New issues for flights to Southwest Hawaii

Flights to Southwest Hawaii may now face bigger problems than we thought. Shouldn’t these be behind us? Challenges can affect the number of flights to Hawaii Southwest that can be operated and result in higher prices. If Southwest raises prices, it’s a foregone conclusion that Hawaiian will follow. While this has been widely reported, here we focus on the impact on Hawaii flights.

Changes Threatening Flights in Southwest Hawaii:

  • Fares are forced to increase, including Hawaii fares, as the airline is unable to meet current and forecast travel demand. Southwest’s CEO recently said they could fly significantly more flights if it weren’t for the pilot shortage.
  • Earn more money with fewer flights and passengers. Southwest said it was “looking for increasing revenue at lower capacity.” That’s because not enough pilots can fly more flights.
  • Some Southwest Hawaii flights may be suspended. With Southwest unable to fly all of its planes even as it has expanded flights to Hawaii, more frequency changes appear to be on the horizon.
  • Additional seasonal flights to Hawaii will occur. A nod to this from Southwest and the fact that they’ve already started running some of their Hawaii flights off schedule, only to later get them back on schedule. So we’re assuming that both have true seasonality in their future Hawaii flight schedule at any time of the year, but maybe only fly on a specific route on certain days of the week, like Alaska Airlines does.

Can’t currently fly all of their planes.

It dates back to when the airline slowed its staff acquisitions during Covid and even encouraged some early retirement, among other things. And Southwest, like other airlines, underestimated the skyrocketing demand for travel and the speed at which it was returning. It all comes together and isn’t the best type for travelers to Hawaii or the Southwest.

For most airline employees, with the exception of pilots, this problem has been solved, or at least as far as possible. But when it comes to the pilots, it’s a problem Southwest can’t easily shake off. It recently hit the fan, according to their CEO Bob Jordan.

During their Q3 earnings call, Southwest’s CEO said, “If we could all fly our planes, i. a higher percentage of capacity or ASMs this year. That’s about how much more we could fly. Rather, it is the factor that it is the mix of short, medium and long-haul flying.”

What is Southwest doing to fix the problem?

Jordan said: “We are on track to hire 1,200 pilots this year and 2,100 pilots next year as planned. We wanted to restore our operational security. Going forward, we believe we have capacity that is seasonally more aligned with demand.” Our pilot recruitment and training continues to be the growth driver as we continue to evolve. We continue to attract highly qualified pilot candidates and the training program for new pilot boarding at Southwest Airlines is robust.”

  • First and foremost it’s about hiring those 1,200 pilots this year and 2,100 next year if things go according to plan.
  • Creativity has also found its way into the job search at Southwest and other airlines. For example the photo above of a Southwest pilot and fFirst Officer father-daughter team. We are seeing more and more of these creative employment opportunities.
  • Outside of Southwest’s direct purview, other ways are suggested to lower experience hours requirements. The mandatory retirement age could also be changed from 65 to 67.
  • Airlines, including Southwest, are trying to attract pilots from all sorts of sources. One of these has been regional airlines that have lost their pilots to mainline airlines.

The Southwest’s pilot plans could include foreign pilots.

The airline is considering seeking U.S. clearance for H1B visa holders from countries other than Southwest pilots. They have a pilot in mind to hire, or at least they said so. Surely a pilot would be a way to test these uncharted waters.

SWAPA, the pilots’ union in the Southwest, has none of it, be it one pilot or hundreds. Recently SWAPA, while unaware of this new development, issued a letter of concern over what it believes poses a threat to its union members. The union does not like this precedent.

This industry-wide pilot issue started years ago.

The shortage of qualified pilots has been a problem for a number of years and has a variety of reasons. This includes many pilots reaching the mandatory retirement age (65). The age-old path from military pilot to commercial pilot has slowed down significantly. Then Covid hit, more pilots left with great retirement offers and others just wanted to change jobs.

The airlines that fly to Hawaii, including American, Delta, Hawaiian and Southwest, have all established new training programs with numerous flight schools. But that will take time, and the problem is expected to continue for years to come.

There are currently approximately 135,000 airline and commercial pilots in the United States. It is estimated that the airline will need about 30,000 more pilots by the end of this decade.

Are you concerned about these developments affecting flights in Southwest Hawaii?

Our first thought is that we may see the end of the current $39 inter-island fares and revert to the old stratospheric fares for such short flights as inter-island flights are withdrawn. This could be a good week to book inter-island flights. UGG

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