Airbus Wingtips Luring $2.8 Billion Order From Hawaiian

Airbus SAS won a tentative $2.8 billion order from Hawaiian Airlines for A321neos that can fly from the islands to the western U.S. coast, dislodging Boeing Co. as the carrier’s only supplier for single-aisle jets.

Completing the order depends on reaching an agreement with pilots and flight attendants for operation of the new aircraft type, Honolulu-based Hawaiian Holdings Inc. said in a statement today. The catalog value for the order includes 16 jetliners from 2017 to 2020 and rights to purchase as many as nine more.

Airbus’s win underscores the advantage gained by offering wingtips, which it calls “sharklets,” to boost the flight range of single-aisle jets. The 8-foot-high tips add roughly 100 nautical miles (115 miles) to current models. The neos, which offer newer engines and include wingtips as a standard feature, can fly an additional 450 nautical miles.

The planes “promise total operating costs that are competitive with, and in some cases slightly below, those of existing wide-body aircraft,” Hawaiian Chief Executive Officer Mark Dunkerley said in a telephone interview today. “Plus they allow the flexibility to enter into some markets which are slightly too small to support the wide-body airplanes that we fly today.”

The A321neo, seating 190 passengers and covering a range of 3,650 nautical miles, will complement the twin-aisle planes that Hawaiian already flies between the islands and the West Coast, the airline said. Potential new routes with the Airbus planes may include flights to Maui and Kona from the California cities of Sacramento and San Diego, markets where demand isn’t strong enough to justify the larger aircraft, Dunkerley said.

Airbus Shift

Hawaiian has gradually increased the proportion of its fleet comprised of Airbus models. It now operates 25 wide-body aircraft including Airbus A330-200 aircraft, seating 294 passengers each, and Boeing 767-300ER aircraft, seating 264. Its 18 narrow-body planes are all 123-seat Boeing 717-200 aircraft used for flights between Hawaii’s islands.

Hawaiian plans to continue using the 717s for those routes, said Ann Botticelli, a spokeswoman.

“The Boeing 717s are absolutely the best airplane built today for flying between the islands in the state of Hawaii,” Dunkerley said. “We’re very happy with them. We intend to keep operating them at least until the end of the decade. Beyond that, we’ll have to see what’s available.”

The shares of parent Hawaiian Holdings rose 1.3 percent to $7.20 at the close of New York trading, the highest since February 2011.

Outstanding orders at the airline include 13 A330s to be delivered through 2015, and six longer-range A350XWB-800 aircraft starting in 2017.

The existing fleet of 16 Boeing 767s will be phased out over the next 10 years, the airline said.

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