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Hawaiian Air considers Airbus jets for flights to Europe

  • BRUCE ASATO / 2010

    Mark Dunkerley, chief executive officer of Hawaiian Airlines, hopes to expand service to Europe and is exploring new routes to North America and East Asia.

Hawaiian Airlines is waiting to see whether six A330neo jetliners ordered from Airbus will enable it to begin service to Europe. The U.S. carrier also is looking at adding more routes to China and the eastern U.S., and examining whether it should consider acquiring the A380 superjumbo, according to its chief executive officer.

Flights to London are a goal but may be at the limit of what’s attainable after the carrier swapped its order for Airbus Group SE A350-800 jets to the shorter-range A330neo in 2014, Hawaiian Holdings Inc. CEO Mark Dunkerley said in an interview Wednesday.

“We certainly hope the answer is yes, but we don’t have all the information we need,” he said. “It’s going to depend on what our final seating configuration is and therefore the weight of the Neo and its exact performance and statistics when it’s actually built.”

The Honolulu-based carrier is studying about a half-dozen new long-distance routes to destinations in North America and East Asia, Dunkerley said at the Aviation Club in London. More East Coast destinations in addition to New York are a possibility, as are cities in Canada. China, where the airline serves only Beijing, is “the really exciting prospect,” he said.

Southeast Asia is beyond the range of Hawaiian’s 23 current-generation A330s and nine Boeing Co. 767s, though more Australian flights would be an option, according to the CEO. The Briton took over as chief in 2005 when the company was in bankruptcy protection.

Dunkerley, 52, said the airline is looking seriously at whether the Airbus A380 might have a role to play within its network, especially on routes such as those from Honolulu to Los Angeles and Tokyo, which it serves with smaller wide-body planes six times and three times daily, respectively.

The argument for using the superjumbo, which might be available on attractive terms either from Airbus or, soon, on the secondhand market, isn’t conclusive, and Hawaiian needs convincing of the business case, Dunkerley said.

Hawaiian will start taking delivery of 16 A321neo narrow-body jets next year and will use them on 2,600-mile trips to the U.S. West Coast, the core of its operations. That will enable the carrier to retire three of its 767s and switch more A330s to East Asian routes while still adding capacity, he said.

The carrier is also obtaining more Boeing 717s, used for intensive interisland flying, taking the fleet from 18 planes to 20, at least. The A330-800neos are due for delivery between 2019 and 2021, and the plan for them hasn’t yet been determined, the CEO said.

Following years of consolidation in the U.S. airline industry, Hawaiian has emerged as one of the biggest independent carriers, and Dunkerley said he’d have to ”do right by our stakeholders” and seriously consider any takeover approach that may come.

The company has a market value of $2.46 billion, following an 83 percent surge in its share price over the past 12 months, the biggest gain among the 11 members of the Bloomberg U.S. Airlines Index.

“If at some point an offer from somebody else comes on the table, that will have to compete with what our future looks like as a stand-alone,” he said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for any management team ever to say, ‘No, we’re not prepared to consider an offer.’ Down the road, who knows?”

Hawaiian’s focus on a single long-distance leisure market sets it apart from other top U.S. carriers, so it isn’t clear whether larger independents such as JetBlue Airways Corp. — which earlier this year lost out to Alaska Air Group Inc. in a contest to buy Virgin America Inc. — would consider it a good fit, he said.

“What I don’t know and can’t answer is whether other airlines value that which we uniquely bring,” he said.

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  • Is London still a desirable destination given its exit from the EU? Sure its cheaper for those from the US to visit but how many from London will actually spend more to visit HI? Also the future of the A380 is up in the air. If Boeing gives Hawaiian a good deal, they should pursue the 747. Is HNL even equipped for the A380? Its already equipped for the 747.

    • Boeing had it right in not building a competing jet to the Airbus A380. Airlines want lower maintenance/fuel costs, longer distance. Hawaiian would do well to also consider the 787-9 Dreamliner has a range of 7,635 NM, Boeing 777-300ER can fly about 7,350 nautical miles. Same for the The A330-800 neos.

      Yes the A380 has a longer range at 8,500 nautical miles, but has higher maintenance costs compared to the other two jets. HNL International airport is not equipped to handle it, would cost big bucks for the upgrade.

      747-8 has a range of 8,000 nautical miles, about $60 million less than the A380.

      Stick with the dual engine planes, they will work well.

