Hawaiian Airlines boss Peter Ingram says there's "no free lunch" when designing aircraft interiors.

His airline is finalising the cabin layout and feel of the Boeing 787 Dreamliners which will join its fleet early next year, replacing slightly smaller Airbus A330-200s on some transpacific routes.

The airline will initially use its new planes on the denser United States West Coast routes, but will look to fly them further afield as the 10 on firm order (with a further 10 on option) join the airline, which last November celebrated 90 years of flying and started its Auckland-Honolulu service six years ago .

Ingram has been president and chief executive at Hawaiian for just over a year and says there are constant trade-offs with cabin design.


"There's no free lunch when you're trying to redesign the interior of an airplane. Airlines want to create an inch here or there — it comes out of the size of a lavatory. If you want to protect someone's knees from being reclined into (as Delta is doing in some planes), it comes at the expense of how much they can lean back."

Hawaiian has chosen seat manufacturer Adient Aerospace — a joint venture between Boeing and Adient, which makes automotive seats — in developing lie-flat premium cabin seats for its incoming Dreamliner fleet.

The airline is moving away from the 2-2-2 configuration in its premium cabin to 1-2-1, which is becoming the norm among airlines.

Collins Aerospace will build the main cabin seats.

While he characterises the interior redesign as "evolution rather than an revolution", the airline has rethought its approach to inflight entertainment (IFE) and is moving back to inbuilt equipment in its new Dreamliners, rather than the tablets that it has on some planes.

The Dreamliner will allow Hawaiian to fly further, with Europe now somewhere on the radar.

One of Peter Ingram's first calls in the top job was to opt for Dreamliners. Image / Supplied
One of Peter Ingram's first calls in the top job was to opt for Dreamliners. Image / Supplied

"I never say never. I think we've still got some opportunities within the Pacific Rim [and] certainly Europe is one that catches the imagination of a lot of people, but at this stage we don't have any plans to launch services there."

On Wednesday the airline released its first quarter results, which Ingram says were "solid".
Net income was down from $US55.8m ($84.2m) to US$32m.

The airline faces a new competitor from the mainland — Southwest Airlines, which began services to Hawaii in mid-March. Southwest also plans inter-island services within the state.

While problems with Boeing 737MAX planes could stymie Southwest's push into Hawaii, at least temporarily, it is regarded as a threat.

Ingram tells the Herald his airline is not going to change its strategy.

"Our strategy has been aligned around the right things to be the carrier of choice for people to come to, from and between the Hawaiian islands. For us it is not about changing what we do but executing better day in and day out."

In response to customer satisfaction scores which haven't been as high as the airline wanted, it has put more emphasis on improving on the "day of travel" experience.

More space has been created for check-in at Honolulu's Daniel K. Inouye International Airport and a recently developed app is aimed at taking away travel pain points.

"The phrase we've been using across our team is making travel effortless — that is more aspirational rather than fully achievable. There are so many transactions for a guest to process on their way through an airport and technology can be a big part of smoothing that."

Hawaiian Airlines boss Rusty Willis explains what it takes to turn around an A330 in 90 minutes
Waikiki Beach is a big drawcard for Kiwi visitors to Hawaii. Photo / 123rf
Waikiki Beach is a big drawcard for Kiwi visitors to Hawaii. Photo / 123rf

"I think most of our guests are unaffected by some of the drama that goes on in the news cycle every day," he says.

A partial US government shutdown at the beginning of the year didn't have much impact.

"There's nothing you could point to, to say there was anything negative from that. Overall the economy is doing very well, we're still cooking along at a steady growth rate."

The airline is also getting improved engine reliability from its new Pratt & Whitney powered A321NEOs which it is using on mainland West Coast routes. It will have 18 of the planes by the start of next year.

"In service the airplane has been tremendous," says Ingram.

The airline has retired its Boeing 767s and the A321s delivered the economics to open up markets in the western US which weren't quite big enough when all the airline was flying longhaul were wide-body aircraft.