Hawaiian Airlines 789 Dreamliner

Hawaiian Airlines Reveals A Totally Different Approach

Here comes an unusually configured Hawaiian Air Boeing 787-9 wide-body fleet. 

Deliveries of an initial 10 aircraft 787 Dreamliner fleet are set to begin in 2022. The company also has options on another 10 planes. But there is more to it than that, with Hawaiian what is taking a decidedly different approach than say United Airlines or Delta Airlines. Read on for that.

At the time Hawaiian announced the new plane, we said, “We love Dreamliner for the spacious feel, larger electronic control windows, lower altitude pressurization, and much more. These planes also bring Europe, Southeast Asia, and Western Australia into range to and from Hawaii for the first time.” They will also be a great asset on specific mainland routes.

We now know more about just how Hawaiian will be configuring the new fleet. Each will feature 34 business class suites, and 267 economy seats.

We also leanred that the company has partnered with Boeing and Adient (a world-leading automotive seat manufacturer) to significantly improve its business class offering to international standards. Economy and premium economy seating will be from Collins Aerospace, known for lightweight, comfortable, and “spacious” economy class seating. And here’s where the distinction starts.

No premium class offering.

Unlike where most other airlines flying wide-bodies are headed, Hawaiian will have no separate cabin called either premium or premium-economy.

As people come to want more space and comfort, but without the extraordinary cost of business class, airlines are fast-moving into this affordable upgrade option. And the value is generally quite good. Expedia recently said, “Tickets in premium economy have never been cheaper… For the quarter of Americans (26%) wanting to upgrade their flight if they can afford it, there has never been a better time than now.”

Instead, at least for the time being, Hawaiian plans to continue to provide the same “Extra Comfort” more legroom and added amenity offers they currently have. We suspect that at some point, however, competitive pressure may change that. An example of a United Airlines widebody premium cabin is pictured below. Delta Airlines is in the process of reconfiguring its widebody fleets with premium economy as well.

United Airlines Premium Plus

Business Class Reenvisioned

Here too is a big change for Hawaiian. The new business suites will be in the preferred 1-2-1 configuration. These will be referred to as first-class domestically, and business-class internationally. The center seats are great for couples and, when two are traveling together, the privacy screen between the center suites can be lowered to convert into a double bed. We don’t know whether or not the suites will include doors.

Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class

How routes for the Dreamliner will evolve. 

Recently Peter Igram, company CEO was quoted as saying, “Our plan is to initially fly those to the US mainland, but ultimately we want to put those airplanes on long-haul routes where we can really take advantage of the unparalleled fuel efficiency of the aircraft, to places with strong demand and high load factors.”

Here are the initial routes we anticipate: Honolulu-New York, Honolulu-Tokyo, Honolulu-Sydney, Honolulu-Los Angeles.

Next, our crystal ball says the airline will stretch further into Asia, either with Hong Kong or Singapore. Thereafter Hawaiian Airlines will undoubtedly finally try London to Honolulu. That’s something that’s been talked about forever and is good news for those of us here in Hawaii and the many Brits and Europeans looking for a Hawaii beach getaway. In case you’re wondering that is about a 14-hour flight to London.

A330 will remain the backbone of Hawaiian Airlines aircraft.

The Airbus A330 fleet entered service starting in 2010 and became the company flagship for good reason. Over a period of 8 years, HA gradually replaced the entire oddly-mixed previous fleet of Boeing 767 aircraft, some of which they had obtained both new and others used and from multiple sources, over the years.

The 274-passenger A330-200 wide-body aircraft remain highly desirable, with double aisles and plenty of room to move around, and the plane is very well regarded in terms of passenger comfort. The company has 24 of these 278 passenger planes.

The business cabin on the A330 is in a 2-2-2 configuration, and while featuring what we find to be comfortable lie-flat business class seats (pictured below), these do not offer the space or privacy that have become standard on other airlines, including, for example, United Airlines.

There has always been some controversy about those seats and their comfort, design, and layout. So it was not a surprise to see Hawaiian change to a different option. The A330 seats do not all have direct aisle access and they are in an older 2-2-2 configuration.

Hawaiian Airlines A330 Business Class

Narrow-body A321 flights have taken over most mainland cities.

