First, we want to allay your concerns. Hawaii is not a mess. Hawaii is great, has always been and always will be. Things are going fairly well here under the most exotic global and domestic travel conditions any of us have ever experienced. But the industry is clearly in more turmoil than we would like to believe.
Our word choice for this is “Chaos: a state of confusion, poor organization, or disorder.” Here’s why it fits the situation.
Travel is often described as the largest industry in the world. It results in more than 10% of global revenue generation. In Hawaii, it’s relatively larger and directly or indirectly affects all of us here. Travel may have accounted for 1 of 4 new jobs created before Covid globally, and in Hawaii, more.
Demand for travel in Hawaii still has not fully returned to normal as we await the full resumption of international travel. But even before fully returning to previous levels of demand, it has clearly become a nightmare for both those in the industry and visitors to Hawaii.
Experts say we’re not even close to all this upheaval. Recent examples here in Hawaii exemplify this. We have seen estimates that this could continue for another strong year or even longer.
The staff shortage continues across the industry. Be it hotels, restaurants, activities or car rental. For whatever reason, employees haven’t returned to travel industry jobs and there aren’t enough of them. Those who return often encounter significant extra time to try to make up for the shortcomings. And that doesn’t work well with travel morale, among other problems.
for example. As a commentator, Georgia, said, I was stranded on the tarmac in Honolulu for more than 90 minutes because there were no personnel to provide an aircraft bridge.
“Our Alaska Airlines flight 531 from LAX to HNL was on schedule but we sat on the tarmac at HNL for at least 1.5 hours waiting for the gate/jet aisle to become available so we could get off. They told us it was a shortage of staff. Not very welcome in Hawaii.
How and when will this ever be fixed? There is hope that by next year, there will be better systems and more people to help travel to Hawaii. Even then, do we really think we can go back to how smoothly things went before Covid? This ship has probably set sail, and we can at best strive for a new experience that is better than what we have today.
What hasn’t changed is people’s desire to travel. But how we travel is in flux. It’s time to dig deeper in order to increase patience and adjust expectations. We hope that travel to Hawaii will eventually improve into a higher quality experience. But in the short term, this simply will not happen.
1. A big problem with airlines flying to Hawaii.
Why is it so hard to get airlines back on track? Is there anything that can be done? Flight cancellations, delays, labor disputes and staff shortages seem to dominate airline news. This UAL said, “Most airlines simply will not be able to achieve their capacity plans.” In the Southwest, the airline has cut nearly 20,000 flights from its summer schedule, including those in Hawaii, with that fact in mind.
Airplane prices have gone up more than at any time in the past 60 years. If it is not about airlines and pilots, then the topic turns to airline tickets. Nationally, those just saw the biggest increase in decades. According to Cowen financial analysts, airfares jumped 50% in the last week of May, compared to the previous year. Except for the occasional sale on very competitive roads, we see it on Hawaiian cruises.
Airlines and pilots union disagree. While airlines say they do not have enough pilots, the largest pilots’ union says there is no shortage of pilots. huh? The ALPA said airline mismanagement, schedule cuts and “profit-based business decisions” are the cause of the pilot problems.
Alaska Airlines. Last month, Alaska pilots voted to strike, and that’s pending initial steps. Alaska has seen a series of cancellations related to a shortage of pilots. They are in a bitter dispute with the pilots over their new contract, as a result of which dozens of Alaskan pilots are said to have transferred to other airlines.
Hawaiian Airlines. There have been many problems at Hawaii bellwether. This week, the airline experienced an unusually high number of flight delays, we reported. Previously, Hawaii had canceled dozens of flights related to a shortage of pilots and a simulator for inter-island flight training. The company is trying to add a cockpit crew and has offered a $10,000 sign-up bonus and $81/hour starting with payment to the first officers.
Southwest Airlines: Get ready for June 21The airline has a shortage of pilots and a labor dispute. Next week, 1,000 or more pilots plan to demonstrate against SW at Love Field in Dallas.
United Airlines. That company says, “The shortage of pilots for this industry is real, and most airlines simply won’t be able to achieve their capacity plans because there simply aren’t enough pilots, at least not for the next five years or more.” Five+ years, really?
Hawaii flights have been getting delayed quite a bit lately, and the future could lead to more cancellations as well. With no official word, the reason is most likely insufficient staffing amid a very tight job market.
Today, airline CEOs are meeting with US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg regarding all delays and cancellations.
Two US senators recently raised concerns about flight delays and cancellations over Memorial Day weekend.
We reported that on Sunday and Monday, 272 flights were delayed in Hawaii. And it’s not over. In Honolulu on Wednesday, another 53 domestic flights were delayed (25 from Hawaii, 17 Southwest, 9 United, and 2 Delta. In addition, 3 United flights were completely cancelled.
How do airlines work?. These companies depend on a very complex set of people and technology, all of which need to fit together neatly for operations to function properly. The shortage of personnel in any area affects the entire operation. When something goes wrong, we see massive delays and then flights get cancelled.
When will this end? We all like to think this will get better soon, but all we’re hearing is that this won’t be the case. It will take time to find, hire and train people, if at all possible. One example of a technology that helps, to a greater or lesser degree, is the automation being installed at Hawaii’s airports. We have reported on improvements to Lihue Airport, which should reduce TSA employee burdens through greater automation with improved results.
2. Hawaiian hotels and Hawaii vacation rentals are priced out of this world!
We recently reported that Hawaiian hotels jumped to the highest rates we’ve ever seen here. They also have the dubious honor of being the most expensive in the United States. Guest satisfaction falls across the industry, too. Hawaii hotels first had to reduce their staff during the pandemic. Then, when flights to Hawaii resumed faster than expected, they were surprised. Not many employees returned while new employees had to be added and trained. So the guest experience can be less than expected, including at restaurants and housekeeping.
One commenter said, “How do you stay in a hotel in Hawaii? The usual ocean view is $350-375 at Waikoloa Beach Marriott on the Big Island is over $1,000 a night!”
Hawaii hotels and vacation rentals are revamping technology too, and online reservations are doing better than ever before, eliminating some of the previous need for human interaction. Over time, the result will be a smaller scale operation where customers can also achieve greater satisfaction. But since this pays off, patience is a virtue.
3. Car rental in Hawaii. What more can be said?
With some of the highest prices in the country, and availability recovering very slowly, this was the albatross for visitors to Hawaii. Across the car rental industry, the level of satisfaction has declined, which is not surprising. Even when looking at prices even in the off-season, the new low appears to be close to $100 a day.
4. Marketing Operations Unrestricted: Hawaii Tourism Authority, HVCB and Native Hawaiian Advancement Council.
Earlier this month we reported on the Hawaiian marketing quagmire as the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) abruptly canceled its 20-year marketing contract with the century-old Hawaii Convention and Visitors Bureau (HVCB). The contract was instead awarded to a member-based nonprofit organization with no apparent travel marketing experience, whose mission is to “promote the cultural, economic, political, and societal development of Native Hawaiians.”
Since this change was announced, there have been strange and uncomfortable statements and emails from both HTA and HVCB. Suffice it to say, no one here is happy, and we would be surprised if this could end amicably. We’re watching HVCB to challenge the new contract in the next few days.
But, looking at it another way, there has been a tremendous amount of trouble and controversy in both HTA and HVCB for years. So any change may be a step in the right direction. This change coincides with Hawaii’s implementation of visitor destination management and controversial marketing plans for each island.
We very much welcome your input on this developing story.