Hawaiian Airlines sees its new Airbus A321neo fleet as the key to maximizing opportunities in some U.S. medium-haul markets too small for its A330s, freeing widebody capacity to boost the carrier’s international expansion.
Hawaiian puts its first of 18 A321neos in service January 8 on its Kahului-Oakland route, replacing A330s. Other announced routes for the new Airbus narrowbodies include adding new service between Maui’s Kahului Airport and both San Diego and Portland, Oregon, as well as upgrading some seasonal service to year-round flights.
“The last phase of our decade-long strategy is finally under way,” said Hawaiian Airlines president and CEO Mark Dunkerley. “Having left the mid-sized West Coast-to-Hawaii markets unattended, owing to the lack of a compelling aircraft with which to serve them, it's really exciting to be attacking this market for which we and the A321neo are now ideally suited.”
Hawaiian’s revamp began in 2010 with the arrival of its first of 24 Airbus A330-200s, enabling an international expansion that included adding flights to Japan, Australia, South Korea, and China. The airline uses some of the Airbus widebody twins as well as its eight remaining Boeing 767-300ERs to serve 11 U.S. mainland gateways. Hawaiian plans to use the A321neos to replace Boeing 767s, which it has scheduled to remove from its fleet by 2019, as well as the least-sensible A330 flying.
One of the airline’s goals involves rebalancing A330 capacity so that 60 percent of it applies to long-haul missions, including trips to the Asia-Pacific region as well as domestic long-haul routes such as Honolulu-New York. Long-haul routes now account for half of the A330’s capacity while medium-haul sectors comprise the other half. Hawaiian calculates that re-balancing the A330 flying and introducing the A321neos “has the potential” to reduce its cost per seat-mile by 3 percent, said Hawaiian COO Jonathan Snook.
“We continue to see attractive additional opportunities to grow in Asia,” he noted. “Using the assets for the mission for which they are designed…is one of the opportunities that the A321neo brings.”
Part of the shift will involve tapping new routes—such as San Diego and Portland, which Hawaiian serves from Honolulu—and expanding the airline’s network to new markets.
“[The] network planning team has the tools to enter the midsize markets that we have thus far largely been unable to tap,” said Dunkerley.
Configured with 189 seats, including 16 in business class and 44 in a premium-economy section, Hawaiian’s A321neos will enter service later than planned due to delivery delays linked to the jets' Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engines. Original plans specified as many as three of the Airbus narrowbodies serving the current winter schedule. The airline now expects to take delivery of at least eight A321neos, and perhaps as many as 11, in 2018. It expects the balance of the 18-aircraft complement to enter service by 2021.
The airline's fleet totaled 58 aircraft as of September 30, including 24 A330s, eight 767s, 20 Boeing 717s, and six ATR 42-500s.