A big bet by Hawaiian

The announcement that Hawaiian Airlines could acquire as many as 16 narrow-bodied, long-range aircraft from Airbus represents a huge bet on the growth of Neighbor Island tourism.

Hawaiian announced its intentions to begin acquiring Airbus A321neo aircraft beginning in 2017. The plane will likely be configured to hold around 190 passengers – about 100 less than Hawaiian’s new wide-body A330s.

In short, it appears to be the perfect plane for Hawaiian to use to service the Neighbor Islands directly from West Coast cities. Hawaiian’s president, Mark Dunkerly, indicated the plane could also be used to serve markets where the airline doesn’t currently fly.

An Associated Press story on Hawaiian’s plans said that the airline would add about 1,000 jobs with this expansion.

Dunkerly’s leadership of the airline has been nothing short of amazing. It is hard to believe this company spent more than two years in bankruptcy, emerging in June 2005 with a new vision for growth.

In the past couple of years, the airline has added eight new international routes and, last year, a nonstop flight from Honolulu to New York.

In July, Hawaiian announced it was considering forming a subsidiary carrier to fly turboprop aircraft to small airports like Kapalua, Molokai and Lanai.

Now, with the planned acquisitions of the A321neos, Hawaiian’s growth seems to be on track for the next decade. As it finds planes for every niche, it is building itself into the dominant airline serving Hawaii internationally, domestically and intrastate.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.