What will it take for local airlines to return to normal?


HONOLULU (KHON2) –With Spring Break and Easter right around the corner, usually this would be a busy time for flights to Hawaii. However, that’s drastically changed since the pandemic and flights have gone down.

Since the governor announced a 14-day quarantine for people arriving into Hawaii, direct flights to the neighbor islands have gone down to the single digits. Some days there are only one flight coming in from the mainland to a neighbor island.

On Thursday, Apr. 10, there weren’t any direct flights into Kauai.

“The airlines typically have to have their airplanes pretty full –  I mean like more than 80 percent of the seats filled to make a profit. So that’s obviously nowhere near what’s happening right now,” said Peter Forman, a former pilot and aviation expert.

That’s why he said airlines are being extra picky with what flights they keep, and which ones they put on hold.

According to passenger arrival numbers, Oahu still brings in the most passengers. Thursday, 612 people flew into Oahu, while 33 flew to the Big Island and 18 flew to Maui.

“For a period of time you might see, let’s say from the mainland to Honolulu flights predominating, and then flying out to the neighbor islands from there, kind of like the way it used to be.” said Forman.

Before the outbreak, Forman said airlines were expanding to more direct flights to the neighbor islands. Now that’s pretty much all gone away.

Forman said it’ll be a slow rebound for flights to come back,  and it may take some time before flights go back to normal.

“I see the airlines as not being inclined to start adding flights until their airplanes start becoming more full, I mean certainly more than half full,” said Forman.

As for when passengers may start traveling again after the pandemic, he said a vaccine or treatment would help speed things up.

“If it turns out that some of the treatments are very effective, and being used widespread, that takes the fear factor away,” said Forman.

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