At Hawaiian Airlines’ earnings call yesterday, the company provided more details about what is happening with their now long-troubled fleet of A321neo planes that number 18. As you know, we’ve recently written about a plethora of flight cancellations and temporary route terminations that are, as we’ve said, largely the result of these perplexing issues. Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram said of this yesterday, ” We face more than our fair share of challenges.”
When will the A321 plane problems end?
Hawaiian has never fully detailed how many of their fleet of 18 aircraft will require grounding, and for exactly how long each will be out of service. The engine manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney, said last month that each repair could require up to 300 days. Hawaiian responded yesterday, “We have adjusted our schedules to accommodate up to four out-of-service aircraft through Q4 and into the beginning of next year.
The airline added that “Every one of those (engine) removals drives another aircraft on ground because we aren’t sitting with a bunch of spare engines in our hangar right now to be able to accommodate that… We have been living a little bit too close to a razor’s edge… “Once we obtain certainty on our A321 engines, we are also encouraged about the plans we can develop with our expanded fleet.”
What is clear is either Hawaiian or the aircraft manufacturer isn’t telling the whole story about the engine problems, the amount of out-of-service time per plane, and collectively. Hawaiian said but didn’t detail a compensation plan both partly agreed to and still in process with the manufacturer.
Regarding Hawaiian vs. Southwest on interisland routes.
Hawaiian mentioned they are outperforming Southwest by “wide margins” interisland. They said that’s because of “the way we take care of our guests and deliver authentic Hawaiian hospitality makes us the clear carrier of choice for travel between the islands.” Blaming the fires for suppressing flight costs, Hawaiian remarked, “These results demonstrate clearly that we are the interisland carrier of choice.”
Beat of Hawaii will fly more interisland flights in the weeks ahead on both Hawaiian and Southwest, and we plan to again review those flights for you. The prices we found are starting from $50 for Southwest flights and $55 for Hawaiian which reafirmed higher airfares ahead, and with that, we concur.
Possible replacement of current planes with Dreamliner fleet mentioned for first time.
Hawaiian said, “We also have several A330 passenger aircraft leases ending… giving us options to balance growth and replacement…. The larger 34-seat premium cabin allows us to expand this high-performing, margin-enhancing element of the business.”
As the airline begins revenue service in April of its first of twelve Dreamliners, which will all arrive over the next 48 months, they introduced the possibility of increased profitability through the new “premium-heavy” configured 787. “I think about the 787… will be our most fuel-efficient long-haul airplane. It’s got greater capacity, and it’s got a big premium cabin, so you want to put it in a market like New York… and really take advantage of the fuel efficiency.” Regarding why the planes will start on the West Coast, Ingram said, we need a place where we can do overnight maintenance on the aircraft, and that is initially going to be in Los Angeles”.
Their current A330 is a 30-year-old model.
While the Airbus A330 is still a lovely plane, the reality is that it dates from 3 decades ago, and the Dreamliner, which dates back just 15 years, is lighter, more fuel efficient, and less expensive overall to operate. The savings are thousands of dollars for each flight.
A330 moves to short-term lease extensions.
In preparation for potentially switching to Dreamliner, the airline said, “We have executed two-year extensions for four A330 leases that would have otherwise expired in 2024.”
That gives Hawaiian Airlines access to these older but infinitely more reliable planes that helps them also “mitigate the impact of the ongoing A321 engine challenges.”
What will Hawaiian Airlines’ fleet look like in the next six years?
The airline has a dozen leases expiring in the next six years, so we might start to think that the Hawaiian Airlines fleet has the possibility to look quite differently than it does today.
The Interisland B717 fleet replacement announcement is imminent.
Hawaiian is also on the verge of a transformative order for interisland aircraft replacement that could bring changes to the airline’s operations between the mainland U.S. and Hawaii. This exciting development could see Hawaiian having four distinct aircraft fleets for travelers to choose from, providing more options than ever before.
The Boeing 717 fleet, the backbone of interisland travel for two decades, is fast coming to an end, and the remaining three airlines using them are phasing them out.
Hawaiian said recently it was evaluating two potential options, one from Airbus and the other from Embraer. A final decision is expected to be made early next year or possibly even sooner. The new fleet deliveries will ensure the continued operation of the current 717s until approximately 2025 or 2026, or perhaps slightly longer, but still indicative of a relatively short transition period.
The selection of a suitable replacement for interisland flights had been a prolonged process due to the lack of appropriate options tailored to Hawaii’s specific needs. Airbus and Boeing primarily focused on larger, long-range aircraft for broader market appeal, while regional jet manufacturers concentrated on smaller planes.
The Airbus A220 is emerging as a promising replacement candidate. Nearly 300 of the A220 aircraft are already in commercial service worldwide with 16 airlines, with close to 1,000 coming. Hawaiian Airlines could opt for one of two A220 variants. The smaller A220-100 closely matches the size of the Boeing 717 it would replace, while the larger A220-200 is better suited for denser and peak-time interisland routes and flights to and from the mainland.
The Embraer E2 aircraft are another option, although they are considered less likely. These aircraft come in three variants, with the smaller E170/175-E2 seating around 75 passengers and the larger E190/195-E2 accommodating approximately 30 more passengers on average. While they have a 2×2 economy cabin layout, their seats are slightly narrower than the A220’s.
Both Airbus and Embraer have their strengths, making them suitable for interisland fleet replacement. Airbus, being more prevalent and versatile, has sold significantly more aircraft compared to Embraer. The comfort and passenger experience vary between the two, with Airbus offering ample legroom and a modern cabin feel, while Embraer’s focus is on eliminating middle seats but in a more compact space.
With this change, Hawaiian Airlines is poised to introduce four distinct aircraft types for mainland-to-Hawaii travel. That could include A220, A321, A330 and Dreamliner. This diversity would cater well to a wide range of passenger preferences, ensuring a very different and flexible future for travelers heading to Hawaii.