Hawaiian Airlines chief executive Mark Dunkerley says he is open to working more closely with Virgin Australia to grow the local market for travel to Hawaii.
In addition to a frequent flyer agreement between the two carriers, Virgin has placed its VA airline code on Hawaiian’s services out of Sydney and Brisbane to Honolulu and the two carriers offer access to points beyond their respective gateways.
Dunkerley says Virgin provided feed to its Australian services and both airlines have been quite effective at selling connecting itineraries through an interline agreement.
“I think we are always interested in working more closely with Virgin Australia,” Dunkerley said in an interview on Thursday on the sidelines of the CAPA Australia Pacific aviation summit in Sydney.
“We have a good relationship with them and we do talk to them periodically.”
Dunkerley said Virgin and Hawaiian had worked on ensuring plenty of connecting schedules – with flights to other parts of Australia from Sydney and Brisbane as well as flights from Honolulu to other parts of Hawaii by offering attractive interline rates.
And while the feed from Virgin’s domestic network “certainly doesn’t represent the majority of the people on the airplane,” the Australian carrier made a “tremendously important contribution”.
Flying a mixture of Boeing 767-300ER and Airbus A330-200 aircraft, Hawaiian recently celebrated 10 years of flying to Australia. It competes with Qantas and Jetstar on the Sydney-Honolulu route and Air New Zealand on Auckland-Honolulu. Hawaiian is the only carrier currently flying between Brisbane and Honolulu (Jetstar has announced plans to enter that route from December), while Jetstar has a monopoly on the Melbourne-Honolulu route.
Hawaiian recently swapped its order for six Airbus A350-800 aircraft for six A330-800neo (new engine option) aircraft. As part of the renegotiated order, Hawaiian is now due to take delivery of the first A330neo in 2019, compared with 2017 for the A350. While the terms of the deal were not disclosed, Hawaiian said in July the new deal would lower the airline’s capital commitments by $US500 million between now and the end of 2018.
Dunkerley said the launch of the A330neo gave the airline an opportunity to look at its fleet requirements “with a blank sheet of paper all over again”, given the A350 order was placed in 2007.
“This wasn’t a case of us calling them, it was a case of them calling us,” he said.
When all factors were considered, and after negotiations with Airbus that Dunkerley described as intense, it was decided to change the order.
“Little changes in the numbers have big consequences,” said Dunkerley.
“There was lots of late nights losing sleep and burning candles at both ends to try and get the right deal.”
Dunkerley said the A330neo had about two-thirds the fuel efficiency gains of the A350, compared with similar current generation aircraft, and the capability to do most of the things the A350 would have done in Hawaiian colours.