Southwest Hawaii Pilot father and daughter team

New Trouble Looming for Southwest Hawaii Flights

Southwest Hawaii flights could now face bigger problems than we thought. Aren’t these supposed to be behind us? Challenges reported may impact the number of flights to Hawaii that Southwest can operate, and speak to higher prices ahead. If Southwest does raise prices, it’s a foregone conclusion that Hawaiian Airlines will follow. While this has been widely reported, our focus here is the impact on Hawaii flights.

Changes threatening Southwest Hawaii flights:

  • Prices will need to go up, including Hawaii fares, as the airline lacks the capacity to meet current and projected travel demand. Southwest’s CEO said recently that they could fly significantly more flights if it weren’t for the pilot shortage.
  • Having to make more money on fewer flights and passengers. Southwest said it is “looking for up revenues on down capacity.” That is a result of not enough pilots to fly more flights.
  • Some Southwest Hawaii flights might be going away. Since Southwest cannot fly all of its aircraft, even at the same time it has expanded Hawaii flights, more changes in flight frequency appear to be on the horizon.
  • More Hawaii flight seasonality to occur. A hint to this from Southwest is the fact that they’ve already started cycling some of their Hawaii flights off-schedule, only to return them back to their schedule later. So we anticipate both true seasonality by the time of year in their future Hawaii flight schedule, but also flying only certain days of the week on any given route, as Alaska Airlines does to Hawaii.

Southwest can’t fly all of its aircraft at this time.

It still dates back to when the airline, during Covid, slowed its employee acquisition and even encouraged some early retirement, among other things. And Southwest, like other airlines, underestimated the skyrocketing demand for travel and the speed with which it returned. This is all coming together and not in the best way for Hawaii travelers or Southwest.

For most airline employees, except pilots, that issue has been dealt with, or at least as much as possible. But when it comes to the pilots, that is a problem that Southwest can’t easily shake. It has hit the fan recently, according to their CEO Bob Jordan.

During their 3rd quarter earnings call, Southwest’s CEO said, “If we could fly all of our aircraft, that is, we had enough pilots to fly the aircraft on property, we would be roughly 5%, 6%, 7%, 8% higher percentage of capacity or ASMs (available seat miles) this year right now. That’s about how much more we could fly. It’s really more that’s the factor that it is the mix of the flying short-haul, medium-haul, long-haul.”

What is Southwest doing to remediate the problem?

Jordan said, “We are on track to hire 1,200 pilots this year and 2,100 pilots next year as planned. We wanted to restore our operational reliability. Going forward, we believe we have capacity better matched seasonally to demand. Our pilot hiring and training continue to be the pacing factor for growth as we move forward. We continue to attract high-quality pilot candidates, and the training program to onboard a new pilot to Southwest Airlines are robust.”

  • First and foremost is hiring those 1,200 pilots this year and 2,100 next year if things go according to plan.
  • Creativity has also entered the job search at Southwest and other airlines. For example, the photo above of a Southwest pilot and first officer father and daughter team. We are seeing more and more of these creative employment opportunities.
  • Out of Southwest’s direct purview, other possibilities being proposed include lowering the requirements for hours of experience. The mandatory retirement age could also be changed to 67 from 65.
  • Airlines including Southwest are looking to attract pilots from every possible source. One of those has been regional airlines, which have been losing their pilots to mainline carriers.

Southwest pilot plans could include foreign pilots.

The airline is considering seeking US clearance for H1B visa holders from other countries to be Southwest pilots. They have one pilot in mind to hire, or at least that is what it has stated. For sure, one pilot would be a way to test these uncharted waters.

SWAPA, Southwest pilots’ union, isn’t having any of it, be it one pilot or hundreds. Recently, while stating they were unaware of this new development, SWAPA issued a letter of concern to what they deem a threat to their union members. The union doesn’t like the precedent that this would set.

This industry-wide pilot problem started years ago.

A shortage of qualified pilots has been an issue for a number of years and a myriad of reasons. Among them is that many pilots are hitting the mandatory retirement age (65). The age-old path of military pilots becoming commercial pilots has slowed significantly. Then when Covid hit, more pilots left with great retirement offers, and others just wanted to change jobs.

The airlines flying to Hawaii, including American, Delta, Hawaiian, and Southwest, have all established new training programs with scores of flight schools. But that will take time, and the problem is expected to continue for years to come.

There are currently some 135k airline and commercial pilots in the U.S. It’s been estimated that the airlines will need about 30k more pilots by the end of this decade.

Do you have any concerns about these developments impacting Southwest Hawaii flights?

Our first thought is that if interisland flights are pulled back, we could see the end of the current $39 airfares between islands and go back to the old stratospheric fares for such short flights. This might be a good week in fact to book interisland flights. Ugg.


Leave a Comment

Comment policy:
* No profanity, rudeness, personal attacks, or bullying.
* Hawaii focused only. General comments won't be published.
* No links or UPPER CASE text. English please.
* No duplicate posts or using multiple names.
* Use a real first name, last initial.
* Comments edited/published/responded to at our discretion.
* Beat of Hawaii has no relationship with our commentors.
* 750 character limit.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

67 thoughts on “New Trouble Looming for Southwest Hawaii Flights”

  1. Will be my second attempt to fly to Hawaii. I had to cancel in April of 2020 due to covin and got a voucher. I am now scheduled to fly with my sister in February of 2023. I am hoping dearly that I am still going to make it I’m 72 and I had hoped in 2020 to celebrate my 70th birthday time is running out on me

  2. Southwest already has the Highest fares in the industry, they were known for low fares but those days havebeen gone for many many years now with now Premium [F Class ] product. So now its the worse product in the industry–Sad but true. We a wish them better days.

