Dramatic Game Changer for Hawaii Flights With New Plane

A new plane took to the sky 7,500 miles from Hawaii today, yet it was just a short distance away in our minds. Why? Because the new Airbus A321XLR will make new Hawaii routes possible that have never been on the table. These routes could include nonstop service from the east coast to neighbor islands.

If the plane looks very familiar, it is. That’s because its sister, the A321neo, is Hawaiian Air’s narrow-body flagship. But there are big differences between these two variants, as you’ll see below. Many new Hawaii flight opportunities may be about to open.

Airbus, together with their U.S. airline launch partners American Airlines and United Airlines, will use these planes for new nonstop routes to and from Hawaii that are only feasibly served by this new generation of ultra-long-range single-aisle airliners. While both American and United initially plan for the planes to be used for international routes, these are a perfect fit for Hawaii that we can guarantee neither of them will miss. They’re less likely to be seen, however, on domestic routes other than to Hawaii.

American Airlines is U.S. launch partner.

American had been planning to receive its first XLR delivery by 2023, now delayed until 2024, and it’ll enter service soon thereafter. Hawaii-centric United Airlines is set to take delivery starting in 2025. So we won’t need to wait very long to see these in the Hawaiian skies.

While American has said its primary focus is set on Europe and South America for the plane, Hawaii will undoubtedly be part of its plans. It looks to fit a premium mold, well-suited to Hawaii flights, and will amenities like aisle-access, lie-flat business seats (1×1), a true premium economy cabin (2×2), as well as economy (3×3). American plans to take delivery of 50 of these novel planes in the next 3 years.

United Airlines’ unique plans will also include Hawaii.

The largest purveyor of airline seats to Hawaii remains United Airlines. So it should come as no surprise that this new plane will be huge for them, and you’ll definitely be seeing it show up here in the islands. United will introduce an entirely new Polaris lie-flat business suite on the aircraft with direct aisle access, and will, for the first time port its “Premium Plus” cabin to a narrow-body plane. That cabin (albeit on a different aircraft, is pictured below).

UAL Premium Plus

Unique A321XLR opens world of new Hawaii routes.

Airbus has its focus for the plane set on “thin routes” that are longer distances than are being served by current generation aircraft. The last somewhat comparable airliner was the now-antiquated, fuel-guzzling Boeing 757. That was capable of flights up to 3.9k nautical miles, whereas the A321XLR can fly 4.7k nautical miles, opening up literally a world of other Hawaii flight possibilities. The A321neo, by comparison, can travel about 4k nautical miles. The XLR will fly 15% greater distances than any other narrow-body plane.

Airbus sees the places as helping passengers fly, to Hawaii, for example, without requiring connecting flights to cities that can take advantage of wide-body planes. So, for example, current twin-aisle routes include Chicago, New York, and other distant cities. But until this, they have required far more expensive to operate and challenging to fill widebody planes. That’s precluded highly desirable routes, especially to the neighbor islands.

What’s your take on single aisle aircraft on very long routes?

In the new Hawaii travel paradigm, visitors clearly want nonstop routes to the islands. For example, United flies nonstop from Denver to Kauai and Kona, which means there’s no connecting flight on the west coast. It’s 7 hours of pure convenience. We expect to see more of this from distant cities with the new plane.

And in today’s more luxury-oriented Hawaii travel market, non-stop flights, together with varied premium options, seems to be what people want. The A321XLR will be outfitted in new ways for single aisle planes with premium seating to make the trip more enjoyable.

Your editors both love Hawaii flights on widebody aircraft. On the other hand, changing planes, especially given all the current Hawaii flight delays and cancellations, isn’t something we cherish. This will be a tough decision.

Where might 321XLR American Airlines Hawaii flights depart?

Possible American Airlines 321XLR Hawaii runs include flights to Honolulu, Maui, Kauai and Kona from their hubs at Dallas, Charlotte, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Chicago, for example.

