CEO Gary Kelly indicated yesterday a possible further delay in additional Southwest Hawaii plans for flights from San Diego, Sacramento, Kauai and more. “Depending on when the Max returns, we’ll be introducing service from San Jose, Sacramento and San Diego.” SWA senior adviser Brad Hawkins added (as we had been told) that the Max grounding does not affect Hawaii flights, while at the same time saying “but it does affect the airline and how we sequence service adds.”
Beat of Hawaii was told (following the Max grounding) that additional flights would be announced by the end of April. These latest comments seem to put those announcements at risk. The way we read it is that plans are not changed in terms of where Southwest will be flying. When they will be flying those additional routes, however, now seems unsure.
Add to that uncertainty about when Max planes can return to service. Last week, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association said after meeting with FAA, “we’ve taken off our watches and put the calendars in the drawer…. We’re walking down that path, we’re not running.”
Thus, for the moment, we simply don’t know how the next wave of Southwest Hawaii flights may be impacted with this latest news. At present, Boeing 737 Max 8 flights have been suspended from Southwest schedule until August 5. SWA president Tom Nealon, who we met last month and is pictured above, had said: “We have now modified our schedule through August 5, 2019; the return to service of the MAX remains unclear.”
What we have learned:
1. On March 17 we were told the next wave of flight announcements would take place by the end of April 2019. Based on what we’ve just learned, that may or may not occur.
2. Earlier this month we advised you of rumors circulating that the Southwest Hawaii roll-out could take longer than had originally been anticipated. This was not confirmed by SWA. If true, that could in part be due to the Max 8 problems, with some of the 737-800 planes used for Hawaii needed elsewhere, or for other reasons.
3. We do not know whether the next announcement will precede the return of Max planes to their schedule or not. If it does, we would still expect fewer flights and fewer non-stops to be released. Thus, Lihue could be an extension of Maui or Honolulu flights instead of nonstop at the beginning. That could be handled in the same way that Southwest announced Kona flights as extensions rather than as non-stops. San Diego, Sacramento and Lihue should all be added in some form on the next announcement, however.
5. Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Denver flight additions could also be more prolonged, together with the rest of the Hawaii roll-out.