Southwest Slashes Capacity To Hawaii One Year After Launch

Southwest Airlines has slashed its capacity to Hawaii as a result of travel restrictions, and a huge downturn in demand. The move comes a little over a year since the route was launched with much fanfare.

Southwest Airlines, Hawaii, Flight Suspension
Southwest is cutting over 80% of its flights to Hawaii. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Securing permission to fly between the contiguous United States and Hawaii was no small task for Southwest Airlines. It required a lot of work to secure certification from the FAA. To add to the stress, this was delayed due to the US government shutdown last year.

Despite the many hurdles, however, Southwest Airlines made it. The airline operated its first passenger flight from Oakland to Honolulu on the 17th of March 2019. However, just one year and ten days later, the airline has been forced to slash flights to the Hawaiian islands.

Southwest Airlines, Hawaii, Flight Suspension
Southwest had to secure ETOPS certification to launch flights to Hawaii. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Schedule slashed

Hawaii is currently affected by a mandatory 14-day quarantine period as a result of the ongoing pandemic. As such, tourism to the islands as effectively ben cut, with only essential journeys still going ahead. This has already led ANA to temporarily ground its fleet of two Airbus A380 aircraft.

Now Southwest has followed suit. The issue was discussed in a blog post by the airline’s president, Tom Nealon. In it, he mentioned that from the 5th of April onwards, Southwest will reduce the number of flights to the Hawaiian Islands by 83 percent. According to the Points Guy, the airline usually operates 12 flights a day from the mainland.

Southwest Airlines, Hawaii, Flight Suspension
The first flights were launched just over a year ago. Photo: Southwest Airlines

From the 5th of April, Southwest will only operate two daily flights to Honolulu from the contiguous United States. Both of these flights will originate from Oakland. As such, 10 other transpacific flights will be cut.

The airline’s interisland service will remain operational. This will see twice-daily rotations from Honolulu to neighboring Hawaiian islands. The exception to this is Honolulu to Kahului which will be operated three times per day.

Southwest Airlines, Hawaii, Flight Suspension
It’s unclear when the full schedule will be resumed. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Launching Hawaii flights

Launching Hawaii flights wasn’t as simple as saying “we want to fly here” for Southwest Airlines. Due to the extended water crossings required to reach Hawaii, the airline had to receive ETOPS certification from the FAA to launch the route.

The process to secure ETOPS certification was not a quick one, and would’ve cost Southwest a fair amount before you consider the costs of launching the routes. As such, Southwest likely won’t have been keen to cut the route. However, it is still the preferable scenario when the other option is operating empty aircraft. This option is not good from an economic or environmental standpoint.

Simple Flying has contacted Southwest Airlines for comment.

Have you flown on Southwest’s Hawaii connections? Is suspending some services the right course of action? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!