Looking Ahead: Could Hawaiian Airlines Launch Direct 787 Flights To London?

Hawaiian Airlines was potentially poised to open a lucrative new route direct to London with its future fleet of Boeing 787s. But with today’s market conditions and the carrier delaying 787 deliveries on May 5th, is this plan even feasible?

Hawaiian Airlines
Could Hawaiian launch flights to London with its 787 Dreamliners? Photo: Hawaiian Airlines

What are the details?

Hawaiian Airlines entered talks with Boeing on May 5th to defer the deliveries of its new Boeing 787 fleet beyond 2021. The deferral means that earlier speculation of direct services between the Hawaiian island chain and London, as well as Western Australia, may not come to pass anytime soon. Even if the carrier had the Boeing 787 aircraft delivered, there would be little demand to fly to Hawaiian in the current climate.

Back in 2018, Hawaiian Airlines indicated to PerthNow that it could operate direct services to London, England, and Perth, Australia, with its Boeing 787 aircraft due in 2021.

“While delivery is three years away and we have not yet examined in detail the different markets, the Boeing 787 gives us many interesting possibilities such as London and Perth,” said Peter Ingram, CEO of Hawaiian Airlines.

Currently, the carrier only operates across the pan-Pacific region, with some limited other destinations such as New York. The airline focuses on bringing tourist travelers to the islands from rich neighboring countries and mainland USA.

Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines route map (routes in purple) with codeshare partners. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines

How would direct flights from London work for Hawaiian Airlines?

The plan proposed a few years ago would see Hawaiian operate one or more of its future ten Boeing 787-9s between Honolulu and a London Airport.

Which London airport would be dependant on various deals, but likely London Gatwick over London Heathrow as its rivals dominate the latter. Additionally, recent news that some airlines are leaving Gatwick hints that it might be favorable as there could be cheap slots available.

The Boeing 787-9 was acquired to replace older Airbus A330-200s in the fleet, have a better range (7,530 nautical miles vs. 7,262 nautical miles), and the 787-9s will likely carry more passengers although Hawaiian has not released its configuration. The A330-200s currently seat 278 passengers.

These specifications make it ideal for tackling a Honolulu to London route (6,282 nautical miles). While the A330-200 could perform this sector, the additional seats on the Boeing 787-9 would make it more profitable (not to mention the advantages of the newer aircraft type).

Hawaiian Airlines
The 787-9 is an excellent aircraft for Hawaiian. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines

“The Dreamliner combines excellent comfort for our guests with fantastic operational performance and will allow us to continue modernizing our fleet into the next decade,” said Mr Ingram, in a media statement.It has more seating capacity than Hawaiian’s current wide-body fleet, which will allow us to further build upon our successful growth in Asia.”

Direct routes to Hawaii from London would be popular for tourists, who commonly have to connect through Seattle, Dallas or Los Angeles on rival carriers. A direct link would be quicker and, if anything like Qantas’ London to Perth route, could have an impressive load factor.

Beyond London and Perth, the aircraft could also open up a few other exciting destinations. Tourist routes to Montreal, Madrid, Paris, Frankfurt are possible as well as even routes to Dubai or Istanbul (major transfer hubs for travelers).

The impressive range of the Boeing 787-9 could open up new destinations for the carrier. Photo: GCMaps

Will this route happen?

Unfortunately, due to the current aviation crisis reducing 95% of business for the carrier, Hawaiian has had to change tracks and scale back its long-haul European ambitions.

“With such profound changes to our business, our focus has pivoted to sustaining a limited operation, enhancing liquidity, preserving cash and preparing for a new reality as we begin to emerge from the pandemic in the weeks ahead,” said Mr Ingram in a statement on May 5th.

An existing Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330-200. Photo: Getty Images

The carrier has asked Boeing to defer deliveries of its Boeing 787 aircraft beyond the first half of 2021 in addition to other measures. The plane is still on order, and the airline sees them as the future of its long haul fleet, but just not right now.

Experts quoted by Yahoo Finance have said that the airline should be able to weather the coronavirus storm thanks to low-debts and cash reserves ($815 million with the carrier seeking an additional $270 million in credit borrowed against aircraft). The favorable financial position will leave the airline in a strong position to expand once passenger numbers return. Still, a direct flight between London and the islands may not be on the table until 2022 at least.

What do you think of this? Would you fly from London to Hawaii? Let us know in the comments.