- Hawaiian Airlines is upgrading its business class seat for high-budget leisure travelers from Asia and Australia.
- The seat comes from Adient Aerospace and is expected to enhance comfort, space, and luxury.
- Hawaiian is anticipating tough competition from Japanese carriers once the borders open between Japan and the US.
The US is opening to fully vaccinated travelers on November 8, and the airline industry is expecting a boost in international travel. Carriers are revamping their routes and products to prepare for the surge, including upgrading their premium cabins.
Over the summer, United Airlines announced a new “signature interior” for its Boeing 737 MAX jets, which included adding large inflight entertainment screens, storage units in the central armrests, a TV remote, a bottle holder, and individual USB and power outlets.
Meanwhile, British Airways recently updated its business class product with the new Club Suite, which adds a privacy wall and a 1x2x1 configuration, ensuring every seat has aisle access.
Now, Hawaiian Airlines is upgrading its premium product by adding lie-flat seats to its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. Historically, the airline has skimped on its premium cabins by installing outdated seats and offering fewer rows compared to competitors.
However, Hawaiian is betting on deep-pocket leisure travelers, especially those coming from Japan, to book up its 787 business class product as tourism rebounds after the pandemic.
“It’s [the Boeing 787] going to be an aircraft we fly long-haul to premium dense markets,” COO Jon Snook told Skift. “It’s really going to be an ideal aircraft for Japan, Australia, New York – markets that will benefit from the comfort that that aircraft provides and the efficiency that it provides.”
Hawaiian has 10 Boeing 787-9 aircraft on order, with the first expected to be delivered next year. The aircraft will be fitted with 34 business class suites, which is twice as many business seats as the company’s only other widebody jet, the Airbus A330, which only has 18.
The company added business class to its A330s in 2017, though it chose a dense cabin with a 2x2x2 configuration. According to Skift, the arrangement does not bode well with travelers who have experienced more space and luxury on competitors, like Qantas, All Nippon Airways, and Japan Airlines.
“Our lay-flat product on the 330 isn’t the best in class globally, but it has certainly been very successful in the marketplace that we fly in, given the relatively short stage length,” Snook told Skift.
Hawaiian’s new business class seat will be provided by Adient Aerospace, which has traditionally made seats for cars but is moving into the airline market.
The seat, which Adient calls “Ascent,” is a joint venture between the company and Boeing to enhance comfort and luxury. It offers plenty of storage, large inflight entertainment screens, a privacy door, aisle access, and lie-flat capabilities.
Source: Adient Aerospace
Moreover, the seat can be used as an enclosed private pod or turned into a “Cabana Suite” by fully lowering the center window, meaning it is tailored to both business passengers wanting privacy and those traveling together.
Source: Adient Aerospace
While Hawaiian has not divulged details of the configuration or features of the product, Snook told Skift he thinks passengers will be “blown away” by it.
Hawaiian isn’t the only carrier to take interest in Adient Aerospace’s Ascent seat since its introduction. Qatar Airways unveiled the business class product on its Boeing 787 jets in June.
According to Skift, Hawaiian is following an industry-wide trend that has seen leisure carriers, like Fiji Airways, Air Europa, and Air Tahiti Nui market premium products to travelers willing to pay more for luxury vacations, like honeymoons.
The company is particularly banking on Japanese tourists with big budgets, and industry experts believe there is pent-up demand to go to Hawaii after the long pandemic, according to Skift. However, Conor Cunningham, an investment analyst at MKM Partners, told Skift that Hawaiian’s success depends on the competition.
According to Cunningham, when Hawaii opened to tourists, US carriers were quick to add frequencies to the Aloha State, and when travel between the US and Japan opens, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines are expected to do the same.
“I don’t know when things will open up but I know when they do there are a lot of Japanese people who will want to come to Hawaii,” Cunningham told Skift. “But JAL can’t wait to put aircraft into Hawaii. I struggle with the potential dynamic.”
Hawaiian’s new 787’s extended range will allow it to reach destinations it could not before. The company’s former CEO Mark Dunkerley once mentioned flying to Europe using next-generation A330s at an Aviation Club event in London in 2016. However, Snook told Skift the carrier will likely focus on expanding in the US and Asia instead.
“London isn’t on our immediate wish list of markets to go serve with that aircraft,” he told Skift, referring to the Boeing 787. “We think we’ve got opportunities closer at hand and less risky than flying to London.”