Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Peter Ingram joined Spotlight Hawaii to talk about the impact of the coronavirus on the company. Ingram says the airline has adapted by instituting new safety protocols, but with the return of the neighbor island quarantine and the continuation of the transpacific travel quarantine, customer demand is not there.
“The impact of COVID-19 has been nothing short of profound on our business. It’s just hard to fathom such a significant decline in demand and the ability for people to access our services,” he said.
Ingram says Hawaiian Airlines is losing upwards of $3 million a day, and has borrowed heavily to survive. They have offered early retirement opportunities, voluntary leaves, and extended furloughs to employees, but even with those departures, they expect to have to lay people off starting in October.
“Even when it’s voluntary, I will tell you, there were tears flowing as people were saying their goodbyes and it’s been a tough, tough period for all of our team,” he said.
A pre-travel COVID-19 testing program, which could mean the end of the 14-day transpacific travel quarantine, was initially set to begin in August, but has been pushed back repeatedly. That has been difficult for Hawaiian Airlines and others in the tourism industry to plan around.
“I’m obviously concerned, you know, having seen the date set for August 1st, and then see that shift to September 1st, and then see it shift to October, we’re anxious that there may be another slide in that date, candidly, particularly with the case count continuing to be high here in Hawaii,” he said.
Ingram says when the pre-testing program was first announced, there was a lot of interest from travelers and ticket sales increased, but without specifics from policymakers, that interest has waned.
“What we’re hoping to get, sooner rather than later, is more details and specifics of the absolute clarity around what tests are applicable, so that we can get information about where people can get tests, try and provide that to our guests,” he explained.
Ingram says he is eager to see pre-flight testing get underway, not just from a business standpoint, but also for mitigating the spread of the coronavirus.
“I think having the testing program in place is going to provide more safety for our community as well, in fact more safety than we have today, with a very small number of travelers coming back and forth from the islands every day without tests,” Ingram said.
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday and Wednesday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation about the economy. Click here to watch previous conversations.