HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Island Air is set to debut the future of its fleet, which will allow the airline to add more seats, more flights, and more routes.
In a market long dominated by Hawaiian Airlines, industry experts say these new planes could help make Island Air a real competitor.
"We decided that the Q400 was going to be the best aircraft for our skies here in Hawaii," said David Uchiyama, President and CEO of Island Air.
Uchiyama says his new fleet will give Hawaii residents and visitors more options for inter-island travel.
"It's going to increase our seat inventory considerably. Besides the 14-seat difference from our existing aircraft, with the additional flights, it's about 162 seats a day per aircraft that will be added."
Island Air ordered three Bombardier Q400s. Each plane seats 78 passengers and cost them about $25 million each.
Uchiyama believes with all of the new planes in service, it will help improve the company's financial performance.
"We'll be able to fly each of the aircraft so optimizing the revenue potential is really going to be there with the new fleet."
Aviation expert Peter Forman says the state's second largest airline carrier is making the right moves.
"It's a question of who is going to be able to challenge Hawaiian Air, and Island Air really needed an airplane this nice to be a serious contender. So let's see where we go," said Forman.
With gas prices slowly going up, he believes this new model will help Island Air remain competitive in the market.
"Ticket prices should be about the same because this is a very efficient airplane, so it's just a matter of island air getting people out to try the airplanes," said Forman.
Island Air hopes to transition its entire fleet by this summer and hopefully expand to seven Q400s by the end of the year.
As for new routes - Hilo is possibly next in line.
"We're taking a look at everything, but we want to grow responsibly. We hope to be able to serve all of our islands eventually," said Uchiyama.