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Southwest Airlines plans full interisland service on Sept. 1

Southwest Airlines saw its earnings swing to a significant loss during the second quarter as travel demand continued falling from coronavirus fears and travel lockdowns.

But the results didn’t stop the carrier from reaffirming its commitment to Hawaii during an investor relations conference call this morning.

Southwest, like every other carrier serving Hawaii, has cut service in the wake of Gov. David Ige’s mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for arriving passengers, which began March 26 and currently extends through Aug. 31.

The carrier had added Hawaii service back for what was anticipated to be an Aug. 1 launch of a pre-arrivals testing program. However, after Ige postponed the pre-arrivals testing program by a month, Southwest revised its flight schedule downward.

Southwest’s revisions effectively push the restart of substantial flying between the islands and the mainland until Sept. 1, aligning to the new start date for quarantine-waived arrivals for travelers who have recently tested negative for COVID-19.

On Sept. 1, the carrier plans to start its new nonstop service between Honolulu and San Diego and resume a full schedule of interisland flying.

“Gov. Ige very appropriately extended the quarantine, so we pulled that back, but we are exited to get back to Hawaii as soon as we are allowed,” Southwest President Tom Nealon said. “We’re anxious to get going. It’s just not the right time now. We will.”

Nealon said the carrier is now in a “kind of a vital … level of service in Hawaii with two flights from the mainland to Hawaii and a few interisland.”

“We are really excited to get back into our pre-COVID schedule,” Nealon said. “We are going to build the Hawaii-California interisland market — that was what we were slated to do.”

Southwest’s second-quarter loss was $915 million, or $1.63 loss a share, compared with a gain of $741 million a year earlier. The carrier posted an adjusted loss of $1.5 billion or $2.67 a diluted share.

In the second quarter, Southwest had an operating revenue of $1 billion, down nearly 83% from the $5.9 billion attained during the same period last year.

The carrier reported $14.5 billion in cash and short-term investments and ended the second-quarter with liquidity of $15.5 billion.

“We expect air travel demand to remain depressed until a vaccine or therapeutics are available to combat the infection and spread of COVID-19,” Southwest Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly said..

Kelly said Southwest was encouraged by better leisure traffic in May and June. However, the improving trends stalled in July as COVID-19 cases spread.

More than a quarter of Southwest’s workforce, about 17,000 employees, have signed up to participate in voluntary employment reductions ranging from buyouts to temporary leaves of absence. Southwest hopes the measures will be enough to stave off future involuntary reductions, something that the carrier has never implemented in all its years in business.

The carrier also has attempted to trim costs by cutting schedules.

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