    1. I have No Idea what Your Market is nor where you get your information from but I am Constantly receiving offers and updates from SWA that Can’t Be Beat. I know that they eventually will increase but for the 2+ years I’ve been receiving the offers the prices have either remained the same or briefly increased $10. If I had the time I would be flying all over the country and further.

  3. To the CEO of SWA. You had a safe Airline at one time. You have acquired a airline company that had Cancer.You Did Not have the Pilots to cover that Acquired Airline. Incase they resigned on you after you bought them out. If they did? You would not be in this situation. Oh yea you can blame it on Cova 19. Government lies yes! Age of pilots need to step down. All lies. Bottom line! You expanded to large to fast. And no pilots to fill the seats. Now you turn to foreign pilots. It’s the last bid. Before you belly up your Airline. SWA the way it’s going. W

    1. With SWA Acquisition of Air Tran in “2014”, Yes “2014”, Southwest Gained in Several Ways. Denver Based SWA gained a foothold in Additional Markets, More Aircraft and Employees along with Precious Plane Berthing Spot at Reagan International Airport as well as others. The Search for Foreign Pilots is Not Entirely New and Many Airlines are looking into the same, the Lack of Pilots is Industry Wide. SWA is in good shape but with more Pilots could be doing much better, just like Every Airline. I prefer listening to Industry Professionals instead of individuals with little to no knowledge and apparent grudges.

  4. As a former employee of Southwest Airlines, I can confidently assure you that the inter island fares will not return to the “stratospheric” level that Hawaiian charged in the past. While the fares may increase, it would probably be a fairly modest increase.

    1. Mark, You mean like the $220-$400 dollars I just checked for OAK to BUR? (comparable to an inter island flight) I actually think competition is a healthy thing however my issue with SWA is, as their pilot union head said, they are predatory and aggressive and proud of it. That attitude gets displayed by SWA in many ways and is offensive to Hawaiian culture. Boasting about the local jobs you want to take and putting down Hawaiian to try and promote yourself is the epitome of what locals like the least about some (not all!) outsiders moving here.

      1. Even more telling was your CEO coming to Hawaii for his first visit ever this summer. He was on the morning news being interviewed by Howard Dicus and was the epitome of clueless about Hawaii while he sat slouched in his chair boosting how perfect SWA was for Hawaii….Auwe!

    2. and finally this point has been made before but needs to be repeated, when you fly Hawaiian you are supporting local jobs in all categories. SWA revenue goes to the mainland, HA revenue goes to the local economy and supports Hawaii.

  5. There is only one pilot shortage solution that creates instant relief .. raise the mandatory age 65 pilot retirement or eliminate this discriminatory age policy all-together and demand Congress bases a pilot’s retirement on their individual medical/cognitive ability .. just like Canada, Australia and New Zealand!
    The pilot unions selfishly are selling a misleading and false “Safety” opposition to raising the age so they can maintain the pilot shortage for their open contract negotiations.
    There is no data supporting this “Safety” lie!
    Just ask the 9 countries in the world and those companies that retired airline pilots fly for after 65!
    Enough said!

    1. The trouble is, as someone who’s over 65 myself, I can tell that my reflexes aren’t what they used to be, etc. So from a “safety” perspective I get the argument if you want a generalization. If you want to go with a system that is individualized, then you have to set standard tests for formative abilities, relaxes, etc. Then you have to test every pilot on an annual basis. To be “fair” you would have to test All pilots, otherwise it’s age discrimination. Then there’s the question of medical privacy. I’m sure some pilots will object to this testing saying it violates their “rights”. It’s not as easy a problem to solve as you might think.

  6. Scares me to death at the thought of hiring pilots from out of the country with all the terrorism going on in the world! Please don’t do this SWA!!!!

    1. Scares you to death well how about that look at all the foreigners that come in from other countries Singapore China Russia check Republican Vietnamese airlines and all the other ones that land in International airports on the West Coast and you’re scared to death about a foreign pilot managing A757.

  7. So…. We thought $39 interisland flights were economically sustainable for the operators, and would last indefinitely? That’s fun.

    1. Smart ppl do in fact will fly SWA in December of this year. Due to the fact they are the cheapest. Don’t believe me? Take a look. United Airlines from SFO to Pits. $ 1450.00 to 2100.00 Economy. SWA way less than that end of story.

      1. You must be looking at F Class Fares or UA, LOL. Southwest is the Highest fares in the industry with no seat assignments and flight attendants having a union meeting in the galley. Get rid of the unions and you can get real low fares. Ask Walmart and Pan Am.

      2. Huh, I just looked it up, and you can get a round trip flight SFO to PIT in Dec. for under $900, and they aren’t even the cheapest. That’s Main Cabin, BTW, so the equivalent to SWA’s seating.


Scroll to Top