Flight delays on Hawaii flights are ongoing. Also, does the unique Southwest Hawaii business model exacerbate them?
This comes while demand for Hawaii travel remains unprecedented, despite raging inflation. The number of domestic visitor arrivals is higher than ever before. Pushing Hawaii travel to and beyond the constraints of the airlines’ abilities, is definitely adding to the problem.
Even as far back as 2019, when Southwest started interisland flights, we expressed concerns about one thing. Southwest planes are all mainland-based. Flights arrive in Hawaii, then perform multiple interisland flights before returning. The concern that raises as we said back then, “is that Southwest inter-island flights might have some degree of reduced punctuality.” If a mainland flight is late or canceled, that could have an impact on subsequent inter-island flights. By contrast, Hawaiian uses a dedicated fleet of aircraft based in Hawaii, for their interisland flights.
Back then, we never envisioned the type of wholesale delays that are hitting all airlines and Hawaii flights. Yet, Hawaii residents and visitors rely on dependability, especially when flying between the islands, for what is essentially a flying bus service. Southwest handles that well under normal circumstances, with cleaver route planning. That includes keeping the aircraft within the state long enough to mitigate potential delays. Even Southwest, however, couldn’t have been prepared for this.
Today’s flight delays (June 29).
At HNL (Honolulu), Hawaii’s busiest airport, at the time of checking, it is being reported that 26% of Southwest’s flights are delayed, compared with 12% at United, 6% at Alaska, and 4% at Hawaiian.
Booming demand, plus a lack of staff and pilots is portending a less than stellar Hawaii summer travel experience.
While Hawaii has definitely seen fewer cancelations than the mainland, where over 20k flights have been canceled this month, the same cannot be said for flight delays, which are tracking far above numbers ever seen previously.
Delta says free flight changes with no fare difference.
At this point, it is going to take at least a few more months of painful travel before demand abates and we see some easing of delays and cancelations. Delta Airlines warned yesterday to expect more flight disruptions this summer and is now allowing its guests to rebook trips with no penalty including no change in fare. That is currently for tickets booked for July 1–4. That may be extended, however, if problems persist.
Airlines are now pulling out all the stops to try to control delays and cancelations, including hiring more employees. Airlines are each said to be hiring hundreds of new pilots each month. We’re wondering where they are finding them, for one thing. Besides, pilot training is slow and tedious and the shortage will be years long in any event.
Can good Hawaii weather save airlines from flight delays.
For years, Hawaiian Air has scored at the top of on-time arrivals in the U.S. In large part that’s due to the good weather flying that predominates the airlines operations both interisland and from the west coast. But now, Airlines For America has warned U.S. DOT that good weather may no longer help. That came in a letter
In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg last week, Airlines for America said that even in good weather, Air Traffic Control inadequate staffing is causing flight disruptions. The FAA piped up in the discussion, targeting airlines by saying “People expect when they buy an airline ticket that they’ll get where they need to go safely, efficiently, reliably and affordably. After receiving $54 billion in pandemic relief to help save the airlines from mass layoffs and bankruptcy, the American people deserve to have their expectations met.”