Hawaiian fleet expansion gets OK under union pact
The deal to buy up to 24 new jets was stalled by talks with the pilots' union
Hawaiian Airlines will be getting those new planes from Airbus after all.
Just two weeks after Hawaiian announced its deal to buy up to 24 A330 and A350 jets was in jeopardy because of a contract impasse with its pilots union, the parties jointly announced yesterday they reached a letter of agreement on Thursday that would allow the transaction to proceed.
Hawaiian said an agreement with its pilots, and an earlier deal with its flight attendants, allowed it to sign a definitive purchase agreement with Airbus to acquire 12 new long-range, wide-body aircraft and secure purchase rights for an additional 12 aircraft that have a total list-price value of $4.4 billion.
In November, Hawaiian said it had reached a memorandum of understanding with Airbus for the jets, which would give the carrier the capability to fly nonstop from Hawaii to Asia, Australasia, the Americas and Europe. But the deal was put on hold while it continued negotiations with its pilots.
Eric Sampson, chairman of the Hawaiian Airlines unit of the Air Line Pilots Association, said the union postponed discussions on wages in its contract negotiations in order reach a deal on new-equipment issues involving crew rest facilities, crew staffing, work rules and health and welfare at foreign destinations.
The sides were working under a deadline set by Airbus because of a nonrefundable deposit made by Hawaiian, he said.
Sampson said ALPA agreed that the pilots would fly the 305-seat A330s at the same wage they're paid to operate the Boeing 767s, which carry from 252 to 264 passengers, but that the unions would seek a higher wage at a later date for flying the 322-seat A350s. The A330s have a range of 6,325 miles and the A350s have a range of 7,935 miles.
"The bottom line is we decided we'd just be better off with the planes then without because of the potential of growth, profitability and security," Sampson said.
Sampson said the pilots initially were seeking more money to operate the A330s, but "it became apparent the company didn't have any money to fund a higher rate at this time."
Under the new agreement, continuing negotiations can be conducted under mediation, Sampson said.
Mark Dunkerley, president and chief executive of Hawaiian, said the deal will give the company flexibility with its long-range fleet of 18 767s, some of which are leased and some owned by the airline. In addition, Hawaiian said it will lease some A330s between 2009 and 2012 until the new ones they purchased are ready for delivery.
The agreement with Airbus provides for delivery of six A330s between 2012 and 2014, and six A350s between 2017 and 2020. Additional purchase rights for up to 12 additional planes also could be exercised.
Sharon Soper, president of the Hawaiian Airlines unit of the Association of Flight Attendants, said the flight attendants reached agreements on staffing, crew-rest facilities and crew rest, and such areas as understaffing pay, deadhead pay and galley pay.
"I think this will be a plus for us because it will have the rest facilities for the long-range flying that we don't presently have," she said.
Both the pilots and flights attendants continue to negotiate on other aspects of their contracts.