Hawaiian Airlines has taken delivery of its first Airbus A321neo, becoming the seventh operator of the larger-capacity, extended-range narrowbody.
The carrier’s first A321neo N202HA, was officially welcomed at Honolulu International Airport on November 16.
The aircraft has been named “Maile”, a vine native to Hawaii and traditionally used for lei making and celebrations. A silver maile lei is also featured on the fuselage.
Hawaiian plans to utilise the A321neo primarily on routes between Hawaii and the US west coast. The airline has configured the aircraft with 189 seats comprising 16 in its premium cabin, 45 “extra comfort” premium economy seats and 128 in economy.
It has ordered 18 A321neos, with 16 on firm order and two via leases. First delivery was originally scheduled for the middle of calendar 2017 and due to run until 2020.
However, issues with the A32neo family of aircraft’s Pratt & Whitney engines resulted in deliveries being delayed and left Hawaiian in the same position as scores of other carriers around the world in having to readjust their network planning in response.
The aircraft was due to enter revenue service on January 8 2018, with Kahului-Oakland the inaugural route, Hawaiian said, with Kahului-Oakland A321 services due to launch on January 18.
“Our new A321neos are ideal for our West Coast to Hawaii markets,” Hawaiian chief executive Mark Dunkerley said in a statement.
“They will bring Hawaiian’s unique blend of Hawaiian hospitality and industry leading operational performance to more travellers than ever.”
While the A321neo narrowbodies were unlikely to ever fly to Australia from Hawaiian’s Honolulu hub, their entry into service will free up Airbus A330-200 widebodies that currently operate between Hawaii and the US mainland.
That could enable more international long-haul services to the Pacific.
Currently, Hawaiian serves Sydney daily, competing with Qantas and Jetstar on the route. Meanwhile, it is the only airline offering nonstop flights between Brisbane and Honolulu, which it operates four times a week. (Jetstar dropped Brisbane-Honolulu in 2016.) Hawaiian also flies Honolulu-Auckland alongside Air New Zealand.
While Melbourne has long been touted as Hawaiian’s next destination in this part of the world, Dunklerley told Australian Aviation in June any potential expansion into Australia depended on availability of aircraft and weighing up where to best deploy those assets in other markets around the Pacific.
“At the moment we don’t have access to additional widebody aircraft pending the arrival of the A321neos,” Dunkerley said at the time.
“I think once the A321neos do arrive we will have some extra widebody capacity to deploy around the Pacific Rim and additional capacity to Australia will be on the list of potential uses.”
The Airbus website shows 1,481 orders for the A321neo as of October 31 2017, with 13 aircraft delivered. Hawaiian joins All Nippon Airways, Avianca, Novair, SriLankan, Virgin America and WOW Air as operators of the type.
The A321neo is listed as having a range of 4,000nm when carrying 206 passengers in a typical two-class configuration.
In other Hawaiian news, the airline has announced current chief commercial officer Peter Ingram will take over from Dunkerley as chief executive on March 1 2018.
Dunkerley, who has been chief executive since 2002 and overseen the expansion of the airline into new markets particularly across the Pacific, said the decision to retire was a difficult one.
“This has been a heart-wrenching decision,” said Dunkerley.
“I am so proud to be associated with this company and our employees. Hawaiian Airlines is truly in a class of its own, distinguished by all the employees I am honored to call my colleagues.
“At the same time, I am excited by the new opportunities ahead of me and I am confident that Peter Ingram and the team will lead the company to further success.”