$4.4 BILLION

That is what Hawaiian Airlines will pay Airbus for a fleet of planes that will extend the range of the local carrier's nonstop flights

STORY SUMMARY »

Hawaiian Airlines, taking a major step toward solidifying its future, has signed deals to purchase up to 24 new wide-body aircraft that will give the airline the capability to fly nonstop from Hawaii to Asia, Australasia, the Americas and Europe.

The deal for the Airbus A330 and A350 jets, worth up to $4.4 billion, represents the largest single investment in Hawaiian's 78-year history and will result in the complete overhaul of Hawaiian's long-haul fleet, which now consists of 18 Boeing 767-300s.

Mark Dunkerley, president and chief executive of Hawaiian, said it is likely that Hawaiian could one day be looking at Singapore, London and Paris as future nonstop destinations.

The agreements call for Hawaiian to acquire six 305-seat A330-200s and six 322-seat A350XWB-800s. Hawaiian also has purchase rights to buy an additional six of each aircraft. The first A330-200 is due to be delivered to Hawaiian in 2012, with the first A350XWB-800 scheduled for delivery in 2017.

Airbus A350XWB-800

» Aircraft : Six extra-wide-body planes, with purchase rights for an additional six

» Seats : 322

» Range : 7,935 miles

» Delivery date : 2017

» Potential destinations : Nonstop between Hawaii and Asia, Australia, the Americas and Europe

FULL STORY »

Hawaiian Airlines, making the largest single investment in its 78-year history, has signed agreements worth as much as $4.4 billion to purchase up to 24 new long-range aircraft that will give the airline the capability to fly nonstop from Hawaii to Asia, Australasia, the Americas and Europe.

The agreements announced yesterday call for Hawaiian to acquire six wide-body Airbus A330-200s that will seat 305 passengers and have a range of 6,325 miles, and six extra-wide-body Airbus A350XWB-800s that will seat 322 passengers and have a range of 7,935 miles. Hawaiian also has purchase rights to acquire an additional six aircraft of each type.

The new planes, made by European aircraft manufacturer Airbus SAS with engines from Rolls-Royce Group PLC, will gradually replace Hawaiian's existing long-range fleet of 18 Boeing 767-300s, which have a seating capacity ranging from 252 to 264 passengers and have an average age of 12 years.

Hawaiian will continue to operate 11 Boeing 717-200s -- with a seating capacity of 123 passengers -- for interisland flights. The 717s have an average age of six years.

"These agreements with Airbus and Rolls-Royce are important steps in a long-range fleet plan that provides not only for fleet renewal, but also for growth in our business," said Mark Dunkerley, president and chief executive of Hawaiian. "We are building flexibility into the plan with some aircraft purchased, some to be leased and having options for others, which will allow us to scale the fleet according to our needs and opportunities over the next two decades."

Stock analyst Nick Capuano, who covers the airline for Los Angeles-based Imperial Capital LLC, said the deal opens up a new world for Hawaiian.

"It certainly looks like a vote of confidence in their capability of addressing the trans-Pac market," Capuano said. "Up until now they were locked into the West Coast market. They haven't been able to go directly into other markets because they don't have a feeder system. So the longer-range aircraft will certainly expand their capacity and allow them to cherry-pick other markets not available to them now."

Hawaiian said it expects to sign definitive purchase agreements in early 2008 following the completion of documentation.

The first new A330-200 is due to be delivered to Hawaiian in 2012, with the first A350XWB-800 scheduled for delivery in 2017. In the meantime, Hawaiian's agreements allow it to lease additional A330 aircraft for introduction into its fleet as early as 2009.

Hawaiian's existing 767s, which have a range of 5,750 miles, currently serve nine West Coast cities, as well as Sydney; Papeete, Tahiti; and the U.S. territory of Pago Pago, American Samoa. Hawaiian is scheduled to begin service to Manila in March.

Even though the 767s are capable of reaching the U.S. East Coast and eastern Asia, Dunkerley said some days there is a "payload penalty" due to weather that does not allow Hawaiian to carry a full load of passengers.

Dunkerley said the extra range of the A330 will offer Hawaiian a comprehensive list of all cities in North America and eastern Asia without having to worry about weather constraints.

"And once you talk about the A350, you bring a whole new range of cities into the mix that could include cities in Europe and cities far deeper in Asia," Dunkerley said.

"You're talking about airplanes in the A350 that will be delivered more than 10 years from now, so it's not like we've decided which cities. But, clearly, we'd be looking at Singapore, and, in terms of Europe, we could be looking at Europe's biggest cities, London or Paris."

Dunkerley said the airline, which owns seven of its 767s and leases 11 others, will pay for the new aircraft with the profits it makes from its operations.

"This is a long-term fleet plan, so it really covers the next 15 years, and we will still operate 767s for most of that next 15-year period," he said.

Dunkerley said the extra aircraft and new markets will create jobs at Hawaiian, which currently has a work force of 3,438.

Capt. Eric Sampson, chairman of the Hawaiian Airlines unit of the Air Lines Pilots Association, called the fleet-plan announcement "a positive development for the airline" but cautioned that the new airplanes still exist only on paper.

"We're encouraged that our management has taken the long-term view in planning for the acquisition of new aircraft and entering new markets," said Sampson, whose union is currently in contract negotiations with management. "We hope that management remembers the employees who gave back millions in concessions (during Hawaiian's bankruptcy) to make this day possible. Management has told us that any improvements in our existing contract must be cost-neutral. If Hawaiian has enough funds to buy more than a dozen new airplanes, can't they also afford to pay their pilots a decent wage and fully fund their retirement plan?"

Dunkerley said Hawaiian decided to go with two different types of aircraft because of availability.

"The new-generation airplanes, which on the Boeing side is the 787 and on the Airbus side is the A350 -- both of them are largely unavailable for the next decade or so," Dunkerley said. "So one of the questions was did we want to continue to operate our existing aircraft fleet for 10 years until the new generation aircraft becomes available. When we looked at the numbers, we decided we were better off making the full step in two half-steps."

Spreading their wings

Hawaiian Airlines is acquiring 24 new long-range, wide-body aircraft from Airbus SAS that have a total list-price value of $4.4 billion.

Airbus A330-200

» Aircraft: Six wide-body planes, with purchase rights for an additional six

» Seats: 305

» Range: 6,325 miles

» Delivery date : 2012

» Potential destinations: Nonstop between Hawaii and North America or eastern Asia

Hawaiian Airlines' current long-haul fleet

Boeing 767-300 ERs and 767-300EMs

» Aircraft: 18 existing planes to be either returned when their leases expire or retired

» Seats: 252 to 264

» Range: 5,750 miles

» Current routes: Nine West Coast cities, plus Sydney; Papeete, Tahiti; Pago Pago, American Samoa; and Manila (beginning in March)


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