Hawaiian Airlines placed its initial order for 10 of Boeing’s flagship widebody jets in 2018, a distant-seeming time before the largest downturn in the history of commercial aviation and the industry’s long recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has been long enough since Hawaiian signed for a new fleet of Boeing 787-9s that chief executive Peter Ingram says “the order of events is a little bit cloudy to me now”.

“We’ve been waiting a long time,” he tells FlightGlobal on 20 March. “A lot has happened between then and now.”

Indeed, the recent arrival in Honolulu of a GE Aerospace GEnx-1B-powered 787-9 adorned with Hawaiian’s floral livery – the first of 12 now expected through 2027 – is a long-awaited and horizon-expanding addition to the carrier’s long-haul fleet. 

Hawaiian expects delivery of its second 787 within five or six weeks and a third before the end of the year, Ingram says: “By 2027, we should have the full firm order book of 12.” 

“It’s always exciting to introduce a new aircraft to the fleet,” he adds. “It’s not something that we get to do every day. This is just the third time in my 18 years at Hawaiian that we brought a new fleet type on board.”

He considers taking on a new type of aircraft an opportunity to “paint on a blank canvas”.


Source: Hawaiian Airlines

The airline’s first 787-9 arrived in Honolulu on 14 February via a delivery flight from Boeing’s 787 production facility in Charleston, South Carolina

Operations well begin relatively modestly as the Dreamliners deploy to the West Coast of the USA, with the maiden commercial flight between Honolulu and San Francisco scheduled for 15 April. They will begin flying to Los Angeles and Phoenix the following month. 

“Starting on the West Coast is a function of business practicalities,” Ingram says. “We need a place to do overnight maintenance work. In our network, overnight maintenance is typically performed in the western US, where we have the ground time available for the aircraft.”

Los Angeles is serving as Hawaiian’s initial overnight maintenance base for its 787s. 

“Eventually, we’re eager to take advantage of the full capabilities of the aircraft by flying longer haul,” he says. ”With that expanded front cabin product, there really is a lot of demand in places like New York, places like Sydney.

”We will, over the course of the next couple years, look for opportunities to stretch the legs of the airplane.”


The incoming 787-9s are a bit larger than Hawaiian’s Airbus A330-200s – 300 seats versus 278 seats, respectively. And the Dreamliners have expanded front cabins with 34 lie-flat beds versus 18 premium seats on the A330s.

“It’s a generation better in terms of the technology, so it’s more fuel efficient, which you can really take advantage of when you’re flying long haul,” Ingram says. “What you want is to deploy it where there is a deep pool of demand, where you can fill the airplane and there is a lot of up-front cabin demand.” 

New York and Syndey are at the top of the list, as is Tokyo as the slow-to-recover Japanese market rebounds long-term. Even with the 787-9’s range of 7,565 nm (14,010 km), Ingram considers Honolulu-to-London a long-shot possibility. 

”The 787 obviously does have more range than the aircraft we’re operating today, so there are some options that open up,” Ingram says. “But it’s got to make sense in the network we’re flying today because there are routes we know are going to be part of that network moving forward.” 

The widebody jets may allow Hawaiian to restore service to Brisbane, and to fly to more cities in Australia, which would be “on the long-haul end of our network and really takes advantage of the efficiencies of this aircraft”. 

Ingram anticipates the 787-9 becoming a “meaningful part of the fleet” and generating significant revenue by the end of 2025, when he expects Hawaiian to be flying five of the jets.


The carrier initially anticipated that its Dreamliner deliveries would begin in 2021. But Boeing twice halted deliveries of 787s during the pandemic due to problems with the jet’s composite fuselage.

Hawaiian, meanwhile, was not flying its existing fleet to its full potential due to Covid-19-related travel restrictions, and suffered financially as a result. 

“We worked with Boeing initially to push back the first delivery a little bit, to help us save some of the investment for preparing for the aircraft and push that further into the future,” Ingram says. “Of course, Boeing had some challenges they had to overcome with the production of the 787s, and they were happy to take the delay as well.”

As its recovery from Covid-19 accelerated, Hawaiian saw a clear path to growth in Asia-Pacific. It was again eager to take on the 787s, reworking its deal with Boeing to expand the order from 10 to 12 jets and re-set the aircraft delivery schedule.


Source: Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian is anticipating three 787s in 2024, with deliveries expected to continue into 2027

While the 787 is new for Hawaiian, it has been in production for more than 13 years, and nearly 1,100 of the jets are in service worldwide. 

Ingram is comfortable with the quality of incoming 787s despite Boeing’s ongoing manufacturing issues, which have lately centred on 737 Max production.  

“While it’s at the cutting edge of efficiency for widebody aircraft, it’s also a mature programme,” Ingram says. ”It’s an aircraft that has been produced for a while with engines that have been produced and operated for a long time.”

Hawaiian has teams that work with Boeing to inspect each aircraft. “We have a high degree of confidence in them,” Ingram says. 


Notably, Hawaiian does not hold aircraft orders beyond its 11 incoming 787-9s. The carrier’s proposed $1 billion acquisition by Alaska Airlines factors heavily into fleet plans moving forward. 

Still, the carrier must consider how to replace its ageing Boeing 717s for island-hopping operations. Those workhorse short-haul jets are between 18 and 25 years old, according to Cirium fleets data. 

“That aircraft has still got some life left in it, but we were looking at different alternatives,” Ingram says. ”Of course, some of our consideration of the future is shaped by the fact that we’re in the middle of the process of combining with Alaska Airlines and going through the regulatory approval process on that, which is really going to shape some of these decisions as you combine the two fleets.” 

Prior to Alaska’s courtship for Hawaiian, Hawaiian had considered the A319 as a potential replacement for the 717s, which would have commonalities with its existing fleet of A321neos, Ingram says. Other options had included A220s and Embraer 195-E2s. 

“Of course, with a combined company with Alaska, you’re getting together with a big 737 operation,” he says. 

Peter Ingram

Indeed, Alaska’s massive fleet of narrowbody Boeing jets is seemingly at odds with its potential acquisition of Hawaiian’s 18 A321neos, especially since Alaska celebrated retiring the last of its A321s and moving forward as a single-type operator. 

If Hawaiian was to remain an independent company, Ingram says the yet-to-be certificated A321XLR would be a useful addition to its future fleet. Whereas the A321LR ”didn’t really open up enough new opportunities to justify the complexity of having a sub-fleet of the type”, the A321XLR’s additional range would make up the difference. 

He says that Hawaiian has done its homework on the A321XLR but in not ready to “leap to an order”. 

”I think there are opportunities for more long-haul narrowbody aircraft in our fleet, we’ve been really happy with what the A321 allows us to do,” he says. ”It has allowed us to enter markets that don’t have the demand to support regular widebody service.”

For example, Hawaiian uses its A321neos to fly directly from smaller Hawaiian airports, such as Kona and Lihue, to Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

But those aircraft may not be in Alaska’s long-term plans, whereas Ingram suspects the carrier does have a high level of interest in Hawaiian’s 787 order book. 

“It makes more sense for the combined company with regards to the 787,” he says. “Think about what you can do with a widebody network out of some of their big bases in the Western US”. 

A330_STILL - Reef Runway Diamond head

Source: Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian’s existing long-haul fleet includes about 25 Airbus A330-200s