Where might 321XLR United Airlines Hawaii flights depart?

United has a different set of Hawaii routes possible. These include flights to Honolulu, Maui, Kauai and Kona from their hubs at Chicago, Denver, Houston, Newark and Washington D.C.

16 thoughts on “Dramatic Game Changer for Hawaii Flights With New Plane”

  1. Have you polled Hawai’i *residents* (i.e. not businesses) asking us how we feel about the increase in mainland visitors? I’m guessing those responses might be a bit less enthusiastic

  2. Airlines won’t fly planes until their maximum range, due to contingencies, such as weather or airport delays. So east coast to Hawai‘i won’t probably happen in an A321XLR. Midwest maybe … What the widebodies offer that narrow-bodies don’t, is cargo capacity that airlines use in the extra space that luggage doesn’t take up.

  3. DC to Hawaii is over 4800 miles, seems like east coast direct us still out of reach? Or am I missing something. Especially when considering fuel reserves for ETOPS travel.

  4. What are the fares going to be like? The prices are through the roof right now for our trip with 8 of us going to oahu 11-18 march 2023.

  5. If the airlines use the new plane from their hubs, there is no benefit as discussed earlier in the article (new non-stop from cities on the East Coast).
    Basically replacing a widebody plane with a narrowbody.

    Still have to get to the hub.

  6. That could be great for American AL, IF…the customer service portion of their operations improves. I am an AAL Advantage member and can say that on my last few flights with them the customer service has been, with one exception, poor to down-right rude. I did havea positive experience leaving LAX with the counter check-in. However the flight attendants did not great passengers with a smile or pleasant hello, the snack service seemed to be something that was interrupting their break and they were curt with everyone. Leaving IND, the kiosks were acting up. The counter personnel were treating everyone like they were idiots.

    1. I should add that we fly Hawaiian several times per year to visit ohana. Love the A330, was not too excited by the A321neo. I look forward to Hawaiian flying the 787 LAX – HNL. Would Really love Hawaiian to fly the A-330 LGB-OGG!

      1. I am in the same boat as you. Love the 330, hate the 321N. I also fly several trips a year, SMF to OGG and wish they would leave the 330 on that route. The 321 is a roller coaster ride in heavy winds.

  7. Just got off an A321 from HNL to SFO. Even with the extra leg room seat, this is possibly the most uncomfortable plane ever.

  8. These planes are horrible, more like the B757! Planes that fly 7 plus hours should not be one aisle planes…..this may be good for the airline but not for the passenger! Uncomfortable in my opinion!

  9. This past May 2022 My partner and I visited Hawai’i The Big Island for the 1st time. I lived on Oahu 2008 to 2011. My partner is Hawaiin born @ Queens Hosp. Bargain Flights, spontaneous adventurers we arrived oblivious to anything about Big Island, exploring we fell in love! extended our 3 days to 7, back home in San Diego Now looking at property there to purchase, expand our buisness and hearing news about new planes is exciting! As I’m a Freq. Flyer w/American & He’s w/United! The Ohana Spirit continues for & within us!!

  10. We totally understand the airlines thinking in using fuel efficient etc. aircraft from the west coast,
    We’re still getting used to the less roomy single aisle aircraft and a two aisle wide body.
    For lots of reasons we 90%+ are flying now on 737’s and A321neos.
    We’ve found sitting aisle,aisle provides the most room and comfort.
    A safe flight is what’s important and being able to go “home” to our Ohana.
    Aloha and safe travels everyone.

  11. As I sit in an UA 757 at LAX, more than 30 minutes delayed for no reason….

    If United drops twin aisle aircraft from their routes to/from ORD I won’t fly United any longer. From the West Coast to Hawai’i is fine in a single aisle aircraft but ony 8-10 hour flights, no. Call me spoiled but when we travel back to the States from HNL we’ve come to appreciate the room of a twin aisle aircraft.

    Maybe Hawaiian will start driving A330s into ORD and we’ll give them a try.


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