The new Airbus A321neo airliner has been in our minds and words for several years with very good reason as you’ll see below. Whether we like it or not, this plane is set to soon become the primary vehicle for transporting visitors to and from the Hawaiian Islands. Today that eventuality became reality, and with a twist.
Virgin America A321neo launched today.
Virgin America became the first airline to take delivery, with its first A321 neo arriving in Hamburg Germany. The Alaska Airlines owned company was also the first to sign on for the A321neo years ago and agreed to lease ten of this largest and longest range A320 variant. These planes are to be delivered over the next year and a half. We don’t know if and when they will be seen on Hawaii routes, but the first aircraft will enter service on the US mainland next month.
Why A321 is pivotal to Hawaii deals.
The A321 will transform flights to Hawaii and Hawaii deals. The new plane will for the first time, put airlines (including Hawaiian Airlines) on equal footing. More routes with more competition equal more deals.
In addition, the A321neo’s unprecedented 4,000 mile range allows for flights to Hawaii from cities such as Denver, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, Dallas, Mexico City and many more that were previously inaccessible by appropriate aircraft.
Why Hawaiian Airlines needs this aircraft.
In recent years, most airlines have moved to narrow-body 737, 757 and A320 flights to Hawaii. Those include not only Virgin America, but Alaska, American, Delta, United, etc. The exceptions to narrow-body flights are limited, primary routes to Maui and Honolulu where larger planes remain appropriate.
Hawaiian Airlines has not had long range, narrow-body aircraft in its fleet for many years and instead operated on the no longer appropriate concept of using Maui and Honolulu as the Hawaii hubs to neighbor islands. They relied on a combination of wide-body legacy 767 and current generation A330 planes. As a result, however, Hawaiian has had far fewer opportunities to compete across many island routes. Those severe limitations impacted not only routes to the outer islands (Kona, Lihue, Hilo) but also their ability to fly on many routes to Maui and Honolulu where less passenger density than a wide-body is required.
Hawaiian Airlines’ A321 fleet is set to begin deliveries early next year with flight announcements expected later this year. Recently we discussed how the new Hawaiian Airlines A321 fleet will be configured and much more.