Hawaiian’s Decision to Buy Airbus

Airbus, Hawaiian

Last week, Hawaiian Airlines came out with an aircraft order that really surprised me. True, the airline has never hesitated to change its long haul fleet going from the Lockheed L1011 to the Douglas DC-10 and most recently the 767 in just the last 15 years. So I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’ve now decided to go over to Airbus, but for some reason it is.

The announcement says they’ll go for A330s in 2012 and then A350s when they come available in 2017. Right now, they have 18 767s and this order is only firm for 12 airplanes (6 of each) but with options for an additional twelve. So I think it’s safe to assume that these will come in and replace the 767 fleet completely if all goes well.

07_12_05 haairbus

So why are they doing it? Well, if you’re interested, listen to this 16 minute podcast from the IAGblog that has Addison Schonland interviewing Hawaiian President and CEO Mark Dunkerley. He basically says that the 767s either hit “retirement age” or come off lease between 2009 and 2014, so they need new planes.

Why not get new 767s? Well, they don’t really make them anymore. Instead Boeing is focusing on the 787. So why not get 787s? Well, they aren’t available until 2017. Neither are the A350s, right? Well, yeah but Airbus could offer the A330 in the interim. Why not pick up other 767s in the interim? This is where it becomes a guessing game.

Dunkerley says the market is tight and there just aren’t that many planes out there right now. At some point when the 787 comes out, the 767s will come available rapidly but Hawaiian didn’t want to take that chance that it would happen in time for their needs to be met. Interesting stuff. It sounded like they wanted the 787 but they just couldn’t make it work. So they went Airbus.

What does this mean for customers? Well, it means they’ll have more middle seats in each row since the A350 is 3-3-3 or 2-5-2 and the A330 is 2-4-2 instead of the 767’s 2-3-2. But the order also means that Hawaiian is betting on an expansion so there will be more places to go. As they said in the podcast, they’ll be looking to go from Hawai’i to the East Coast and to Asia. That being said, the West Coast will remain their main market.

Hopefully they aren’t being too aggressive here. I mean, they’ll have a lot of seats to fill with these new planes. The A350 will have 322 passengers compared to 305 on the A330 and no more than 264 on the 767s. That is a lot more seats than they have today, and I think they’ll have a tough time filling them all.

I know this is probably more interesting to the airline dorks than anyone else, but the podcast gives you a good opportunity hear their thought process. Interesting stuff – maybe I should try podcasting if I can find anyone who want to talk to me.

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