Why Hawaiian Airlines Dropped Its Airbus A330-800 Order

At one time, Hawaiian Airlines had on order six Airbus A330-800neo aircraft. But then, at the last minute, the carrier canceled its order and swapped to ten Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Why did Airbus lose the order? Let’s explore.

The A330neo in Hawaiian livery. Photo: Airbus

Why the Airbus A330-800neo?

The first question we need to ask is why Hawaiian was interested in the A330neo (the smaller version of the much more popular A330-900neo) in the first place.

One of the main reasons is that the A330-800neo is the natural replacement aircraft for Hawaiian’s fleet of A330-200s. The carrier initially ordered the mythical A350-800, but when Airbus folded that design into the A330 series, Hawaiian’s order got carried along for the ride.

Plus, the aircraft is well suited to island airports with short runways (why it is perfect for Air Greenland). Lastly, Hawaiian Airlines already upgraded its Boeing 767-300 fleet with Airbus A321neos; thus, another order with the same plane manufacturer was a simple extension.

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Hawaiian Airlines’ A321neo
A Hawaiian Airbus A321neo. Photo: Airbus

Enter Boeing

What happened next took place over only one week back in March 2018. Peter Ingram took over as president and CEO from the retiring Mark Dunkerley, and one of the first moves he made was to review the widebody order.

The new CEO would order 10 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners worth up to $US2.82 billion at list prices. Included in the deal would be an option for a further 10 Dreamliners.

“Both airplanes are terrific, and both had pros and cons,” Ingram told Business Insider in an interview at the time. “Ultimately, we came to a conclusion after a disciplined and detailed process that the 787-9 is the right airplane for us.”

Hawaiian Airlines Dreamliner
Hawaiian will take 10 787’s, and have options for ten more. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines

Why did Hawaiian switch aircraft?

There are several reasons why Hawaiian left its Airbus commitment.

According to Hawaiian itself, the lack of orders for the A330-800neo gave it concern about the popularity of the aircraft. The airline questioned whether Airbus was committed to the design and if there would be any resale value. Plus, you can imagine how hard spare parts would be to find.

“Unfortunately, the A330-800 has not proved to be as popular in the marketplace,” Ingram said to Business Insider.

“But for us, it doesn’t make sense to remain committed to an airplane that had the risk of not being sufficiently accepted in the marketplace in the future. So the lack of orders for the A330-800 opened us up to having a competition to look at the widebody platform for us going into the decade.”

Boeing 787
Initially, the first 787 was expected at Hawaiian next year. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines

Another possibility was that the Boeing 787-9 was a superior aircraft for Hawaiian. The 787-9 can fly further on less fuel, and would ultimately provide better economics for the airline.

But the suspected real deal closer was the price. As the 787-9 was already in production (with hundreds flying already), Boeing could cut the price by well over 50% and offer Hawaiian a deal it couldn’t refuse. The airline likely got ten 787s for the cost of six A330neos. Not a bad swap. Perhaps even Boeing offered the deal to try and one-up Airbus, although we can never know for sure.

In the end, Hawaiian decided to take a different direction when it comes to its long-haul aircraft program, and the A330-800neo suffered yet another setback. As for the Boeing 787s themselves, Hawaiian has since delayed its delivery. 

What do you think? Are you excited to fly onboard the new Hawaiian 787? Let us know in the comments.