In case you’ve never thought of the Boeing 757, we’re airline enthusiasts, and neither are we. But several things made us take notice and realize just how important this plane played in the Hawaii trip we know today. Here’s why.
757 opened direct routes to neighboring islands.
The 757, affectionately nicknamed the “flying pencil” because of its length, was certified ETOPS-180 in 1992. It was this certification that allowed it to fly to Hawaii. Prior to that, flights to Hawaii were in three-engine and four-engine jets, followed by the larger, twin-engine Boeing 767, which was certified first and began flights to Hawaii in 1989.
There were several issues with these larger predecessor aircraft, such as the DC-10 (Hawaiian) and L-1011 (Delta). They were too large to be successfully mined in Hawaii’s neighboring islands except Maui. The same goes for the 767, which, by the way, can land and take off even on the short Lihue Kauai runway. But he can’t do it at full capacity.
Routes to Kauai and Kona are considered “thin roads” with significantly less traffic demand than those to Hawaii’s two major airports in Honolulu and Kahului, Maui. A different type of aircraft was needed to fly not only these routes to neighboring islands, but also to service Hawaii’s two main airports which do not require such large and expensive jets to operate.
Three airlines have turned Hawaii upside down.
The three companies are all legacy, which, while still important, aren’t as targeted as the Alaska, Hawaii, and Southwest triad. The three are American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines. All three became operators of 757 fleets to Hawaii, and it began to focus from the 1990s on direct flights that bypassed Honolulu. These airlines launched routes that had never made sense before, including those further afield. Denver to Kauai and Denver to Kona are two such routes operated by United Airlines, which still uses the 757 for them. Many other routes also made sense, such as the Delta flight on 757 from Seattle to Honolulu, which still flies to this day.
In no time, the Boeing 757-200 became Hawaii’s flagship aircraft.
The plane looked a lot like a stretched version of the Boeing 727 that hit the market in 1982. It has oversized and powerful engines and has always been popular with pilots. Inside, there were the now familiar 2×2 seats in first and 3×3 in economy class. United later outfitted the cabin with much more comfortable Polaris business suites. Jeff used to fly the United 757 back and forth to Kauai, and he reports that for him it was always a very uncomfortable plane, both in economy class and in the older first class cabins. But he did the job.
The original first class leather seats were weird because you always slip into them. The economy was tight, although tight has since been redefined by the Airbus A321neo fleet operated by American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines. The original first class seats were 20″ wide with a 38″ pitch, and the economy seats were 17″ wide with a 31-36 inch pitch. When UAL added Economy Plus, there were 34 inches between the rows, which helped. The 757 was typically configured for around 200 passengers.
At one time, American Airlines owned more of these planes than anyone. Still, they decided to retire the 757-200 fleet in 2019, which was completed in early 2020. Both Delta and United operate them to this day, although plans are underway for them to retire in the future. not far. Indeed the end of an era.
Read: Hawaii has the longest over-water flights in the world (with no deflection points).
Move over the 757. The arrival of the 737-800 and the Airbus A32x.
The Americans began flying mostly A321s on Hawaiian routes, except where they still fly jumbo jets such as the Boeing 777.
Even Delta and United are retiring from these aging planes, and the end is not far off. It won’t be long before it’s rare to see one in Hawaii.
ETOPS-180 comes in at 737.
In 1999, the Boeing 737 NextGen received ETOPS-180 certification. This meant that on all but the longest 757 routes to Hawaii, the 737 would be a lower cost replacement. And that’s how the 737 cannibalizes most 757 routes. Keep in mind, though, that the 757 can fly nearly 1,000 miles farther than the 737. requested to the islands, a 737 can reach almost any target in about an hour from the west coast. Interestingly, the larger range 737MAX7 is capable of almost the same distance as the 757.
The 737 is, of course, the most successful airliner ever built, of which approximately 5,000 aircraft were produced. By comparison, only about 1,000 757 aircraft, in two variants, were made.
The Hawaiian Air fleet has prevented direct flights to the island until the A321neo.
Hawaiian strangely stuck with a model that did not allow flying on direct, narrow routes to nearby islands. Their fleet of DC-10s, which evolved into 767s and then A330s, were not suitable for these routes. So for many years Hawaiian allowed other airlines with those 757 and 737 fleets to take that business. And take it, they did.
Between Alaska Airlines, then Southwest Airlines.
Alaska began flying 737 planes to Hawaii in 2007. Launching first from their home base in the Pacific Northwest, they grew rapidly, with limited competition. They soon began flying to many of the California markets they were expanding into. This model is much the same as that deployed by Southwest Airlines, which joined the Hawaiian party with its fleet of 737-800s and 737MAXs starting in 2019.
Realizing there was no way to curb the desire of Hawaii visitors to fly directly to and from their Hawaiian island of choice, Hawaiian airlines acquired a fleet of Airbus A321neo narrow-body aircraft, which began arriving in 2018. For the first time they successfully competed on these narrow and popular Hawaiian routes first opened by the Boeing 757.
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