Hawaiian Airlines, the state’s largest and oldest carrier, said Friday it will make significant reductions to flights and institute a hiring freeze and other cost-cutting measures amid declining demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hawaiian plans to reduce its flights by 8% to 10% in April and 15% to 20% in May. The carrier said it would make schedule changes over the next week.
“We find ourselves in a rapidly evolving environment that has presented our company with its greatest challenge in many years,” Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Peter Ingram said Friday in a letter to employees. “We know this will not be our new normal, but we can’t know when health experts and community mitigation efforts will bring the spread of the virus under control — or when travel apprehension will fade.”
Ingram also told employees that the carrier will institute a hiring freeze.The carrier also has told employees that it will allow voluntary unpaid leave, with benefits, in per-pay-period increments.
Hawaiian employs more than 7,400 workers, 90% of whom live in Hawaii.
The airline also is evaluating other cost-saving actions such as reviewing third-party contracts, deferring nonessential aircraft painting and renegotiating vendor rates. Hawaiian also announced that its senior executives and board members would voluntarily take 10% to 20% pay cuts, effective immediately through at least June.
Despite entering a cost containment mode, the carrier said it’s not skimping on offering guests “added booking flexibility and the ability to change travel plans at no cost.” It’s also “reinforcing and expanding sanitation efforts across the company.”
These latest cuts are in addition to Hawaiian’s earlier decision to suspend Seoul-Honolulu flights between March 2 and April 30. Hawaiian also already had announced it would temporarily suspend three weekly flights between Tokyo’s Haneda and Kona, as well as the four flights per week from Haneda to Honolulu between March 28 and April 29.
The deeper Hawaiian flight reductions are part of an ongoing trend in reductions here in Hawaii and globally.
In February, China Eastern Airlines ceased Shanghai-Honolulu operations. Delta Airlines reduced daily Nagoya-Honolulu and Osaka- Honolulu flights to three flights a week from March 7 to April 30. United Airlines is canceling Sunday flights from Guam to Honolulu between April 5 and 26.
Asiana Airlines also has suspended its Incheon- Honolulu flight from March 9-12, 16-18 and 24-25. Prior to its reduction, that flight, which has 300 seats, flew seven days a week.
Alaska Airlines spokesman Daniel Chun said Thursday that the carrier is planning networkwide reductions to its schedule in late March and April.
“We’ll focus on routes with lower loads and where we can easily accommodate our guests to ensure they’ll still be able to get to their destination in a timely manner. We also plan to reduce flying in May by approximately 3% while we continue to monitor the situation,” Chun said.