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Carrier flies high despite some turbulent times


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POSTED: Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hawaiian Airlines has experienced some turbulent times in its 80 years of existence but has survived to become the state's dominant air carrier.

It served as a link between Honolulu and the neighbor islands in 1929 when it began as Inter-Island Airways and introduced Hawaii residents to the Bellanca CH-300 Pacemaker. The company later began Hawaii's first scheduled air service between the islands with two amphibious Sikorsky S-38 planes.

Since then, Hawaiian has endured through two bankruptcies (1993 and 2003); seen its chief rival, Aloha Airlines, cease operations in 2008 after 61 years in service; and withstood airfare wars from two upstarts, Mesa Air Group's go! and Mokulele Airlines.

Today, Hawaiian is the nation's highest-ranked carrier for service quality and performance, and has led all U.S. airlines in on-time performance for each of the past five years.

In addition to dominating interisland air travel, Hawaiian offers nonstop service to 10 mainland cities as well as to the Philippines, Australia, American Samoa and Tahiti.

Hawaiian also made a big investment in its future in January 2008 when it signed a purchase agreement with Airbus to acquire six wide-body A330-200 aircraft and six A350XWB-800 (extra-wide-body) aircraft, as well as purchase rights for an additional six of each model. The first A330 will be delivered in 2012, and the first A350XWB in 2017. The agreement has a total list-price value of approximately $4.4 billion if all of the purchase rights are exercised.

In October 2008 the company signed lease agreements to acquire an additional three A330s, two of which will go into service in 2010 and the other in 2011.

The new aircraft will be phased in to replace Hawaiian's current wide-body fleet of 18 Boeing 767s and enable the company to open new routes to more distant markets on a nonstop basis from Honolulu.