Hawaiian Airlines could fill Midwestern ‘void’ with Dreamliners

Hawaiian Airlines could land somewhere in the Midwest with the arrival of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the next few years.

“We have a pretty big void in the network between Phoenix and Las Vegas, and Boston and New York,” Brent Overbeek, vice-president of revenue management and network planning at the Honolulu-based carrier, said at the World Routes conference in Adelaide, Australia, on Sunday. “We could look to fill in there.”

Overbeek was responding to questions on where Hawaiian is looking to fly the 10 787-9s that it has on order. The aircraft will complement its fleet of Airbus A330-200s on long-haul routes.

The airline is due to take delivery of its first Dreamliner in 2021, its latest fleet plan shows.

Related: Hawaiian Unveils New 787 Business Class

Hawaiian has a broad network to the U.S. West Coast, including interior cities Las Vegas (LAS) and Phoenix (PHX). It also serves Boston (BOS) and New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) on the East Coast, both hubs for its codeshare partner JetBlue Airways.

But the Midwest has long been a gap in the airline’s map. Numerous investor presentations over the past several years have acknowledged this gap, which includes multiple large metropolitan areas like Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth. However, Hawaiian has looked elsewhere for growth as competitors offer greater depth in the region and easy one-stop connections to Hawaii over existing hubs.

Competition for Hawaii-bound Midwestern travelers has only ratcheted up with Southwest Airlines this year. While connections were initially difficult when the the Dallas-based discounter began flights in March the carrier is rapidly expanding flights to the islands with new routes from Sacramento (SMF) and to Kona (KOA) and Lihue (LIH) starting in January.

Related: Southwest’s ‘Second Wave’ of Hawaii Expansion Is Now Underway

The 787 could allow Hawaiian to shrink its Midwestern gap. The aircraft’s lower operating economics compared to current-generation wide-bodies, including the A330, has been credited with opening numerous new long-haul markets around the world. A recent example is British Airways’ new seasonal summer flights to Charleston (CHS) in South Carolina from London Heathrow (LHR) that began in April.

Hawaiian has several years to decide where to deploy its Dreamliners. Overbeek said Hawaiian is focused on Japan over the next year when it hopes to implement a planned joint venture with Japan Airlines (JAL). The immunized partnership would allow the carriers to act as essentially one, jointly coordinating schedules and fares among other things, between Japan and Hawaii.

Hawaiian will begin a new flight to Tokyo Haneda (HND) from Honolulu with an A330 in March. The frequency will be timed to provide connections to JAL’s domestic flights from the close-in Tokyo airport.

Featured image by Alberto Riva/TPG.

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