Southwest Airlines temporarily slashes Hawaii schedule as part of latest coronavirus cuts

Mar 26, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Even Southwest Airlines‘ successful new Hawaii service is not immune from the novel coronavirus pandemic. The carrier is significantly scaling back its service to the islands just over a year after its first aloha.

The Dallas-based carrier will suspend all but two of its 12 daily flights between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii starting April 5, Southwest president Tom Nealon said on the airline’s blog Thursday. Only its twice-daily service between Oakland (OAK) and Honolulu (HNL) will continue for the foreseeable future.

Southwest will also continue to offer limited service between Honolulu and Kahului (OGG) on Maui, Kona (KOA) and Hilo (ITO) on the big island, and Lihue (LIH) on Kauai. Those changes also begin April 5.

Get Coronavirus travel updates. Stay on top of industry impacts, flight cancellations, and more.

Southwest Airlines' Hawaii routes in March 2020. San Diego flights were due to begin in April. (Image courtesy of Southwest Airlines)
Southwest Airlines’ Hawaii routes in March 2020. San Diego flights were due to begin in April. (Image courtesy of Southwest Airlines)


“As a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine protocol begins today for all customers arriving in the Hawaiian Islands, we anticipated demand for our service to the islands would continue to fall sharply,” said Nealon. He added that the limited schedule is “intended to be temporary and nimble.”

Hawaii’s two-week quarantine has prompted most carriers to slash their schedules to the state. Alaska Airlines, the second largest to the islands from the mainland U.S. by flight numbers, is cutting the majority of its service to Hawaii as part of a 70% drawdown of its schedule. Hawaiian Airlines is suspending all of its mainland flying except one daily flight each to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) to provide “essential” connectivity.

Southwest is a relative newcomer to the Hawaii market, having started service last March. The airline grew to the islands even as it cut capacity elsewhere owing to the Boeing 737 MAX grounding.

Related: Hawaii institutes mandatory two-week quarantine on arrival to the state

In January, Nealon said the airline’s Hawaii service was performing “very well.” He named the islands as among Southwest’s key growth markets alongside the likes of Baltimore/Washington (BWI) and Denver (DEN).

No one, however, forecast just how much of a toll the COVID-19 pandemic would take on the travel industry.

Demand has fallen faster than most airlines expected. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported that just 239,234 people passed through airport checkpoints across the U.S. on March 25 — that’s just 10% of the number that flew the same day a year ago.

“This is 9/11, SARS and the Great Recession all rolled into one,” Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian told employees in a webinar Wednesday viewed by TPG.

Related: Southwest suspends international flying Sunday, cuts 1,000 flights from schedule

Southwest Airlines Co. aircraft sit parked at a field in Victorville, California, U.S., on Monday, March 23, 2020. Southwest, which carries the most passengers in domestic markets, said it will cut 1,000 daily flights starting Sunday, ahead of a previously planned 20% capacity reduction, because of a rapid drop in near-term demand. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images)
Southwest Airlines jets parked in Victorville, California, on March 23, 2020. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images)


Southwest has already cancelled a quarter of its schedule, or around 1,000 flights, including all international service. The airline will expand that to 1,500 flights on Friday until a previously-announced 20% capacity reduction is implemented in mid-April.

Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest, warned at the outset that the coronavirus pandemic could be “worse than 9/11” — an outlook that looks prescient at this point.

The Senate has passed a bill that includes more than $50 billion in aid to airlines. Designed to bridge the industry through the crisis, the package includes $25 billion in grants earmarked for non-executive compensation and benefits, and $25 billion in loans to cover other fixed costs. Both aspects of the deal include strings for airlines that take the aid, ranging from maintaining staffing levels to the possibility of the government taking an equity stake.

The measure still has to be approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law by the president before funds can begin flowing.

Southwest has not said whether it will take the government assistance. However, most carriers are expected to accept at least the grants for employee compensation, which come with fewer strings attached than that loans.

Related: What you need to know about the $50B coronavirus aid package to airlines

Featured by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.