Monday, 3 May 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 18: The new Hawaiian Airlines long-range fleet

Hawaiian Airlines' first Airbus A330-200 long-range airliner arrived in Honolulu today, and because of Hawaiʻi's dependence on air-travel, we consider this event to be quite important, despite the scant regard the subject receives from the general public and the media.

The wide-body, 294-seat A330 touched down at Honolulu International Airport at 10:49 a.m. after a 7,963 mile delivery flight from the Airbus factory at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France via Seattle–Tacoma International Airport.

The Airbus, christened Makaliʻi—the Hawaiian name for the constellation Pleiades, one of the star clusters most important to ancient Polynesian navigators—was welcomed to its new home by hula, lei and a gathering of Hawaiian Airlines employees.

Among the employees assembled on the tarmac was Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian's president and CEO who said, "What a special moment for all of us at Hawaiian, to see more than three years' planning and coordination come to fruition. This first A330 heralds a new era for Hawaiian, one of growth and new services for our customers." 

The new services of which Mr. Dunkerly speaks include touch-screen entertainment monitors in each seat in all classes which will feature audio- and video-on-demand. As for growth, our informants tell us that routes to the East Coast and Midwest of the United States are currently being considered together with flights to Asia—Seoul and Beijing, in specific, in addition to Hawaiian's already-announced intention to serve Tokyo's Haneda Airport (東京国際空港). We also occasionally hear fantastical stories of Hawaiian Airlines routes to Europe and, as proud as it would make us to see Pualani at Heathrow or Frankfurt or Roissy, we consider it the remotest of possibilities.

We do have concerns, however, about the announced 294 passenger capacity of Hawaiian's A330-200s. A seat map hasn't been released publicly, but such a seating arrangement will make Hawaiian's A330s among the most densely configured in the industry. In comparison, the A330-200s of Air France seat 219 passengers; those of Delta Air Lines, 243; while those of German low-cost carrier, Air Berlin, seat 295 in pinched circumstances. JetStar Airways, the rough and ready younger sibling of Australia's Qantas Airways, manages to shoehorn 303 seats into their A330s. We expect the Hawaiian Airlines Airbuses to have a configuration similar to that of the JetStar aircraft, and we'll reserve judgement until we have concrete information, but if you would like to experience JetStar right now, remember that the airline offers up to five flights weekly from Honolulu to Sydney.

An additional three A330s that are expected to join the Hawaiian Airlines fleet this year, and the airline has signed a purchase agreement with Airbus to acquire seven more A330s from 2011 and six A350XWB-800 (Extra Wide-Body) aircraft starting in 2017, as well as purchase rights for an additional five A330s and six A350s.

Hawaiian's new A330, Makaliʻi, is scheduled to enter commercial service on Friday, June 4, as Flight HA2, departing Honolulu at 1:15 p.m. for Los Angeles. 

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