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Dreamliner Reawakens: First Boeing 787 for Hawaiian Airlines Spotted in Seattle

The new aircraft has been spotted in Seattle ahead of the hotly-anticipated launch of Hawaiian's new business class cabins with Leihōkū Suites

by Lauren Smith

August 7, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines

The first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner from Hawaiian Airlines, which was put in storage due to the pandemic, was recently seen at Seattle’s Paine Field International Airport (PAE). This sighting implies that the aircraft’s delivery to Hawaii is getting closer.

The Dreamliner saw its first test flight in June 2021. But with coronavirus fears still dampening travel demand, it was mothballed the same month and has been parked in long-term storage at Kelly Field (SKF), San Antonio, Texas, since.

But its appearance at Boeing’s Paine Field, outfitted with a Hawaiian’s distinctive purple livery, suggests its long-awaited delivery is close.

Hawaiian Airlines has said it expects to welcome the Dreamliner in November and has penciled in its commercial launch for January or February 2024.

The carrier hasn’t officially announced which route the Dreamliner will debut on, but CEO Peter Ingram has said it will be one of the existing routes between Hawaii and the West Coast.

Hawaiian has orders for 11 additional Boeing 787s, three of which will be delivered next year, with the rest to arrive by 2027. Ingram said the planes will eventually be used on the carrier’s longer routes to New York, Japan, and Australia but will continue to cycle through west coast routes for maintenance reasons.

Additionally, the Boeing 787s may be used to pioneer new routes for the carrier. In February, Avi Mannis, the airline’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, told Forbes that the airline is mulling new connections to the East Coast, including New York and Boston, enabled by the long-range and fuel efficiency of the 787 Dreamliner.

New plane, New Business Class

While it hasn’t taken delivery of the planes yet, the Honolulu-based airline has been extensively promoting the plane’s amenities, including the lavish Leihōkū Suites it’s installed in their Business Class cabins.

The Dreamliner has a larger premium cabin than the Airbus A330s Hawaiian currently operates on long-range flights, and the airline has taken advantage of it, installing 34 fully lie-flat Business Class seats arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration.

Photo: Courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines

Each suite has direct aisle access and sliding doors. Lowering a partition allows travelers in the middle two seats to connect their suites and “create this really lovely living room experience for two people traveling together,” Mannis said. “We think it’s going to be incredibly appealing for our market,” which includes fewer business travelers and more couples, families, and women, he added.

The premium cabin also has starry ceiling lights, which the airline says is reminiscent of the constellations that guided Polynesian voyagers in Hawaii’s past.

The mood lighting extends from nose to tail, with passengers in economy class also enjoying gentle lighting inspired by sunrise and sunset. The lighting accentuates the deep aqua of the carpeting and seats and the Koa wood paneling in the welcome area.

Photo: Courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines

Loreto Julian, interior design and surface textile design manager at design consultancy Teague, said about Hawaiian’s Dreamliners: “Working alongside such an iconic brand in Hawaiian Airlines, we were able to create an experience that is true and authentic to what is Hawai’i. Along the journey, guests will be able to appreciate the culture of Hawai’i and be surprised with discoverable moments.”