Hawaiian Goes Amazon: The First Plane Arrives

Hawaiian Goes Amazon: Planes Arrive But What About Pilots?

The first proof of the new partnership between Hawaiian Airlines and Amazon showed up at Honolulu Airport over the July 4 weekend. We spotted the first new-to-Amazon and Hawaiian plane, named “Momentum” (pictured above), near the Hawaiian Air passenger terminal.

You’ll recall that Amazon is leveraging Hawaiian Airlines to expand its air cargo capabilities, which is preparing to fly and maintain a new fleet of A330-300 widebody cargo aircraft on behalf of Amazon’s Prime Air.

BOH said before, “This is an entirely new and innovative direction for Hawaii’s largest private employer.”

Last October, Hawaiian CEO Peter Ingram said this agreement “allows for synergies with our A330 passenger business” and will provide a “meaningful revenue stream distinct and separate” from the passenger business that we all know Hawaiian for.

Eight-year agreement between Amazon and Hawaiian Airlines.

Ingram said at that time that “Hawaiian was a natural partner” for Amazon in announcing the long-term affair. At Amazon’s discretion is the extension of the agreement to add planes, go beyond eight years, or both.

How Hawaiian will use its pilots.

The airline said previously that the pilots had agreed to expand their agreement to allow for this work. Also, the airline plans to have pilots dedicated to passenger flights or cargo flights for extended periods, rather than flying cargo one day and passengers the next.

How this may benefit Hawaiian Airlines and Hawaii.

Even before this addition, Hawaiian was already the biggest private employer in the state, more than 7,000 strong. Hawaiian’s agreement is to be paid based on hours flown and the number of flights, with pass-through fuel costs that Hawaiian won’t need to be concerned with.

More Hawaii Air pilot positions. But where do they get the pilots?

In theory, this extra work in a new arena is a big plus. According to the airline, the additional job security this represents is beneficial, but that’s only true if pilots can be found. 160 pilot positions will be needed as a result of this deal, and that all comes down in the next year.

Hawaiian has about 1,000 pilots in total. You’ll recall they recently negotiated a new employment agreement that provides, in addition to other benefits, up to a 33% pay raise, bringing top pay to $448/hr.

Airlines, including Hawaiian, are looking to attract pilots from regionals and anywhere else qualified pilots can be sourced. As an aside, it was interesting that the pilot on our Hawaiian Airlines flight yesterday did not appear to be a native English speaker.

Severe, ongoing airline pilot shortage.

Unfortunately, however, the industry continues to face a lack of pilots, which seems to be getting worse or at least isn’t getting better. Reports surfaced in April about an upcoming “tsunami of pilot retirements” that will exacerbate the problem and could further limit flights and lead to higher airfares. That is according to the Regional Airline Association during testimony before Congress this spring. They said that “the pilot shortage has resulted in a collapse in air service.” It has been reported that more than half of all pilots flying today will hit the mandatory retirement age within 15 years.

A330-300 freighter vs. A330-200 passenger jet.

Hawaiian’s passenger fleet (before the upcoming Dreamliner addition) comprises 24 Airbus A330-200 aircraft. The new Prime Air jets are a different variant, being A330-300 cargo planes. This new fleet allows Hawaiian to leverage their vast experience with the A330 to open doors into new and diversified business opportunities.

Hawaiian said that these would be, to date, the “newest, largest aircraft for Amazon Air, allowing us to deliver more customer packages with each flight.”

This will lead to an increase in Hawaiian’s mainland infrastructure.

Hawaiian plans to start flying the fleet this fall, with all of the new aircraft entering Hawaiian Air service by next year.

Hawaiian is to set up a mainland pilot base and other needed staff. To what degree Hawaii residents will also benefit from this contract is unclear. For now, the planes are to be based at Cincinnati Airport. Prime Air planes such as the one BOH spotted, will enter service via initial maintenance checks at Hawaiian’s main Honolulu Airport home.

Hawaiian will maintain the new Amazon A330 fleet here and in the Philippines.

Hawaiian will use its maintenance resources, both based here in Hawaii as well as its external maintenance resources. We reported two weeks ago that Hawaiians Airlines’ heavy maintenance checks for A330 and other aircraft will be performed internationally in Clark, Philippines.

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6 thoughts on “Hawaiian Goes Amazon: Planes Arrive But What About Pilots?”

  1. My experience with HA the last 3 months strongly suggests that the HA’s upper management is really suffering significant difficulties!
    It makes me wonder if HA will survive?

    1. Yes HA will survive. The cargo operation is meant to be a separate source of revenue and gives the company a more diverse portfolio. HA’s passenger flights are doing just fine especially now that HNL operations has improved dramatically since the Runway 08L reopening. Most flights are full/oversold. The 787s are coming this year. It’s a bright future as far the eye can see.

      1. To your point Maureen. Talked to some that work there and the Japan flights have been packed for the last couple months. Bods very well for HA. That was the major stumbling block to their return to profitability. Flying empty airplanes to Japan doesn’t pay well! The Amazon deal has unlimited possibilities for them. Simply put, they are well on the way to recapturing their premium passenger service. Business wise the Amazon flying has the potential for HA becoming the fastest growing airline in the U.S in a couple years. Passenger flights to Hawaii have limited growth potential, cargo…not so.

  2. This will definitely require a contract negotiation with ALPA with the possibility that pilots flying the freight lines will receive a salary increase.

      1. Heard that too Roger, a very good one from what I hear. Smart move. They know they have to pay to attract and keep pilots. What could help them attract pilots now is the fact that pilots hired at HA have greater potential to gain seniority quicker than at the larger airlines. For instance a friend at Delta said with all the hiring they have done the last few years a new hire today would likely never see wide body Captain in their career unless they are hired in their twenties…and then it wouldn’t be for a very long time.

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