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Hawai’i 321

Introducing narrowbody aircraft on long range routes has implications for cabin design. Ian Harbison reports on how Hawaiian found a stylish solution


Hawaiian Airlines has an unusual route network. There are domestic operations around the various islands of the archipelago; there are long haul operations to the west to the South Pacific Islands, Asia, and Australasia; long haul operations to the east to New York; and there are flights to 10 cities in the Western US. The different range requirements mean a mixed fleet is inevitable but recent technological developments are bringing about an important change to the necessary aircraft.

Western US flights are the most lucrative, says Avi Mannis, Senior Vice President, Marketing at Hawaiian Airlines, because, while they mainly carry leisure passengers, the islands are an upmarket destination, so there is demand for first and premium economy cabins as well as economy. This is the case for main competitors Delta Air Lines and United, which use the Boeing 737-900 on these routes and have a three-class cabin. For Hawaiian, as the 20 Boeing 717-200s with 128 seats in use around the islands do not have the range or capacity to make those distances and the Great Circle distances from Honolulu to Los Angeles and San Francisco are both over 2,000 nm, there has until now been a need to use the same widebody aircraft as used on long haul operations. These include 23 Airbus A330-200s and eight Boeing 767-300ERs. The 767s will be phased out in the next few years as the airline takes delivery of six A330-800neo aircraft. These replaced a previous commitment for six A350-800s, the baseline A350 model that Airbus has put on the back burner to focus on the more popular and larger A350-900 and -1000.

The important change is to the narrowbody A321neo, with its range of 3,650 nm and capacity of 189 seats. The range enables it to reach as far as Phoenix, the furthest of the Western cities, while the capacity means it can supplement widebody services to match demand, open new markets that are not viable with A330s and could even be used on inter-island routes. In March 2013, the airline signed a contract with Airbus for 16 aircraft, plus a lease agreement for two more in December 2016. These will be powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1133G-JM engines, with their significantly increased fuel efficiency, and will be coupled with the Sharklet wingtips, which reduce aerodynamic drag to provide extra range. Unfortunately, technical problems with the engines have slightly delayed the first delivery to 4Q17 and entry into service until early 2018. Deliveries will be completed in 2020.

With a new aircraft comes the need for a new cabin layout and the airline turned to London-based JPA Design. Mannis outlines the two key design requirements. The first was to give passengers a widebody experience on a narrowbody aircraft. The second – and perhaps more important – requirement, was to incorporate the culture and landscape of Hawai’i. Mannis emphasises the pride the airline feels in its 88-year history, which illustrates that it is rooted in a sense of place and culture that guides the sensory design elements across the fleet. This contemporary design language is called ‘Earth, Sea and Sky’ and is coordinated across every aircraft type. There have been recent cabin redesigns on the inter-island Boeing 717-200 and A330 fleets and he says the A321neo completes the evolution of that design philosophy. It also acknowledges a resurgence in traditional arts, crafts and storytelling in the islands, which is reflected in textiles and other materials throughout the cabin, taking inspiration from kapa (traditional bark cloth), to aho (traditional fishing nets), to the Hawaiian language used in signage.

The Premium Cabin has 16 B/E Aerospace MiQ seats at 39in pitch in a conventional 2+2 configuration, meaning no direct aisle access for window seat passengers and, while they recline, they do not fold flat. The dark leather covers feature sky blue contrast stitching that forms the airline’s signature ‘wave’ motif. There is a storage space under the central armrest, AC, and high-power USB outlets for device charging. Water bottle storage is provided in the front of the centre console.

The Premium class divider features metallic brand panels with the airline name and logo, while the laminates – which run across other dividers throughout the aircrafs – appear at first to be a geometric pattern but, upon closer inspection, the passenger will see an abstract seascape of islands rising from the ocean. Tim Manson, Design Director at JPA Design, makes the point that this ‘Islands of Hawai’i’ pattern was carefully crafted, and great care was taken for it to appear natural. >>

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