Southwest Hawaii Update

Southwest Hawaii Business Model Headwinds Amid Industry Woes

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.”

Do you have any more suggestions for dealing with airline flight delays and cancelations?

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12 thoughts on “Southwest Hawaii Business Model Headwinds Amid Industry Woes”

  1. Another suggestion. Our last trip in May was planned to avoid the spring break crush and the summer slam and we did pretty well. If the airlines and resorts could agree the issue is reaching a critical mass, waive change fees on the islands for the summer. I did not prepay any part of my May trip in case of a melt down in paradise. If I was coming again soon, I would postpone for my own pleasure. Hey, I live in Missouri sometimes pronounced Misery but a staycation with the probability of a better trip later might be the prudent call. 56 trips go the islands in 21 years!

  2. I commented previously about the issues we and our party faced in mid-May including car rentals, airlines, and resort check-in. Suggestions: Inbound flights from overseas seem to arrive in bunches, at least according to the rental car people. Airports on the mainland like O’Hare in Chicago and DFW in Dallas or Denver seem to treat planes like rush hour traffic. Is there anyway to reasonably spread arrivals and departures? One airline employee said a problem was connecting flights on the mainland to be considered. Spreadout arrivals might help resorts, but for many reasons resort rooms are not prepared with arrival times of guests taken into account. Car rentals in and out would be helped. Avis for both rentals had no room to accept returns.

  3. 2 years ago I was book in December to Kauai on swa for $99 each way. Last year it was $250. This year it’s over $500

  4. Their is two other problems with SWA’s inter island operation. The 737 Max is designed to be the most fuel efficient long range 737 built. It is not designed for short haul high frequency flights. I’m concerned inter island use exasperates their potential for safety issues. Not just my opinion but the opinion of airline operations specialists (vs the bean counters who make the decisions) Also their flight crews are inexperienced with inter island flying. They are here for a day on a layover and are not that use to inter island flying. Particularly problematic on bad weather days. Hawaiians flights are staffed by full time inter island professionals that live here.

    1. JohnW, you’re misinformed.

      Only a small, specially trained portion of Southwest pilots fly in Hawaii, and they operate their aircraft exactly the same as the Hawaiian pilots.

  5. SWA has been a terrible fit for Hawaii. Yes competition can be good but they have gummed up the airports with their business model and have completely ignored Hawaii’s needs when we reopened last summer. There was a congestion issue and the State was trying to get the airlines to slow down and moderate their flights. Hawaiian of course, as well as othe other mainland airlines were willing. Apparently SWA was not as they were more intent on growing their “product” in Hawaii being the new guys.

    1. JohnW, you’re overlooking the fact that Southwest has hugely reduced the inter-Island airfare since their arrival, saving kama’aina a whole lot of money.

  6. As I have said on here often, save yourself a headache and don’t ever fly southworst. Unless of course you enjoy improperly maintained aircraft and being herded onto the airplane like cattle.

    1. Mike G,

      Southwest’s 737MAX aircraft are MUCH younger than Hawaiian’s 717s, and, as MAX aircraft, are the most investigated and best maintained aircraft flying.

  7. Just returning from Portugal. At LaGuardia , travelers were advised to arrive two hours early. It took one and a half hours to get through baggage drop and TSA.Then the long walk to the gate! Travelers who arrived late to check in were not given any special place in line to expedite their rush to the gate. Delta simply didn’t have enough airport personnel to help late checkins.
    Heed the advice to arrive early ! We saw a lot of stress and anger among passengers. .

  8. Okay, y’all…though it might be a bit gruesome to behold, thanks for a morning grin.

    “Southwest handles that well under normal circumstances, with – cleaver – route planning..”

    1. Any competition to the monopoly Hawaiian has created is welcome. This includes the HAL fanboys replying here.

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