Nearly four years ago already, in early 2018, Hawaiian began using their new Airbus A321neo fleet. This changed the competitive environment for the company and has allowed them to fly on more routes with ultra fuel efficiency. Beat of Hawaii authors Jeff and Rob actually flew on that first Hawaiian Airlines A321 inaugural flight, and provided a trip report. The company now has a fleet of 18 of these 189-passenger planes.

Whether we like it or not, single-aisle planes are what we can generally expect from all airlines on flights to Hawaii, especially from the west coast. As prior CEO Mark Dunkerley once said, “the new (A321) aircraft will free more wide-body aircraft for further long-haul expansion.”

Since the new narrow-body fleet came on board, most of the A330 Airbus fleet has been moved (pre-COVID) to either 1) international routes, 2) long-haul routes (Boston, New York, Orlando, etc.) or 3) very high-density routes (some flights from the west coast).

The A321neo, which is ultra-popular with airlines, is considered the perfect industry solution for nearly all western US to Hawaii flights. The A321 has transformed Hawaiian Airlines inasmuch as, for the first time, they now compete on less-trafficked “thin” routes from the West Coast. With this plane, flights from cities further afield such as Salt Lake City, and Denver, for example, remain viable.

Hawaii competition is hot – there’s no doubt.

With the new narrow-body fleet, Hawaiian goes head to head with other airlines currently offering narrow-body flights direct to all of the islands. This includes Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines. And, with the Dreamliner fleet, Hawaiian better competes with airlines in the long-range US route market, as well as the Asia/Pacific region and beyond.

Inter-island fleet will be the last to renovate.

We’ just wrote about An Era Ending Soon | Hawaiian Airlines 717 Interisland. A replacement fleet isn’t far off now, inasmuch as the very successful planes are moving towards the end of their viable lifespan. A more fuel-efficient aircraft type, which is also capable of day-in, day-out inter-island short hops, is soon to find its way to Hawaiian Air.

Hawaiian Airlines has been on a fleet replacement and expansion tear, and it isn’t stopping anytime soon.

The bellwether still has two big gaps to fill. But first, here’s a question: Would you be willing to change flights in order to fly on a Hawaiian Air wide-body plane rather than fly on a narrow-body aircraft? 

Lead image of Hawaiian Air Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

21 thoughts on “Hawaiian Airlines Reveals A Totally Different Approach”

  1. I loved flying wide-bodied AB 330 SFO. I just flew on Hawaiian AB320 NEO and I felt like I was on a SWA B73 to Kauai out of OAK. Enough said. I just would hate to fly a narrow body to Hawaii out of the Bay Area.

  2. My wife and I fly the A330 Hawaiian out of Seattle rather than the A321 out of Portland, Oregon. The six hour flight is much more enjoyable on the bigger plane. We do the Hawaiian Comfort seats and especially in the Covid travel era, it’s great not to have to share a row with someone else. It costs us a bit more. If they took the A330s out of the NW we would probably fly Alaska or another airline depending on price.

  3. We recently flew ns from Boston to Hawaii. I can not say enough about service we received. Extended leg room seats for fantastic. I just wish the tofu was not the only choice we had for the return flight. Flight attendants we’re the best.

  4. A 121 layout in a 787 with non stop from London would likely move me from AA, particularly as they have moved their frequent flyer program to a credit card one. Just let us have decent bed length. Those of us at 6’5″ do not like the 6′ beds. they do not work especially for 14 hours. Let us see how it pans out.

    1. Hi Rich.

      We are expecting a 2-meter bed length if that helps. It is definitely a 1-2-1 seating.

      One issue is that you will be sliding your feet under the side table of the person in front of you, unless at a bulkhead. That angle gets pretty complicated, especially for those who are very tall. One of your editors is 6″ 4″.


  5. We fly UA & HA, but always prefer UA when we can take a 777. LAX-HNL. A 787 would be a great way for HA to step up on this route. As for A321, I prefer to fly to HNL on a 777, then connect to KOA on a 717, when we head to Waikoloa.

  6. I like the possibility of Western Australia!….Hawaiian seems to be doing a great job of balancing their product with the
    the marketplace…the NEO’S are as good as it gets for single isle flights but clearly the 330’s are the best ride to Hawaii with
    their Hawaiian Style service….

  7. I love the 330 wide body!!
    I generally prefer nonstop but opted to fly Hawaiian just because I prefer the 330.
    If they switch my city to a narrow plane , then I will opt for a nonstop route.


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