Hawaiian Airlines: Four Different Mainland/Hawaii Aircraft? Fascinating Developments

Hawaiian Airlines’ upcoming aircraft order could be revolutionary for the Hawaii bellwether. And with that large order, we might see four different fleets flying between the mainland and Hawaii. Talk about choices! Four planes, two widebody and two narrow-bidy to choose from could be in your future.

First, however, Hawaiian is about to announce the long-awaited replacement of its interisland Boeing 717 fleet. What has been the standard of interisland flying is an able performer whose time has ended after two solid decades of service. Worldwide, only three airlines continue to fly the 717, all in the short-term process of retiring them. Here are all the details we have learned.

Hawaiian Airlines CEO on another new aircraft order.

Peter Ingram, the CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, is attending the IATA AGM conference, which is taking place this week in Istanbul. From there, he spoke about the retirement of their interisland fleet and its upcoming successor.

There are two potential replacements, coming from either Airbus or Embraer. Both have multiple models that Hawaiian has to choose from. Ingram said Hawaiian would decide on the replacement fleet order no later than early next year, if not sooner. It expects new plane fleet deliveries to mean the current 717s will remain in service until 2025 or 2026. That isn’t very long from now at all.

An interisland aircraft that also flies to the mainland?

Until recently, there were no excellent replacement options for their interisland planes. That took a long time because Airbus and Boeing were slow to create a good fit for Hawaii’s 100+ seat market and instead created larger, longer-range aircraft, which were more profitable to sell. While at the other end of the scale, regional jet makers targeted smaller jets.

Airbus A220  – #1 of two replacement choices.

Nearly 300 of these planes are in commercial service, flying with 16 operators. And 800 of the A220s have already been ordered. Delta Air Lines is the largest operator in the U.S. and worldwide, with 60 planes in its fleet.

Two of the plane’s variants could potentially serve Hawaiian Airlines. The smallest one, the -100, is almost precisely the same size as the Boeing 717 fleet it would replace. The larger -200 is significantly larger and could fit well on more dense and peak-time interisland routes, like between Honolulu and Maui. They also fit nicely to and from the mainland, with about 40 passengers less capacity than can be accommodated by the current 189-passenger A321 narrow-body planes.

The A220 is a highly popular 100-160 passenger narrow-body regional/mainland hybrid aircraft that fits nicely between smaller regional jets and the more traditional A321 and 737 aircraft we see on most all airlines’ mainland-to-Hawaii flights today. It is the most likely choice for Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 717 fleet replacement.

There are two variants of the A220, depending on requirements, with a potentially larger variant still coming. It is even capable of mainland-to-Hawaii flights.

The A220 features 3×2 economy cabin seats, the same as the current 717. It’s 3×2 interior (JetBlue version) is below, and you can see it is very similar in appearance to the current Hawaiian Airlines interisland fleet.

Airbus A220

World’s longest Airbus A220-300 routes exceed Hawaii distances.

The plane already flies across the US and worldwide, including overwater ETOPS routes.

In the U.S., Hawaii-focused David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways announced its longest-distance A220-300 route, from Rhode Island to LAX, which is 2,579 miles. Outside the U.S., Air Baltic flies the same plane from Latvia to Tenerife, 2,967 air miles, while Air Austral flies the longest distance A220 route. That plane flies daily over nearly all open ocean, some 6 1/2 hours from Chennai, India, to France’s Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. That’s a distance of  3,303 miles! By reference, the longest flight from Kauai (the most distant Hawaiian Island) to Seattle (the most distant west coast airport) is a mere 2,701 miles.

A220 interior

The #2 option for Hawaiian Airlines is the Embraer E2.

While these remain a possibility for Hawaiian’s interisland replacement jets, they are less likely, although there’s a potentially exciting business synergy. These jets fit a similar need in shorter distance flights, although they accomplish it differently. Also coming in three variants, the smaller E170/175-E2 typically seats about 75 passengers, while the larger E190/195-E2 seats about 30 more on average. It is a 2×2 economy cabin (image below) with slightly narrower seats than the A220.

As for distances, the longest current E2 route is just 2,336 miles from Norway to the Canary Islands.

E195-E2 interior

Comparing the Airbus A220 and the Embraer E2

While to some degree interchangeable, there are significant differences in these plane families. Either, however, could serve as Hawaiian’s new interisland fleet. The Airbus is a far more prevalent and versatile plane that has sold multiples of its Embraer competitor. While Airbus acquired and helped bolster and market the A220, Embraer’s deal to become part of Boeing fell through during Covid.

Thus the companies are in a very different situation. Also, the Hawaiian deal would be very significant to Embraer, whereas, to Airbus, it would likely not have the same importance. And in terms of comfort, the Airbus scores points with great legroom and a modern airliner look and feel. On the other hand, Embraer rocks it with no middle seats but in a smaller, tighter cabin. Both are efficient, but we have been told that the lighter Embraer might have some advantages in our very short Hawaiian Island hops.

  • Airbus A220-100 – range 3,970 miles. Typical passengers – 108.
  • Airbus A220-300 – range 3,798 miles. Typical passengers – 150.
  • Embraer E2-170/175 – range approx. 2,532 miles. Typical passengers approx. 75.
  • Embraer E2-190/195 – range approx. 2,600 miles.Typical passengers – Approx 125.

What a four aircraft-type Hawaiian Airlines mainland to Hawaii configuration would look like.

  1. Airbus A330-200. The existing fleet of 34 aircraft. Range of 8,357 miles. Economy seating 2x4x2.
  2. Airbus A321neo The existing fleet of 18 aircraft. Range of 3,996 miles. Economy seating 3×3.
  3. Boeing B789 Dreamliner. The upcoming fleet of 12 aircraft. Range of 8,706 miles. Economy seating 3x3x3.
  4. Airbus A220-100/300. Possible future dual-function fleet. Range of 3,798 miles. Economy seating 2×3.

Will you be ready to fly to Hawaii in these new 100-150 passenger planes?

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19 thoughts on “Hawaiian Airlines: Four Different Mainland/Hawaii Aircraft? Fascinating Developments”

  1. Quite an interesting and informative article. Regardless of what they choose, I hope the inter-island plane chosen has a smooth replacement of the B717

  2. Would any of these new designs offer an ADA bathroom, so that an aisle wheelchair could bring a passenger to the bathroom to use the toilet? I had to move from Hawaii because I thought you were discontinuing using your larger planes with Ada access.

  3. Something a little different for Hawiian might be a plane that could accommodate through flights such as depart from Kauai, stop in Honolulu or Maui then on to the mainland with passengers not having to change planes.

    1. The prefect aircraft replacement should have been the 737-MAX7.THE LEAP1B engines are more reliable than any of the P/W ENGINES. Should be a consideration.

  4. You may want to note the following:
    The A220 is a more flexible plane with its longer range. However, there are very few markets within its range that are not being currently served by existing aircraft with high occupancy.
    The A220 is quite a bit more expensive to buy and operate.
    There is a long wait for customers to receive A220 orders.
    The 195-E2 actually carries 120 passengers in a 3 class configuration.
    Both are great planes….it will come down to the financials but availability is also important.

    1. Hi David.

      Yes, we too pointed out that the E2 presents a unique business opportunity for Hawaiian.


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