Hawaiian Airlines exec on 787s and joining Oneworld

The Dreamliners with their private business class suites could be on their way to Australia...

By David Flynn, May 28 2024
Hawaiian Airlines exec on 787s and joining Oneworld

Hawaii is usually associated with a relaxing laid-back vibe – a place where days are sunny, the weather is warm and the attitudes are chill – but Hawaiian Airlines is certainly not in flop-and-drop mode, kicking back poolside while sipping on cocktails dressed with fruit and little umbrellas.

A multi-billion dollar buyout offer from Alaska Airlines is in the works. New Boeing 787s with modern flatbed business class suites are in the skies. Fast and free satellite WiFi is coming to its workhorse Airbus A330s from mid-year. Oh, and there’s continued speculation that Hawaiian Airlines will join the Oneworld alliance.

Executive Traveller sat down with Hawaiian Airlines Senior Vice President Avi Mannis to discuss what’s now and what’s next for the airline of the Aloha State.

Hawaiian Airlines recently began flying its first Boeing 787 with an all-new flatbed business class – how has that been received? 

“Obviously the premium cabin experience is great and the new Leihoku suites have been very positively received.

But we also spent a lot of time on little details, things that we obsess over when we’re designing, and then hope people will notice, because we want the cabin to sort of reveal itself… those are the things from a design perspective that we get very excited about.

There’s sort of a dome over the top of the entryway that’s got a really beautiful floral pattern embedded in it – we’re the first airline to ever have a pattern in that dome on the 787 – and that gets a lot of attention, a lot of people taking photos as they go onto the aircraft.

What a way to make an entrance: stepping onto Hawaiian's 787.
What a way to make an entrance: stepping onto Hawaiian's 787.

Little things like the Hawaiian language on the row markers and the Aloha print on the ‘lav occupied’ signs are things that get a lot of attention.

Even the wallpaper in all of the main cabin lavatories on the aircraft are all different; that’s something you probably won’t notice in your first hour of flight, but maybe later on the trip you might notice that it wasn’t exactly the same as the lav you were in before.”

Hawaiian Airlines now has two of its twelve Boeing 787s, with a third arriving later this year and more to follow – could some of those be bound for Sydney or Melbourne?

“Well, we’ve got 12 on order. I think we have a couple more coming next year and a couple more the year after. As we get deliveries, we’ll try and figure out the optimal place for those – and frankly, I don't think we’ve figured out where the third airplane’s going yet. I’m not being coy about it, I think we’re still waiting to make a decision on that.

But there are a lot of things about Sydney, including the length of haul and the size of premium demand, that I think makes this a very attractive market for the 787.

And we’ve been very happy with Sydney, its performance came back really strongly post- pandemic and it continues to show good demand even in an environment in which travel to the US has gotten more expensive (due to currency exchange rates).

So we’re looking carefully at it and at some point in the delivery stream I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to bring this new product to the Australian market.”

The private Leihoku suites on Hawaiian's 787.
The private Leihoku suites on Hawaiian's 787.

What is the chance of Hawaiian Airlines returning to Brisbane?

“I don’t think it's likely in the near term. Brisbane was a market that we loved serving and at times performed very well. I think we would have to see a change in the currency environment probably for something like that to make sense again.”

Lav signs get a light-hearted touch on Hawaiian's 787.
Lav signs get a light-hearted touch on Hawaiian's 787.

From the perspective of Australian travellers headed to the US mainland via Honolulu, which destinations are performing well?

“We see a fair amount of connections through Hawaii to Los Angeles and the Bay Area – often it’s the case that people will choose to do a stopover in one direction if they’re going all that way, and that’s one of the attractive things about using Hawaii as a connecting point. It can be circuitous depending on where you’re trying to go, but it can also be a good way to get some places in the US and it’s always nice to have that stopover.

It’s also a pretty good place to make connections to the Pacific Northwest – to Seattle and Portland – and also to JFK and Boston, our east coast destinations as well.” 

How will the Boeing 787s and Airbus A330s complement each other on the Hawaiian Airlines’ network?

“The A330 will remain the workhorse of the fleet for the foreseeable future.

The 787s will grow and we have the opportunity over time to grow the fleet to replace A330s with 787s – the 787 is slightly larger and it has a bigger premium cabin –  we’re retained some optionality there so that we can take advantage of opportunities where we see them.

And also with the A321neo we’re also able to do some interesting new markets that we wouldn't otherwise do. We just started flying from Honolulu to Salt Lake City with the 321, with 189 seats it’s a nice aircraft for starting up some markets. If they’re are great successes, we can upgauge to an A330 and A330 markets can upgauge to a 787. So it’s nice having that portfolio of aircraft that we can work with.” 

The middle seats on Hawaiian's 787 have been described as 'cabana suites'.
The middle seats on Hawaiian's 787 have been described as 'cabana suites'.

What’s the next step in Alaska Airlines proposed A$3bn buy-out of Hawaiian Airlines?

“So we’re still subject to a Department of Justice review. Once the merger closes, there will be a period of time where we operate as two separate airlines before we bring the operations together, bring the loyalty programs together and adopt a common loyalty program.

We have have just submitted all the materials – millions and millions of pages of documents – to the Department of Justice, and we’re working very collaboratively with them to make the case that this is a pro-consumer, pro-competitive merger. There’s very little overlap between the networks, we have extremely complimentary networks, both with a great legacy of service to their communities.

The Department of Justice has a period of time that goes until early August to come back to us, and from there, there are a number of different ways it could go… we just have to wait and see and make our case as best we can to the Department of Justice.” 

Assuming the Alaska Airlines take-over of Hawaiian Airlines goes ahead, would Hawaiian Airlines then become a member of the Oneworld alliance?

“I can’t really speak for Alaska in that regard. I think they have said that when we are all one airline that the Hawaiian Airlines brand, which will be a brand underneath the operating platform of Alaska Airlines, will be a part of Oneworld. And at some point then from an alliance perspective, we'll look at Oneworld. But none of that's going to happen overnight.”

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 74

I'm interested if they keep partnership with VIrgin if they do join Oneworld. Same as Qatar have. And a few other instances around the world have done of multi airline partnerships between 2 competitors in some regions.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 323

Unlikely that HA will keep their (minor) VA partnership as Alaska Airlines are codeshare partners with QF.  HA is likely to align to the same partners as their incoming parent.

Hawaiian Airlines - HawaiianMiles

13 May 2023

Total posts 2

I think the only thing the 787s currently lack that HA will need to do on overnight flights and flights longer than the normal west coast USA timings, their bedding in their suites need an upgrade badly. This seems to be the consensus between many of the other frequent travelers who turn left as well. A great seat product on par with or better than most all north american carriers, but on longer AND international flights, those teensy pillows and said blanket is sub-par. I hope SVP Mannis reads these things. With the cost that air travel is escalated to in the last 4-5 years, don't underestimate what a pillow will do to a left turning, non-mileage paying customer.

Excellent news that this acquisition by Alaska Airlines still seem to be progressing along.  Let's hope they do return to Brisbane but that may be some time off reading this information. But hey, it is all a good start.


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