cancelled just as we were walking out the door. Obviously we were not too impressed, but given it was for ‘mechanical’ reasons I’d rather cancel than crash. Our choices for getting out the same day were limited and I didn’t fancy the 36 hour option with a 13 hour layover in Bangkok so we choose the direct flight two days later. This meant that we missed out on the first part of our trip in Hoi An and had to book a last minute flight on Cambodia Angkor Air direct from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap. We forfeited our Vietjet flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Danang and our Cambodia Angkor Air flight from Danang to Siem Reap plus lost two nights accommodation in Hoi An. Luckily we were able to change the dates of our accommodation at the New Space Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City which I booked through Agoda without penalty. I get free travel insurance with my American Express Velocity Platinum Card and was able to claim back all the expenses bar the $300 excess. I then complained long and hard enough to Jetstar to get $300 in vouchers to ensure we were not out of pocket a cent. I can never get those two days back, but this is a minor inconvenience in the scheme of things. If I had never been to Hoi An before I would likely have been much more upset, but given it was a second visit we made the most of a bad situation and didn’t have to compromise any time in Cambodia.
September 2018 Jetstar JQ62 SGN – SYD
The return journey went off without a hitch. We booked our transport in Phnom Penh via Klook. Our driver picked us up from the Raffles Hotel Le Royal where we stayed right on time and whisked us to Phnom Penh International Airport. We cooled our heels in the Phnom Penh Plaza Premium Lounge while waiting for our Qatar Airlines Business Class flight to Hoi Chi Minh City. Jetstar do not have a transfer desk at Ho Chi Minh City Airport so we had to clear customs and join the check in queue. This also meant that we needed a multiple entry visa for Vietnam. We had a smooth, incident free flight home once we were airborne.
March 2019 Jetstar JQ27 SYD – HKT
Our fourth trip to Thailand went exactly to plan. We arranged an airport transfer through Klook to whisk us to the Me Room Hotel in Phuket town where we stayed. We chose Phuket Town to overnight as we had an early morning ferry to Koh Lanta first thing in the morning.
March 2019 Jetstar JQ28 HKT – SYD
We flew from Koh Samui to Phuket on Bangkok Airways. We had about 7 hours in Phuket and we had no intention of spending them at the airport. We stored our luggage and jumped in a cab to Nai Yang. After some great food, a relaxing massage and a few sunset cocktails we were back at HKT 5 hours later. Another overnight flight and we slept all the way home.
May 2019 Jetstar JQ11 OOL – NRT – Another Cancelled Jetstar Flight
We left home at 4.00am to catch our Jetstar domestic flight to the Gold Coast. The flight went off without a hitch and we landed in the Gold Coast at around 7.30am. It was a short walk to the International terminal and check in was simple. We had a short delay in boarding, but were in our seats and ready to go by 11am. Until the captain announced half way through boarding that the flight had been cancelled and we all needed to disembark. Everyoen jumped up and moved towards the pointy end of the plane only to be told grab a seat anywhere and sit back down because two international flights had just landed and OOL could not cope with another flight to process. An hour later we were allowed to disembark. We had to clear customs again because despite not leaving the tarmac we had left the country according to customs. We then lined up for three hours at the service desk to learn our fate. We were at the back of the pack and the next flight to Tokyo was three days away. Given we only had 8 days away that just wouldn’t work. We took the option to Osaka the next day, but that involved catching a bus to Brisbane and a flight to Cairns that day. We arrived at our hotel in Cairns at around 1am. Almost 24 hours after leaving home. Jetstar covered all meals, transport and accommodation during our delay. Ironically we partly paid for this flight with the $300 voucher we received from our cancelled SYD-SGN flight. We did have travel insurances, but we had zero out of pocket expenses so were not able to make a claim.
May 2019 Jetstar JQ15 CNS – KIX
We had intended waking up in Tokyo, but instead woke in the Cairns Colonial Club Resort. It’s a lovely part of the world, but it’s not where we wanted to be. Jetstar organised a bus to get us back to Cairns International Airport and it was packed to the rafters when we arrived. Thankfully the queue moved fairly quickly and an hour later we had boarding passes in our hands. There isn’t much to do at CNS and we were late taking off. We did score an empty seat beside us though which is always a bonus. Thankfully after the issues the day before the flight was fuss free and we were just glad to be on our way. We landed at Osaka Kansai Airport almost on time. Like everything in Japan, customs was quick and efficient. We picked up our Docomo SIM card and headed straight to the Nankai Airport Express. We walked from Namba Station to the Bespoke Hotel Shinsaibashi and checked in just after midnight. It was a long day after a longer day the day before and we slept well my friend.
May 2019 Jetstar JQ26 NRT – CNS
We caught the Keisei Skyliner from Ueno to Narita Airport. Jetstar JQ26 departs from terminal 3 at Narita International Airport and we had to walk a few hundred metres to the terminal. After a lengthy wait in the check in queue we headed to the food court to grab a quick dinner before boarding. We also stocked up on snacks for the flight from Lawson and got rid of all but 100 yen of our coins. There is nothing on the other side of customs so leave it as late as you can to pass through. Don’t forget to stop at the booth to have the receipts removed from your passport if you have purchased duty free good in Japan. We chose two aisle seats in the middle with a seat between us. We held our breath during boarding and breathed a sigh of relief when the cabin door was closed and it remained empty. I should have been sleeping, but ended up reading more than I should. We landed at Cairns International just before 5am and we were the only flight to be processed. It still seemed to take forever. When we finally got through the other side we walked the short distance to the domestic terminal for the final leg of our journey home.
Have you flown Jetstar International? Do you have a horror story? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.
Until Next Time …
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Disclosure Statement: This post is not sponsored. I paid for my Jetstar flight from Sydney to Honolulu in full. The information in this article is based on my own personal experiences and has not been influenced in any way by the brand(s) featured. This post may contain affiliate links which if clicked may earn me a small commission on purchases at no extra cost to you.