Hawaiian Airlines intends to complete its first Airbus A330 cabin overhaul this spring, with the entire fleet expected to be updated by mid-2017.

Speaking with Flightglobal in Washington DC, Hawaiian chief executive Dunkerley reveals more details about the cabin overhaul effort, which will see the airline replace 18 traditional first class seats on its A330s with lie-flat seats, and add 28 additional premium economy seats to the type.

The first cabin retrofit will be complete before the summer, but during the summer Hawaiian will break from the project, Dunkerley says.

That hiatus will enable Hawaiian to keep all its A330s in service during the busy summer travel season. In addition, during summer Hawaiian will review the first aircraft’s overhaul and seek efficiencies.

Beginning in fall, Hawaiian will resume the work at a “nose-to-tail” pace, with one aircraft being modified at a time and no break in between, Dunkerley says.

“You are effectively down one airplane consistently during this process,” he says.

At that rate, Hawaiian will overhaul all its A330s by the middle of next year, Dunkerley says. The carrier has 22 of the type, plus one on order.

Instead of buying off-the-shelf lie-flat seats, Hawaiian designed a new seat that has fewer physical barriers, executives have said.

The seats are being made by Italian manufacturer Optimares, Hawaiian has said.

“None of the seats out there in general production at the moment suited our needs,” says Dunkerley. “Almost all lie-flat seats are designed around the notion that people pay for seclusion.”

By contrast, Hawaiian primarily caters to leisure travellers who do not like to be distanced from family, he says.

The company hopes lie-flat seats will position Hawaiian to be more competitive on long-haul routes to Asia.

Hawaiian intends to launch more transpacific routes after 2017, with it begins acquiring Airbus A321neos. It will deploy those aircraft on flights to the western US, freeing up A330s for expansion to Asia, executives have said.

Source: Cirium Dashboard