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Hawaiian Air hopes to bounce back

LIHU‘E — Hawaiian Airlines’ spokesman Alex Da Silva has estimated the company has suffered a $3 million-per-day cash burn since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The airline came up with that dollar figure after conducting a broad review of all costs associated with running the business.

Several of the costs included the following: renegotiating contracts and vendor rates, deferring non-essential expenses like aircraft painting, and rescheduling delivery of new aircraft while significantly reducing flying to an essential level of service.

Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the company borrowed millions of dollars in private funds, which it used as a lifeline, but it wasn’t enough to save thousands of jobs.

The company was forced to reduce the size of its airline to 2,501 employees, which is about one-third of their pre-pandemic size of 7,447 employees.

Because the company shrank by nearly 5,000 workers — the equivalent of many, many small
businesses — they’ve adapted to new roles and responsibilities to prepare for a long and difficult economic recovery ahead, according to Da Silva.

“We support our frontline employees who continue to provide critical air transportation for the communities Hawai‘i serves and the broader U.S. economy during the pandemic,” Da Silva said. “It’s unfortunate, given the prolonged and profound impact of this unprecedented crisis and the expiration of the federal Payroll Support Program.”

Kaua‘i and the neighboring islands opened up to visitors on Thursday.

Next month, the trans-Pacific flights will increase to 67% of the 2019 levels, while the neighbor islands flying will be 55% lower than a year ago, so the airlines are still anticipating a slow start.

Safety first

Following safety protocols, the capacity of the airline cabin will only be at 70% through December because of onboard distancing.

The airline underwent a comprehensive review of all services from health and safety and financial lenses.

The airline chose to suspend nearly all international flights, except for certain cargo-only service, because of travel restrictions locally and abroad, and temporarily closed its airport lounges.

The in-flight service was adjusted to streamline operations and minimize interactions, as part of comprehensive health and safety protocols adopted from airport curb to aircraft cabin.

“We have been encouraged by new bookings since the state announced last month that it would begin a pre-travel testing program,” Da Silva said. “We anticipate the first week of the program to be a bit busier because of pent-up demand by visitors and residents who waited to return home until the quarantine exemption became available.”

Da Silva is adamant the airline will continue to provide the same service in spite of being down several employees.

“We have been committed to continuing to provide safe and essential air transportation to our communities throughout the pandemic,” Da Silva said. ” We look forward to welcoming more travelers in support of the state’s phased reopening.”

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Jason Blasco, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or jblasco@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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