Mixed in with the news this week from Hawaiian airlines regarding its new premium cabin seats was some frank discussion about the A321neo deliveries the company has scheduled beginning in the 2017 timeframe. Speaking on the quarterly earnings call yesterday CEO Mark Dunkerley suggested that the new fleet will allow the carrier to grow in a more strategic manner into the mainland US market. Currently, as Dunkerley notes, the carrier has only one aircraft size available and it is a big one. The smaller A321neo will allow Hawaiian to offer multiple frequencies or routes between the islands and the mainland.
There’ll be markets where I think we’re going to putting seats up by going to two flights a day serving not just Honolulu but a Neighbor Island directly where today we only have a wide body going from Honolulu to that market. …Overall, we would have envisioned that capacity between the U.S. west coast and Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines will grow in the low single digit range, but having a smaller capacity haul will allow us to better match supply and demand and better able frankly to serve the Neighbor Islands than we do today.
Some of the neighbor islands are already seeing increased service, even on the A330s. Flights between Lihue and Los Angeles have been available in the past during peak holiday times but the route goes year round starting in 2016. Even at the 3x weekly schedule the new service represents an important increase in traveler options. With the A321neos joining the fleet there will be even more options available from smaller mainland markets to the neighbor islands.
There’s also the possibility that Hawaiian can double up on frequencies from Honolulu to the mainland on A321neo aircraft to provide a marginal increase in capacity and greater schedule flexibility for customers. The A330s could then be positioned into more international routes, though that depends on economic factors as much as anything else. Still, the range is sufficient that more Asia and Australia routes could be on the horizon if the A320neo gambit plays out.
The move does mean Hawaiian will lose its claim on the all-wide body service between the islands and the mainland. For some travelers that seems to be an important part of the trip-planning process. Still, odds are that the nonstop option will trump that. And Hawaiian is poised to grow that market share.
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