Why You Can’t Fly To Hawaii From
For those of you who report loving easy-access California airports when flying to Hawaii, there’s trouble ahead. This comes as airlines are shedding some Hawaii routes faster than a Honolulu minute.
It wasn’t long ago that airlines were adding Hawaii flights.
That was true across the board. And one airport fared better than most with the increased service. Sleepy but ultra-convenient Long Beach airport quickly ramped up Hawaii flights. Hawaiian Airlines jumped on the airport’s waiting list to get flight slots, as did Delta Airlines. Then Hawaii newcomer Southwest Airlines joined the Long Beach to Hawaii party.
This started when Hawaiian began daily service from Long Beach and Honolulu back just five years ago. At the time, we speculated that Long Beach to Maui would be the next destination to be added. And it was. But now everything has changed.
Southwest pulled one of its two Long Beach to Hawaii routes almost entirely.
“Long Beach to Maui has been canceled,” was the news we reported back in July 2022. “While they no longer fly nonstop on this route, Southwest continues to fly between Long Beach and Honolulu. Hawaiian Airlines will be the only airline operating between Long Beach and Maui.” For 2024, the route will return briefly to their schedule in March, albeit just one time a week, on Saturdays.
Hawaiian cancels these flights through the upcoming winter.
It didn’t come as a complete surprise to us that Hawaiian has decided to withdraw from one of its two Long Beach to Hawaii flights for an extended period. The details are that the airline will not fly from Long Beach to Maui starting December 8. They plan to resume the route next year on March 10, following an absence of more than three months. They will not operate that route over the peak holiday season and during the snowbird season in 2024.
Commenter Kimo already exclaimed, “Looks like OGG-LGB is discontinued from 12/14 and the return LGB-OGG from 12/15. What a mess for the winter travel plans!”
We’ve had many complaints about little or no notification from Hawaiian about flight changes. Please let us know what your experience is. BOH editors just learned of an upcoming flight change for which we did receive ample notice from the airline.
Why did Hawaiian pull back on Long Beach? Two reasons are to blame.
First is that the airline is severely challenged, facing year-long engine repairs on its 5-year old fleet of narrow-body planes. That was first reported by Reuters last month, and by Beat of Hawaii. In a nutshell, repairs that were to have been far more brief and on fewer engines escalated suddenly. What was first proposed to take two-months for each aircraft-grounding inspection and repair became 10 months or longer. That has been confirmed by the engine manufacturer as well. Hawaiian has not been forthcoming about the full impact this problem, not of their making, and what will result over the next year or longer. But this is telltale.
The second and equally troubling problem for Hawaii is that Maui is recovering slowly.
Following the Lahaina fire, all of Maui travel has remained depressed. There is finally some recovery occurring, and the test of that will truly be during the upcoming holiday and winter season. But for now, it doesn’t warrant the excess number of flights that all airlines previous had on their schedules.
Excessive route cancellations preceded route termination for the winter season.
Long Beach to Maui was one of the two Hawaiian routes with excessive cancellations we reported on earlier this week. “Flight 71 from Long Beach to Maui has been canceled six times in just the eight days,” we said. Also, “Hawaiian Flight 41 from San Francisco to Maui has been canceled ten times from September 26 through October 17.”
Why Long Beach Hawaii flights work but Orange County Hawaii flights didn’t?
There is significant long-standing demand for Hawaii flights from Orange County (John Wayne Airport), with millions of traveling residents. The only significant alternatives for Hawaii travel other than Long Beach are San Diego or Los Angeles and, to a far lesser degree, Ontario.
Flying from LAX or SAN can means driving an hour or more before considering traffic, airport congestion. If you are considering flying Hawaiian to or from LAX, we suggest you read, This Hawaiian Airlines Terminal Is A Traveler’s Nightmare.
The short runway at John Wayne means aircraft have passenger and cargo limitations with its 5,701-foot length. To compare, that is 800 feet shorter than the 6,500-foot Lihue (LIH) runway, which also causes restrictions. When Aloha Airlines flew from Orange County to Honolulu, it faced weight and passenger limits. United, too, tried Orange County to Hawaii flights, but it wasn’t profitable, and they left.
Long Beach Hawaii flights appeared to be a magical answer.
Long Beach Airport actively sought more Hawaii flights and then got them. When Hawaiian initially expanded at LGB, the Long Beach mayor said, “Hawaiian Airlines making this long-term investment in Long Beach is a real testament to the strength of our airport.”
The airport, located three miles from Long Beach, has three runways up to 10,000 feet in length. It’s also just twenty miles from LAX. But it is entirely different with less traffic, congestion, and no mile-long LAX walk! Guests love that, and we found the same to be true.
Hawaiian A321neo maintenance base at Long Beach Airport.
Hawaii’s bellwether also has a maintenance base at Long Beach Airport. So, having flights to both Honolulu (HNL) and Maui (OGG) and routing their A321 fleet there for maintenance made sense. There was a time when we thought they might even expand further at Long Beach.
The Hawaiian depot is a significant supply and service base and warehouse where mechanics perform a variety of inspections and repairs. However, as far as we know, the year-long A321neo engine repairs needed are not done at Long Beach but instead in Clark, Philippines, at a third-party facility.