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Hawaiian Airlines posts first-quarter loss but sees pick-up in U.S. travel demand

                                Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Peter Ingram


    Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Peter Ingram

Hawaiian Airlines saw gains in close-in travel demand from North America during March, but posted a significant first-quarter loss largely due to a slow start to the year.

The airline, which operates under the publicly traded holding company Hawaiian Holdings Inc., reported a first-quarter loss of $60.7 million, or $1.25 a share. At this time last year, Hawaiian had a wider loss of $144.4 million, or $3.14 a share.

The carrier’s adjusted first-quarter loss this year was $190.6 million, or $3.85 a share. When adjusted for nonrecurring costs, first-quarter diluted earnings were $1.23 a share.

The company reported first-quarter revenue of $182 million. That’s down more than 67% from $559.1 million in revenue in the first quarter of 2020 when all the pandemic-related turbulence began.

Hawaiian said its revenue this year was down 72% compared to the first quarter of 2019, on 49% lower capacity.

Peter Ingram, Hawaiian Airlines president and CEO, told investors during today’s earnings call, “Despite the positive evolution of the quarter, our financial performance remains dramatically affected by the pandemic.”

Still, he and others on the call were the most upbeat that they’ve been since the coronavirus pandemic and government containment policies severely depressed travel demand.

For all of 2020 during which passenger travel was severely depressed by the coronavirus pandemic, Hawaiian lost $510.9 million on revenue of $844.8 million. In 2019, Hawaiian earned $224 million on revenue of $2.8 billion.

Ingram said, “More so than any time in the past year, we experienced a quarter with more rays of sunshine and dark clouds. At the time of our fourth quarter 2020 financial release, our outlook was depressed by sluggish bookings at the end of early January, which in a typical year is the peak period for first-half sales.

”What we didn’t know then, is that we are on the cusp of a positive turn.”

Ingram said the carrier began to see a “material improvement” in bookings for its North America routes as virus case counts began cresting in the U.S. in mid-January, even before the pace of vaccinations accelerated.

“Week by week for the rest of the quarter, the bookings pace continue to accelerate. Neighbor island bookings also improved, although not as much relative to pre-pandemic levels as North America,” he said. “If there was any doubt there is pent-up demand for leisure travel after a year of lockdowns, that doubt has now been dispelled.”

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