Virgin America announced today that they will become the US launch customer for the new Airbus A321neo, improving their delivery date on these planes compared with Hawaiian Airlines by perhaps six months. This news is significant because the competition is definitely heating up with more cheap flights to Hawaii heading our way.
Virgin America will lease 10 long-range A321neo aircraft starting the beginning of 2017. Hawaiian Airlines has 17 on order. These planes are highly relevant to Virgin America’s recent and upcoming flights to Hawaii. As you know, the airline started flights from San Francisco to both Honolulu and Maui over the past month.
Their new highly efficient planes will allow Virgin strategic opportunities closely related to flights to Hawaii:
Hawaii route options significantly increased.
First, LA to Hawaii flights are definitely coming to Virgin when these planes are added, if not sooner. Outer islands are on too, so we expect to see Virgin America flights to Kauai and Kona in addition to Honolulu and Maui. Mainland departure cities beyond the west coast will also now become possible. The company previously expressed interest in flights from Phoenix and Denver.
20% reduction in fuel consumption compared with existing fleet.
Maintenance and labor costs will be reduced using the A321neo. The company will not, however, opt for the ultra-economical hard shell seats, but will retain the padded traditional seats for more comfort on longer flights.
Alaska Airlines will also compete on flights to Hawaii using 737 MAX.
If you wondered where Alaska Airlines will fit into this new competition, you can be sure they won’t be left out. The airline has ordered $5 billion worth of 37 Boeing 737 MAX 8/9 aircraft for deliveries starting in 2017. These are also highly fuel efficient planes with extended distance capabilities.