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Hawaiian Airlines transitioning to new fleet early


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POSTED: Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hawaiian Airlines said yesterday it is accelerating the start of its transition to a new Airbus fleet to 2010 and will bring in another new wide-body Airbus A330-200 aircraft.

The jet, along with two A330 aircraft announced in late October, comes in addition to a plan rolled out in February to phase in up to 24 new Airbus aircraft over the next decade.

Hawaiian, which is transitioning away from its current fleet of Boeing 767-300 aircraft, said two of the additional A330 planes will now arrive in the second quarter of 2010 - two years earlier than the expected Airbus rollout.

“;We have long sought to bring in these aircraft in a 2010 time frame,”; Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian's president and chief executive, said in an interview. “;As tough times have hit the industry, we have been able to move delivery times closer in. This is the result of airlines asking to position some of their deliveries later, which allows to buck the trend.”;

The most recent A330 acquisition is being leased from New York-based commercial and consumer finance company CIT Group; the other two are being leased from Dublin-based aircraft lessor AWAS. The CIT aircraft and one of the AWAS aircraft will join the fleet in 2010, with the other AWAS aircraft arriving in 2011.

The twin-aisle Airbus A330 seats 298 passengers and has an operating range of 6,050 nautical miles, allowing Hawaiian to fly up to 600 miles farther than with its Boeing aircraft.

In February, Hawaiian signed a purchase agreement with Airbus to acquire six A330-200 aircraft and six A350XWB-800, or extra wide-body, aircraft direct from the manufacturer, with purchase rights for an additional six A330-200s and six A350XWB-800s.

The first deliveries of A330s under the initial $4.4 billion purchase agreement will join the fleet in 2012, with the A350s scheduled for delivery starting in 2017.

The 767-300 aircraft will be replaced as each lease comes up, with one plane being returned as the first Airbus jets arrive. Dunkerley said he expects the carrier's 767-300 planes to be in service for another decade.

The first planes will fly routes in the existing trans-Pacific market, while the third and fourth planes will fly to some newer routes, which include Manila, and others will take new routes in Asia. The A350, which has a range of 8,500 miles, could fly possible flights to Europe.

For the third quarter, Hawaiian's net income fell to $6 million, or 12 cents a share, from $19.6 million, or 41 cents a share, a year ago, on a $9.2 million charge it took for fuel-hedging contracts and a higher-than-typical tax rate of 58 percent. Dunkerley said the company doesn't publicly forecast earnings as far out as the planned fleet transition.

For every new A330 aircraft, Hawaiian plans to hire 10 pilots and roughly 40 flight attendants, as well as maintenance workers and customer service representatives, Dunkerley said. Hiring and training for the first new aircraft is a year away as the company puts together training protocol, he said.

Hawaiian is also adding four Boeing 717-200 jets to its interisland fleet by January, the third of which is about to arrive, Dunkerley said. The first of those planes flew its inaugural flight in early October from Honolulu to Maui. The company currently operates 31 aircraft - 13 of which are 717-200 jets. The remainder are Boeing 767-300 ER and EM aircraft.