ABOVE The first Airbus A321neo produced in the U.S. takes to the skies in Mobile, wearing the colors of Hawaiian Airlines. Photo courtesy Airbus
Hawaiian Airlines took delivery in June of the first US-built A321 new-engine-option aircraft at Mobile’s Airbus final assembly line. The Mobile facility now produces both fuel-efficient NEO and classic engine option aircraft, on the way towards being an “all-NEO” plant.
Hawaiian’s COO Jon Snook was on hand for the ceremony, along with Pratt & Whitney Vice President Mary Ellen Jones.
Hawaiian was a new customer for Airbus Mobile, following just a month after another new customer — Las Vegas-based budget airline Allegiant — took delivery of its first US-produced A320.
For Allegiant, the new aircraft complements a fleet previously stocked with Airbus planes from France and Germany. Allegiant is working toward an all-Airbus fleet by the end of 2018, with a total of 99 Airbus aircraft either in service or set for delivery.
“Operating a single fleet type will increase efficiency in teams across the company — including training, scheduling and maintenance — while bringing economic benefits like greater fuel efficiency and additional seat capacity, ” says Maury Gallagher, Allegiant president and CEO.
Allegiant, which has flown more than 80 million passengers, specializes in linking travelers in small- to mid-sized markets to larger hubs. Beginning with one aircraft and one route in 1999, the company has grown to 350 routes across the country with base airfares of about half of the average domestic round trip ticket.
Hawaiian, which has been flying since 1929, introduced its first A321neo in January, 2018, on its Oakland to Maui route. The airline uses a mixed fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft for its major routes to the Western U.S. and New York, Australia, Asia and the South Pacific and among the Hawaiian Islands.
The Airbus plant, which began operations in 2015, now delivers A320 family aircraft at a rate of four per month. Other Airbus manufacturing facilities are found in Hamburg, Germany; Toulouse, France, and Tianjin, China.
Airbus-Bombardier Deal Gets Nod
Airbus officials had more to celebrate than new customers and fresh aircraft taking wing. In early June, Airbus and the Canadian firm Bombardier got final approvals for a partnership that gives the European aircraft giant a majority stake in Bombardier’s new C Series aircraft.
Officials from both companies visited Mobile in February to share preliminary plans for a C Series final assembly line in Mobile, next door to the Airbus plant. The June announcement gave no particulars about a new FAL, but says: “With the C Series’ demonstrated in-service performance and the finalization of this partnership, the parties expect increased demand to support a second C Series Final Assembly Line in Mobile, Alabama, dedicated to supplying U.S.-based customers.”
Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said the plans “will accelerate growth in Alabama’s high-flying aerospace sector.”