    • It might be able to in the future. Hawaiian is building, through the state, a new terminal where the current commuter terminal sits. The overall goal is to consolidate all their operations into the same area. So they could have jet ways to accommodate an AIRBUS 380. They hosted one here about 2 years ago, parked it at gate 30 and invited Hawaiian employees and State airport officials to visit it. It is big.

      • Too big. I’ve flown aboard the Airbus 380’s a few times. On long business class trips overseas, they are truly special planes. But I flew out from SFO and landed in Paris. I returned through LAX. Paris was able to manage the incredible volume instantaneously into their airport by several A380’s all at once. But my return as an American landing in LAX with 2 other A380’s landing at the same time, was overwhelming. In the “returning US Citizen” line, relatively short and rapidly processed by immigration officials, it still took 2 hours to get through entry. The line for foreign arrivals, OMG, it must have taken them all day?!?! I would beg Hawaiian Airlines to stay away from these double decker planes with their double capacity of bodies. Simply put, our airport cannot manage the volume of people that come through customs and immigration today, given the resources and structure of the security area. THAT process is controlled by the feds in a structure built and maintain by the state. Hawaiian’s customers are subjected to the poor attitude and performance of gov’t employees, of which Hawaiian Airlines has no control over. That experience is the worst way to enter your “leisure” destination and yet…it is and will always be, what it is.

      • They are Hawaiian in name only. They want all these new routes, yet can’t even find the means to provide any mainland or Japan flights from Kona, Hilo, or Lihue. Those cities are serviced by United, American, Alaska, Delta, but Hawaiian is noticeably absent, requiring locals and tourists to take connecting flights at a higher cost to Honolulu or Kahului. They’ve even moved their call center to the Philippines. No more friendly Hawaiian voices to greet you on the phone. How about showing some allegiance to the entire State of Hawaii, Mr. Dunkerley?????

        • Airbus 321’s are going to the outside Islands opening west coast markets, they just needed the right airplane. CHACHA555 is right, single aisle. Reason they don’t have international market on the outside Islands….state has to fix the airports so Customs Boarder Protection(CBP) can work there. State just fixed Kona so the Federal government can open a station there that meets Federal standards. Look at all the money the state is spending on Maui Airport.

        • The last time I checked employees in North America would love to be able to build these planes. Hawaiian in name only might be correct.

      • Large price increases in tics, terrible call center, customer service, no flexibility even for highest level fliers….it’s like that old Saturday night live one about the phone company
        “We’re the phone company and we don’t care because we don’t have to”
        Competition, real competition, will bring a customer friendly, pricing, to at least reasonable levels

        Nice staff, lousy management

  • >>>”Dunkerley said he’d have to ”do right by our stakeholders” and seriously consider any takeover approach that may come.”

    Now that’s an interesting statement. Reading between the lines, one wonders if Hawaiian is raising a trail balloon to see if there’s any interest out there.

  • “Hawaiian will start taking delivery of 16 A321neo narrow-body jets next year and will use them on 2,600-mile trips to the U.S. West Coast, the core of its operations. That will enable the carrier to retire three of its 767s and switch more A330s to East Asian routes while still adding capacity, he said.”

    Great, so those of us domestic flyers get the lame single-aisle planes, while the good ones go to the Asian routes. Local people get the shaft again.

  • Before buying new aircraft, expanding and/or creating new international routes, take care of your pilots first. As profitable as Hawaiian has been, their pilots are the lowest paid in comparison to other airlines, and have been for some time. Are you listening, Mr. Dunkerley??

  • Before opening new routes to Europe and Asia, first Mark Dunkerley should settle with the pilots. I will not fly with an airline that doesn’t treat its pilots fairly and listen to them. I stopped flying with Hawaiian when the pilots started picketing at airports.

    • It’s all about greed. When the airline was going through tough times, the pilots helped significantly. (again and again) Now, Mr. D has some memory loss.

    • First class only, all other fly like sardine in a can, one on top another. Bottom line counts, inconveinces for the passengers that provide most of the revenue to keep the airline afloat be dammed. Am glad my flying days are over.

  • Interesting that this announcement comes during contract talks with the Hawaiian pilots. It sounds like the age old management practice of offering a carrot to the junior pilots. If you give up your quest for a pay raise, we will get more and better aircraft, you will all get upgraded to Captain. The company will expand and you will all get a better schedules.Right out of the airline owners handbook.

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