Industry In Turmoil: United Halts Some Hawaii Flights Due To FAA

Industry In Turmoil: United Halts Some Hawaii Flights Due To FAA

United Airlines will curtail some Hawaii flights temporarily in yet another example of an industry in turmoil. This came just one day after Delta Air Lines and Hawaiian Airlines were stung with a manufacturer’s recall to inspect some 1,200 jet engines they use on many Hawaii flights.

At the same time, American Airlines is looking at how to better manage future flight delays and cancellations while Southwest said in their earnings call that we can expect more changes ahead. Who said flying to and from Hawaii was going to be easy?

First, United said today that it must prune back some flights this summer. The reduction in flights includes their nonstop flight between Honolulu (HNL) and New York City (EWR). The carrier hopes to resume service on that route after September 4.

A comment earlier today from regular John said, “So many details, it seems (jet engines removal & repairs, not just mere engine “inspections”); these repairs done on the mainland (?) vs. Honolulu (?); time frames for complete resolution (?); safety of air travel on not-yet-fixed planes (?). It would be nice to be able to plan ahead. I am personally avoiding at all costs, the specific airlines that are affected.

To which we replied, “We will know more in a few days about this particular problem. As for avoiding airlines, it does seem that the entire industry is more prone than ever to unexpected things happening that can result in delays or cancellations.”

Plus a shortage of air traffic controllers.

A lack of air traffic controllers means that United will be reducing peak summer flying, as has been agreed to by the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA approved waivers to allow a reduction in flights at congested airports that are suffering from shortages of air traffic controllers.

Earlier this month, the acting head of the FAA, Secretary Polly Trottenberg, met with United CEO Scott Kirby. This came after outspoken criticism of the FAA by United Airlines, specifically related to air traffic control performance.

United Airlines said that “the FAA has frankly failed us.”

Last month, in an email to United Employees, CEO Scott Kirby said that more than 150,000 United customers had been impacted due to “FAA staffing issues and their ability to manage traffic.”

After United and the FAA met, Kirby uttered more conciliatory words, saying that the agency had recently become “particularly helpful, responsive, and communicative.”

Flight cancellations and delays that won’t settle down.

Yesterday, for example, it was reported that there were nearly 8k flight delays nationally and 1,300 cancellations. Hawaii did somewhat better yesterday, with a relatively small 143 delayed flights.

Southwest Airlines and American Airlines address industry-wide issues.

Southwest announced on its earnings call that it will need to revamp its 2024 flight schedule “To reflect post-pandemic changes to customer travel patterns [and] align our network, fleet plans, and staffing to reflect the current business environment better.”

So what does that mean? It means we can expect more shakeups in Southwest’s plans as well as that of all the other airlines, without exception.

Meanwhile, American Airlines has just implemented new software (their “Hub Efficiency Analytics tool”) in order to become more efficient in analyzing aircraft, crew, and gates needed. Their system can advise American on which flights to cancel and those to delay so as to reduce the overall impact on the airline’s global operations. American says the new software has already significantly reduced delays and cancellations.

Worse than expected financial performance at Alaska Airlines.

And lastly, at Hawaii-centric Alaska Airlines, their financials, released earlier this week, indicated total revenue in the 3rd quarter of zero to 3%, far less than the nearly 7% increase produced in Q2. On that notice, U.S. airline stocks declined due to the lower than anticipated performance and an apparent decline in airfares. We’ll have more to say on that and how it relates to Hawaii vacations soon.

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11 thoughts on “Industry In Turmoil: United Halts Some Hawaii Flights Due To FAA”

  1. I booked a package deal to Hawaii thru Hawaiian Airlines in September. Will they cancel my flight, hotel & car?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Virgie.

      No, that would be highly unlikely. In the worst case, there could be a change in flights, and even that isn’t certain at this point. Stay tuned.


  2. Yes, there is an Air Traffic Controller shortage. That is an over simplificaton of an industry wide problem. The pilot shortage was predicted over five years ago and the previous system of pilots having to foot the cost of training until reaching certain qualification levels before being taken on by airlines was a rediculous cost. During Covid airlines encouraged early retirements of pilots and flight attendants and were not prepared when the country returned to normal.
    Labor shortages are not an FAA or airline issue only, they exist across the board. The boomers are retiring and there is not a ready supply of labor force to replace them as our population stagnates.
    This will take a long time to solve all our issues and if you look out into the international systems and economies we continue to do better than the rest of the world.

  3. Aloha. This falls squarely in the lap of Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. Pete is always right on the news with a scathing condemnation of any major mishap with a railroad or airline or scolding the rest of us for not riding bikes to work. Alas, cant even staff his own departments! Very unfortunate for all of who will be traveling until Pete is relieved of his duties!

    1. The problem isn’t the current transportation secretary. Ever since Ronald Reagan busted the air traffic controllers union staffing has been an issue. People just don’t want that job anymore. It’s an under paid, over worked, and just generally bad job.

      1. It also has a low(er) retirement age (56). The retirement age for commercial pilots is 65 (->67).

        For people who watched the news this week … there’s no mandatory retirement age for senators. (We wish both of them: him and her all the best!)

  4. Out of all the problems the FAA is the most infuriating because the workforce needed is easy to forecast and shorter to train then a pilot.

    1. Except with no union to protect them any more it’s a crumby job no one wants anymore. It’s been that way for a long time, and it’s just getting worse and worse. Welcome to “right to work” folks. It’s also “right not to take a crumby job”.

  5. Hawaiian Airlines announced they would move aircraft maintenance to the Philippines. I wonder how this will affect aircraft availability as they don’t have many routes in that vicinity (?). Add in aircraft shortage from the PW problem and it’s a real puzzle.

    1. I wish we could, but Alaska doesn’t fly directly to HI out of Phoenix. We’d have to change planes in Portland or Seattle. Although, the total flight times would be about the same. Hmmm, something to re-think about.

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