Hawaiian Airlines may consider acquiring electric aircraft in the future for its inter-island flights, chief executive Peter Ingram says on 27 July.

The Honolulu-headquartered carrier, which operates a robust network of connections to neighbour islands with a fleet of 19 ageing Boeing 717s, will be looking to replace them with more modern aircraft in the coming decade. 

According to Cirium fleets data, the 128-seat jets, which fly up to 16 cycles every day in punishing tropical conditions, have an average age of 19.3 years. 


Source: Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 717

“Neighbour island routes provide an interesting application for electrification of aircraft,” Ingram says on the airline’s quarterly analyst call. “We have a lot of traffic that travels between 100 and 250 miles, so the replacement with electric aircraft on those routes is more foreseeable rather than [an aircraft] that has to fly 2,500 miles to get to  the West Coast.”

Hawaii is an archipelago about 2,500nm (4,000km) southwest of the US mainland. The airline serves five airports on four of the islands with an average of 135 daily flights.

In addition, it flies to the US mainland as well as international long-haul connections with a fleet of 18 Airbus A321neos and 24 A330s. Long-haul destinations in the Pacific Rim include Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and American Samoa. 

The airline has 10 Boeing 787 Dreamliners on order from the Chicago-based airframer, which will begin entering the fleet in 2022. 

But that said, the electrification of regional aircraft along with the battery technology may not yet be mature enough in time for when the 717s begin exiting the fleet, Ingram says.

“The technology is still a ways off,” Ingram says. “I can see it, but it may be a generation or two of replacement aircraft [first].”

The first electric aircraft that might be be considered a replacement for the 717 will not likely be available for commercial use until the mid-2030s, he adds

In any case, the airline is interested in learning more as the industry segment develops. 

“We are trying to understand the landscape and the direction in which some of the producers are going,” Ingram says.