Southwest Hawaii Flights Brace for More Reductions | Route “Re-Optimization” Planned

Southwest has fully established its presence in Hawaii flights, but it hasn’t come without great challenges. There’s yet another round they’re now facing.

The latest news comes as Southwest marks exactly five years today since BOH editors were in Honolulu, marking the very first Southwest Hawaii flight to arrive from the mainland. And that flight too was long in coming, as we’d already been writing about their aspirations for about a decade. When they finally arrived, as you’ll recall, the airline was largely welcomed with open arms by Hawaii visitors and residents, as well as county and state officials who had courted Southwest Hawaii flights.

Southwest first added then cut Hawaii flights. Now even more cuts are on the table.

What’s coming next was referred to by Southwest last week in an SEC filing as “schedule re-optimization.” With that, the airline confirmed further cuts are coming to flights it will operate in 2024. The new term came from Southwest when they were asked about what flights they might soon cut. The company said, ““We don’t yet have anything to share about schedule re-optimization at specific airports we serve.”

21% fewer Hawaii-capable planes this year.

The SEC filing pointed to the next round of changes coming as a result of their diminished outlook for plane deliveries resulting from Boeing’s 737 MAX problems. The airline is reported to be receiving 42% fewer than the total of 79 new planes that it anticipated in 2024. Of that, 21% appear to be for planes arriving that are capable of Hawaii flights, the MAX 8 variant.

Southwest already cancelled about 50% of Hawaii flights since its heyday.

That occurred as the company continues to evolve a long-term niche in both interisland and mainland to Hawaii service. That evolution includes having moved to a seasonally or occasionally operated schedule instead of entirely year-round flights. That is in fact becoming more common across the entire industry, including at competitors Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines.

Some of the Southwest flights flights returning this spring that will operate on a seasonal basis include LA to Kauai, LA to Kona, LA to Maui, Sacramento to Maui, and Long Beach to Maui.

The year-round Southwest Hawaii routes on the other hand include Las Vegas to and from Honolulu, Kauai, Kona and Maui, Long Beach and Oakland to Honolulu, Kauai, Kona and Maui, plus inter-island flights.

Staffing reductions are also on the table.

Southwest reported that its recruitment efforts have been halted across multiple departments, including at roles such as pilots and flight attendants, representing a recent shift in Southwest’s workforce plans. That will cause the airline to navigate through the operational implications, which will be revealed soon.

Southwest stock reflected these concerns, and was down nearly 17% this week.

On a more positive note, Southwest joined Hawaii Airlines in this unique initiative.

In a fascinating yet unrelated development, this week we revealed that Southwest has joined Hawaiian Air, United and others in an initiative with the potential to revolutionize Hawaii interisland travel over the next five years.

We welcome your input on changes coming to Southwest Hawaii flights.

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19 thoughts on “Southwest Hawaii Flights Brace for More Reductions | Route “Re-Optimization” Planned”

  1. As a Flight Attendant I do not support this new way of traveling. My biggest concern is the wildlife and how it will be affected. Also we have so many freighters, fishing boats and cruise ships to deal with. The winds in Hawaii can be very unpredictable causing dangerous conditions.

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