Hawaiian Airlines Inc. said it remains committed to buying six Airbus A350-800s, a rare vote of confidence for a jet that’s rapidly lost in popularity in recent years as customers migrate to the two larger variants.
The size and range of the A350-800, a smaller model than the A350-900 slated for commercial service by year-end, make it an ideal plane for Hawaiian, Chief Executive Officer Mark Dunkerley said Sunday in an interview at the annual general meeting of the International Air Travel Association in Doha, Qatar. The plane would serve longer routes from Hawaii, such as Bangkok and Singapore, both 16 hours from its base, he said.
The future of the smallest A350 hangs in the balance as more buyers opt for bigger planes and Airbus studies an upgrade of its popular A330 wide-body with new engines that would encroach on the A350-800’s niche.
Airbus has said it remains committed to the model and that it has made no final vote on a refreshed A330, which at 20 years old is less efficient.
"There’s been much talk about the A330neo, but obviously we must wait to see whether that will come to pass," Dunkerley said. "For now the A350-800 does three things for us: It has long range, it’s slightly larger than the A330-200s which we fly now, so it provides for a bit of growth, and it’s more fuel-efficient, so it represents a hedge on fuel prices."
Airbus has only 34 contracts left outstanding for the A350-800 compared with almost 600 for the A350-900. Hawaiian is one of just four customers left holding those contracts. The others are Aeroflot, lessor Awas Aviation Capital Ltd. and Korean carrier Asiana Airlines.
The A350-800 will seat 276 passengers in two classes and offer a range of 8,250 nautical miles. The A330-200, seating 246, can fly as far as 7,200 nautical miles.
Andrea Rothman, Bloomberg News