Hawaiian Airlines held a press conference that we attended earlier today. Two things discussed today really caught our attention.
Replacement of Boeing 717 interisland fleet.
The company has said before that it will be approaching the time to seek the replacement of its now aging interisland fleet sometime in this decade. It was fascinating that Ingram indicated that Hawaiian is looking at the possibility of an all-electric interisland fleet going forward. Ingram said, “as we think about it, the neighbor island routes really do provide an interesting application for electrification of aircraft.”
Given when Hawaiian will be replacing the current fleet, can an electric aircraft fit?
We suspect that an announcement regarding the 717 replacement will happen in the next few years, with replacement aircraft arriving starting several years later.
CEO Ingram said there is now the “prospect of replacing (interisland) with an electric aircraft at some point in the future… Yes, I can see it. It is probably the middle of the 2030s before we have an electric aircraft of the correct size… Those are things we are looking at.”
The company has been working with Boeing in order to extend the life of the now nearly 20-year-old planes. These aircraft are utilized more by Hawaiian than any other airline, with each plane making on average 16 flights per day. Only four carriers worldwide are still using the 717. Production of that plane was discontinued 15 years ago.
Perhaps tell-tale on life expectancy, Hawaiian extended leases on five 717 aircraft through 2025 while the remaining planes are owned by the airline.
Beat of Hawaii: We believe the 717 fleet is somewhere in the last third of its viable lifespan. At an average age of 19 years, that would mean the company might extend the fleet’s use until sometime after 2025. We don’t think it will go far beyond that. The carrier is very forward-thinking when it comes to fleet improvements, as was indicated again today when they addressed the 787 aircraft (below). The most likely candidate for a short-term 717 replacement is the Airbus A220.
So what about electric airliners?
Electric airliners are coming, as sure as is the Ford F150 truck! The largest obstacles at present seem to relate to the size of plane, the weight of batteries compared with how much power they generate, and the safety of so many batteries in flight. But those issues are being addressed. One company, Eviation (lead photo source), is near the front of the pack, and is producing a new, built from the ground up, smaller airliner named Alice.
With nearly half of all flights globally being less than 500 miles, there is tremendous potential for electric aircraft. UBS has estimated by 2035, the aviation industry will be 25% hybrid or fully electric. And, Hawaii stands out as especially well-suited given our weather and short distances.
787 Dreamliners confirmed to start arriving in 2022.
Hawaiian was asked about whether in this new post-Covid world, where for example, international travel is largely on hold, is it still worth it to transition to the longer-range Dreamliner fleet. Ingram answered affirmatively, staying “the 787 remains the most advanced generation of new aircraft, incredibly fuel-efficient and environmentally-efficient and it is destined to be the flagship of our (Hawaiian Airlines) network. We are still very excited to get it.”
Hawaiian confirmed earlier this year it will take delivery of the first two of ten 787s late in 2022. They are then set to enter service in early 2023. We have not heard about the delivery schedule for the remaining planes. The airline has not said which routes will utilize the longer-range widebodies. London and Southeast Asia are the two most likely destinations as well as premium long-haul domestic routes.
Do you have any thoughts on an upcoming electric fleet flying interisland or on the new Dreamliners coming next year?