Hawaiian’s Boeing 717s will fly for at least five more years. Then what?

Feb 1, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Hawaiian Airlines‘ Boeing 717s will keep flying through at least 2025.

Hawaiian operates 20 of the Boeings, which represent the backbone of the carrier’s inter-island fleet, CEO Peter Ingram said Thursday during the airline’s quarterly earnings call.

“There is no plane flying today that is better suited for the unique missions we fly in the Neighbor Island network than the 717 based on its size, economics and durability,” he said.

But, he suggested, the airline may begin to phase out those aircraft in about five years.

Sign up for the free daily TPG newsletter for more airline news.

While Hawaiian owns 15 of its 717s outright, five are leased. The airline extended those leases into 2025 at at the end of 2019.

“By extending our 717 leases to the middle of the decade, we are indicating that we are not planning to replace this fleet in the next five years,” Ingram said. It’s the first time the airline has publicly hinted that the end of its 717 era may be in sight.

When Hawaiian does retire those Boeings, industry watchers said the airline will likely replace it with the Airbus A220, though the Embraer E-Jet E2 is also an option.

“Most of their new aircraft are Airbus,” said Ahmed Abdelghany, associate dean for research at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s David B. O’Maley College of Business. Although Hawaiian has ordered a few Boeing 787s for long-haul routes, Abdelghany said it’s likely they’ll continue favoring Airbus aircraft overall.

Airbus A220-100 (Image by Airbus)
(Image courtesy of Airbus)

“I don’t think they’re going to go to the Embraer, and for me, it looks like they’ll most likely go into the CSeries,” he said, referring to the original name of the A220. “Customers love it as well.”

Hawaiian’s 717s seat up to 128 passengers with a range of up to 2,370 miles. Both the A220-300 and E195-E2 can seat a comparable number of passengers but have added range, the former being able to fly up to 3,885 miles and the latter up to 2,990 miles.

Airlines often try to avoid paying for added range or seating capacity that they do not need when buying aircraft. Hawaiian will have to weigh its inter-island needs — high-cycle and short stage-length flying — versus what both Airbus and Embraer, whose commercial aircraft business will soon to be majority-owned by Boeing, offer.

Abdelghany acknowledged that the A220 has a longer range than is strictly necessary for short-haul inter-island flights, but added that the jet is still one of the best next-generation jets for those missions.

“We never find aircraft that fit routes 100 percent,” he said. “There are always some sacrifices.”

While the A220 has quickly become a favorite for short- and medium-haul routes among frequent flyers since entering service with Swiss International Air Lines in 2016, the E2 is quickly winning converts. Brazil’s Azul recently announced plans to accelerate its shift to the E2 from older E195-E1s.

Azul has cited both improved economics — the operating cost of the E2 is more than a quarter lower per seat than the E1 — and an improved customer experience, including larger overhead bins and wider windows, for its embrace of the E195-E2.

Contributing: Edward Russell, TPG

The first E195-E2 delivery to Azul. (Courtesy of Embraer)
The first E195-E2 delivery to Azul. (Courtesy of Embraer)

Featured photo courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.