How things are going with Hawaii’s bellwether largely foretells how things are going in Hawaii’s overall, travel-based economy. Hawaiian Airlines said it is starting to see tangible recovery in travel, including their launch this week of 3 of 4 new routes. The company’s SVP, Brent Overbeek, recently addressed where the airline is in the recovery process, and it was definitely insightful.
Numbers say travel is making a comeback.
Even before the CDC makes an anticipated formal travel announcement, there is good news. TSA had its busiest day in a year last Friday, with 1.36 million passengers going through US checkpoints. This also comes as the Hawaii Tourism Authority is sharing hopeful numbers during spring break. Saturday, for example, there were nearly 20,000 vacation arrivals in the state. When Kauai comes back online starting April 5, things should continue to improve.
When asked about the new routes, Brent said, “Some of our deeper, established markets – like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Seattle – will take some time to return to pre-pandemic levels. In this downtime, we saw an opportunity to expand our footprint on the U.S. West Coast and tap into new markets that have demonstrated a strong interest in travel to Hawaii.”
Returning demand for Hawaii travel?
Hawaiian said that their current “Focus is on ramping up our North America schedule. In February, we flew about 60 percent of our pre-pandemic levels, and as we continue to add back service, I think we will likely be in the 90-95-percent range in May. Travel within the state of Hawaii also picks up as our U.S. mainland guests connect to the other Neighbor Islands.”
Brent also mentioned that Hawaiian looks forward to the expected removal of interisland COVID testing requirements, which could happen at any point now. That will definitely spur flying between islands.
Hawaiian fleet is being used differently.
Brent said that the company has even been using its new Airbus A321neo fleet for some interisland flights during these difficult times. It has also utilized the larger A330 for cargo-only operations in a charter capacity. He said, however, that as recovery takes hold, “I think we’ll transition back to how we used our fleet before the pandemic.”
Mixed blessing – international is on hold.
Governments are still working through international reopening. On the good side, that makes Hawaii travel a whole lot easier than foreign destinations. On the bad side, it is curtailing Hawaiian Air’s business with Asia and the South Pacific.