HONOLULU (KHON2) — A shortage of pilots in the U.S. has led to some airlines cutting schedules. Pilots who are left to pick up the slack have also been complaining of fatigue, citing safety concerns.
One airline is even cutting service to Hawaii for the rest of the year.
Sun Country Airlines customers received this message:
“Due to the current pilot shortage impacting all U.S. airlines, Sun Country has regrettably elected to suspend service to Honolulu, HI (HNL) for the 2022 travel season. Passengers who were booked on impacted flights will automatically be refunded to their original form of payment for their reservation.”
Passengers don’t need to take any action to get their refund. However, the airlines said it is unable to provide any additional reimbursement beyond a refund for rental cars, hotels, tickets purchased on other carriers and other expenses.
“We apologize for any inconvenience this temporary suspension of Honolulu service causes to our customers,” the message continued. “We are hopeful for a return of Honolulu service for the 2023 travel season.”
A spokesperson for Sun Country Airlines gave KHON2 this statement on Monday, April 18:
On Tuesday, April 19, Burt provided the following updated statement:
“Bookings are strong for summer travel, and we know our customers are eager to vacation. After experiencing extremely high demand in the first quarter of the year, Sun Country is adjusting our summer flying schedule to ensure that we are providing a reliable product and to align our flying with current high fuel prices. In the first quarter of 2022, Sun Country has grown total block hours by 30% versus the first quarter of 2019, and we expect significant growth throughout 2022. While we have also added new service and resumed seasonal service for a number of destinations this summer, we are eliminating long-haul service to Fairbanks and Honolulu in 2022 because of high fuel costs. We are hopeful we will be better positioned to serve our traveling public during what we expect to be a busy summer season.”
She adds that Sun Country Airlines is excited to launch new service for summer to Vancouver, Burlington, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Spokane. In the last two weeks, the airline launched new service to Jacksonville, Charleston and Savannah.
Hawaiian Airlines canceled dozens of flights ahead of the Easter holiday weekend, and rescheduling has not been easy. The cancelations are due to pilot training and simulator certification issues.
Southwest Airlines has also been dealing with flight cancellations and delays due to technology issues, but the main concern for union leaders is something else. Last week, the union said their pilots are suffering through an epidemic of fatigue due to poor scheduling practices which have escalated out of control.
Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) and its Board of Directors sent an open letter to Southwest CEO Robert Jordan and other executives detailing how problems started last summer when the number of travelers returned to normal flying capacity. Along with the increase in flights came the rise in pilot reports to both the Aviation Safety Action Program and Southwest Airlines’ Fatigue Safety Advisory Group.
“Fatigue numbers have been climbing exponentially since last summer with no meaningful attempts by management to mitigate them,” the letter said. “April is already setting fatigue records. Fatigue, both acute and cumulative, has become Southwest Airlines’ number-one safety threat.”
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Also big news last week: The Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents 14,000 American Airlines pilots, filed a lawsuit to stop its volunteering program that encourages pilots to participate in simulator training sessions on their days off.