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Not Dead Yet – The Three Airlines Still Flying The Boeing 717

Unlike other aircraft types, the Boeing 717 is fighting on, helped by its often niche role for airlines. After Volotea retired the aircraft, the sole users are now Delta, Hawaiian, and QantasLink. The thickest route for the aircraft – Honolulu to Kahului – will see up to 24 departures a day this year.

The Boeing 717 was delivered to launch customer AirTran back in 1999. Some 22 years later, use of the 717 is reasonably strong in 2021, despite no longer operating in Europe following Volotea’s retirement of the aircraft on January 10th of this year.

Volotea initially used former MexicanaClick 717s. Now, Volotea – like many airlines worldwide – is focusing on larger aircraft, including A320s, to benefit from lower seat costs and more revenue opportunities.

In March, Simple Flying revealed where Volotea’s A320s will initially be used, with the type to be used to help grow Volotea’s competitiveness as it matures and faces more competition.

Over 326 million B717 seats

The Boeing 717 had 31.7 million seats in 2011, which in the past decade rose to a peak of 34.7 million in 2016 – not bad for an older aircraft. This is partly a testament of the type’s often fairly niche operations, depending on what country is looked at.

Volotea, for example, initially used the aircraft so that it could focus on thinner routes ignored by other low-cost carriers. At the same time, they have been crucial for Hawaiian Airlines’ island-hopping services, including the 100-mile route between Honolulu and Kahului.

From five to three airlines

In the peak year, 2016, Delta, Hawaiian, QantasLink, Turkmenistan, and Volotea used the 717. For the remainder of 2021, however, only Delta, Hawaiian, and QantasLink will use it. Speaking in 2020, John Gissing, CEO of QantasLink, nicely summarized the carrier’s use of the aircraft.

“The B717s provide us with [the] flexibility to service many segments of the domestic market, including regional routes, fly in fly out operations, or add more frequencies to capital cities. These are the kind of routes where travel demand is likely to recover first.”

Hawaiian Airlines is #1

While further change this year is inevitable, Hawaiian Airlines presently has getting on for half the B717 capacity compared to Delta. This is not surprising given Delta has 45 717s versus 12 with Hawaiian, according to Airfleets data.

But actually, Hawaiian’s figure is quite impressive. While Delta has 165% more 717s, it has only 85% more seats. The reason is obvious: Hawaiian’s high-frequency, intra-state services.

Later this year, Hawaiian will have up to 24 daily departures with the 717 from Honolulu to Kahului. No wonder Avi Mannis, the airline’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, told Simple Flying last year that:

“The 717s, our interisland aircraft, they’re absolutely fantastic planes. Simply, no plane is better suited to operating in this environment – very high frequency, short stage length, but with a lot of passengers. The 717 is absolutely the perfect airplane for that.”

123 routes this year

The Boeing 717 is expected to be used on 123 routes across the remainder of 2021, OAG schedules data shows, with the top-10 routes shown below.

  1. Honolulu to Kahului

  2. Honolulu to Kona

  3. Honolulu to Lihue

  4. Honolulu to Hilo

  5. Atlanta to Charlotte

  6. Atlanta to Houston Hobby

  7. Melbourne to Canberra

  8. Atlanta to Little Rock

  9. Atlanta to Huntsville

  10. Atlanta to Washington Dulles

Of the123 routes, 99 are within the US, including one-offs and limited-time services. The remaining 24 are within Australia, including Newcastle (New South Wales) to Melbourne, which launched on March 15th. Qantas hadn’t operated this route non-stop for more than a decade.

S: Simple Flying

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