The current crisis has taken a massive toll on Hawaiian Airlines. However, that has led to some new opportunities for the carrier. CEO Peter Ingram commented on the airline’s expansion to the mainland with new long-haul routes to Austin and Orlando. So far, those routes have been doing fine, and bookings have tracked in line with the system average.
Hawaiian Airlines’ CEO speaks on new routes
At a CAPA Live event, Mr. Ingram categorized its new routes as being in different pools, so to speak. The first group are routes between California and Hawaii. The new routes here include Ontario to Honolulu and Long Beach to Maui. Mr. Ingram categorized them as the following:
“Those are medium-haul West Coast routes in the core of our Western geography where we’re a very well known brand. We have a lot of people who we fly from Long Beach to Honolulu already, so we can do some of the marketing, and promotion, and awareness for those new routes, using our own database of guests, and people here in Hawaii who travel to those locations”
This first batch of California routes are more “safe” routes for Hawaiian. Long Beach to Maui will fly daily, while Ontario to Honolulu is scheduled to fly five times per week. Hawaiian Airlines has a sizable presence in California. The carrier flies nonstop from not just Honolulu but even other cities in Hawaii, like Kahului, to points like Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose.
Most of these routes are operated with Airbus A321neo jets. However, the Airbus A330 serves some higher-demand points, such as Honolulu to Los Angeles.
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What about Austin and Orlando?
The next batch of routes are the risk-taking long-haul routes to Austin and Orlando:
“These are areas where we don’t have a flying presence at all. This is our first flights to Texas or Florida. In the case of Orlando, some of the traffic base for that market is Hawaii origination so certainly we know that group of guests and we can work on awareness there but it really does require us for, whether it’s Orlando origination, or even Tampa because that’s a fairly short drive, and then the case of Austin, you know, Austin and San Antonio, we’ve got to go and do some awareness campaigning make sure people know that we’re there.”
Orlando is well-known as a vacation destination thanks to Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando theme park. So, there is some demand Hawaiian can tap into going from Hawaii to Orlando, but that is not enough to sustain these flights, so the airline also needs to ensure it can get ex-Florida passengers.
Austin is going to be mainly about flying people from Texas to Hawaii. Austin is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. The US Census Bureau estimates Austin to have a population of just under 980,000 people. For reference, Hawaii is estimated to have a population of around 1.4 million people.
The Census Bureau estimates the Austin metro area to be home to over 2.2 million people. Add that with the estimated 2.5 million population of the San Antonio metro area, which is not a far drive from Austin, Hawaiian sees the potential to offer over 4.7 million people a nonstop option to Hawaii.
This area continues to grow, and many airlines are tapping into the growing population and launching new routes out of Austin, such as Alaska Airlines.
Orlando has an estimated metro area population of over 2.6 million people, while Tampa clocks in at just under 3.2 million people, which means Hawaiian can offer flights to roughly 5.8 million people. These numbers are pretty good from a theoretical standpoint.
High population areas do not always equal instant successes
Factoring in connections, the airline will have plenty of competition here, which is why the carrier is playing it a little safe. Hawaiian is only offering Orlando and Austin flights twice a week. Airlines are in a fierce battle for leisure passengers, so Hawaiian is betting on its premium leisure orientation to get a slight revenue premium on the few nonstop flights a week it will offer from Austin and Orlando to Honolulu.
For example, Hawaiian Airlines once flew between Honolulu and Beijing. However, the airline announced it was suspending Beijing flights in 2018. The airline noted it wanted to return to China eventually, but the time just was not right for the airline then.
Just as Beijing was a risk, these new flights are also a risk, though it is a calculated one. However, it appears that these routes are doing pretty well to start, per Mr. Ingram:
“They’re booking fine right now. They’re generally in line with our booking system average for our existing routes, so we think we’ve done a good job of creating some of the awareness.”
So, it seems the airline has some winners here, and hopefully, the routes work in the long-term, and this is not just a release of some steam from pent-up demand that will fly elsewhere once more borders reopen.
Do you think Hawaiian’s routes to Austin and Orlando will be winners? Let us know in the comments!