What Happened To Hawaiian Airlines’ Airbus A350-800 Order?

Back in 2008, Hawaiian Airlines placed an order for the Airbus A350-800, alongside the A330-200. The A330-200 now forms the largest part of its fleet. But it did not stick with the A350 and is now awaiting the Boeing 787. What then happened to this A350 order?

Hawaiian A330
Hawaiian operates the A330 but not the A350. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines

Ordering the A350

As part of its plan to replace its widebody fleet, Hawaiian Airlines placed an order in 2008 for 12 Airbus aircraft. Notably, this was the first Airbus order from Hawaiian Airlines. At the time, it operated an all Boeing fleet, with the widebody 767-300 and 767-300ER and narrowbody 717.

Hawaiian Airlines 767
Hawaiian Airlines operated the 767 until 2018. Photo: Hawaiian 43 via Wikimedia

The Airbus order was placed in February 2008, as a confirmation of a letter of intent announced in November 2007. It was for six A350-800 aircraft and six A330-200 aircraft. The original intention was for the A330-200s to be delivered from 2012 and the A350s from 2017.

The A350 orders switch to A330-800

When Airbus launched the A350, it had three variants – the A350-800, A350-900 and A350-1000. The A350-900 and A350-1000 we know well and are now being delivered. The A350-800 was planned to be the shortest variant (60.45 meters as opposed to 66.8 meters and 73.79 meters), with a reduced capacity of 276. The range was only slightly increased, to 15,270 kilometers instead of the A350-900s 15,000 kilometers.

More variants would offer airlines more choice to match their planned operations. The A350-800 would be more efficient to operate, but a much lower capacity for only slightly more range. It got orders (as many as 182, including Hawaiian’s order), but the A350-900 was much more popular. Then, in 2014 Airbus announced the A330neo. With a very similar specification to the A350-800 and more efficient operation., Airbus shortly afterward canceled the A350-800.

The A330-800 was very closely matched to the A350-800. Photo: Getty Images

Hawaiian Airlines’ order was for six A350-800 aircraft. When Airbus dropped this, Hawaiian switched its order to the smaller of the two A330neo variants, the A330-800. This would sit well alongside its A330-200s, so it was not a bad move.

Switching its order to the Boeing 787-9

Hawaiian stuck with its order for the A330-800 for some time. It also ordered more aircraft from Airbus, placing an order for 16 A321neo aircraft in 2013 (it has since increased this to 18). It has also stuck with the A330-200, today operating a fleet of 24.

Hawaiian A330
The A330-200 is the most dominant aircraft in the Hawaiian Airlines fleet. . Photo: Hawaiian Airlines

The A330-800 did not fare as well, though. Peter Ingram took over as president and CEO from the retiring Mark Dunkerley in March 2018. One of his earliest actions was to review the widebody fleet and orders. He quickly announced an order for 10 Boeing 787-9 aircraft, along with options for a further 10. And the A330-800 order was dropped.

Mr. Ingram explained the decision in an interview with Business Insider. He said:

“Both airplanes are terrific, and both had pros and cons. Ultimately, we came to a conclusion after a disciplined and detailed process that the 787-9 is the right airplane for us.”

Hawaiian 787
Hawaiian Airlines will operate the Boeing 787. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines

Why the switch to Boeing?

Several factors contributed. As Ingram noted, both planes offered good specifications. Both would suit Hawaiian well, but perhaps the 787 already had the edge with a slightly higher range and improved efficiency. Simple Flying compared the two aircraft in detail in a previous article. Two other factors stand out, though.

Firstly, the A330-800 had not worked out as popular as initially hoped. There was a lack of orders from other airlines, and Ingram expressed concern about its resale value and acceptance in the market. He did not want to end up the only customer of the type.

Secondly, the price was most likely a major factor. With the 787 well in production and selling well, Boeing could lower the price more than Airbus.

Hawaiian 787
The Hawaiian Airlines 787 may not enter service until 2022 or 2023. Photo: Boeing

Awaiting the new aircraft

Perhaps things would have worked out differently had Airbus stuck with the A350, but as it was, Hawaiian is now committed to a new Boeing widebody fleet. We will likely have to wait longer to see the new aircraft, though. Hawaiian has unsurprisingly suffered in 2020. Alongside announcing a sizeable loss in July 2020, it also revealed a likely delay to 787 deliveries.

While not confirmed, Ingram has indicated the airline is in discussion to delay, and it does not expect the first two aircraft until 2022 or 2023 (they were previously expected in 2021).

We do know, however, that the new aircraft will come with a new cabin. In collaboration with Adient Aerospace, Hawaiian plans a business class cabin with a new seat product, including seats that can convert to a double bed.

What do you think of Hawaiian Airlines’ decision to drop the A330-800? Are you looking forward to seeing the new 787s? Let us know in the comments!