Hawaiian Airlines’ growth strategy continued to pay dividends in 2017 as passenger numbers hit a record 11.5 million to deliver 13 consecutive years of growth.
Passenger numbers on Hawaii’s biggest and longest-serving airline were up 4.1 per cent as it filled more seats on its planes and boosted its load factor by 1.5 percentage points to 85.8 per cent.
About half the growth came from Japan, according to vice president of network planning and revenue management Brent Overbeek, as the airline benefited from investments in growing capacity and passenger volumes, especially in Tokyo.
It also added capacity on inter-island routes such as Kona-Lihue (on the island of Kauai) and Honolulu-Kapalua (Maui) while experiencing solid growth in many mature markets, Overbeek said.
While Hawaiian has not said how many extra passengers it expects in 2018, it plans to increase capacity by 6.5 per cent.
This includes new routes to the mainland such as its Airbus A321neo services between Kahului on Maui to Oakland.
Hawaiian took delivery of its first of 18 A321neo aircraft in November and plans to use the fuel-efficient aircraft to help boost services to the US West Coast.
The 189-passenger aircraft features 16 leather recliners in the Premium Cabin, 45 Extra Comfort premium economy seats, and 128 economy seats.
The mid-range aircraft, which will complement twin-aisle jet services to 11 gateway US cities, opens up new destinations for Hawaiian and it this week added a daily Long Beach-Honolulu A321neo service starting May 31 to the list.
The year-round service joins Portland -Kahului, due to start on January 18, Oakland- Lihue ( April 11) and San Diego-Kahului (May 1). Los Angeles -Kona (Hawaii) will join the roster in the summer.
In the pipeline for the airline’s fleet of Airbus A330s is increased capacity to Japan and New Zealand. Hawaiian and Japan Airlines plan to codeshare from March in a partnership that will provide passengers of both carriers with more options.
Prospects are also promising for the airline’s services between the Hawaiian Islands, where it provides about 170 jet flights daily
“The trends we are seeing for travel within the islands of Hawaii are also strong,’’ Overbeek said.
The record passenger result comes as Hawaiian chief executive Mark Dunkerley retires in March and hands over the reins to chief commercial officer Peter Ingram.
Hawaiian doubled the number of passengers flown under Dunkerley as it added service to destinations such as Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo, Seoul and Beijing and started new routes to Auckland, Sydney, Brisbane, Australia and New York City.
Over the same period, the company’s gross revenues increased four-fold to $US2.64 billion and its share price rose from a 52-week low of 29 cents in 2003 to $US60.90 over a 52-week period ending November.