If you read yesterday’s post, you know that Hawaiian canceled my flight home from Maui last week. But it was more than that. Hawaiian canceled the whole week of flying, and it has been struggling ever since the middle of September. This is related to the Pratt & Whitney problem that has plagued the airlines with those engines on their A320neo family fleet. Hawaiian is just feeling the pain more than most, and it’s not planning far enough in advance to prevent cancellations.
Pratt & Whitney, as a quick refresher, is having problems with its PW1100G engines. It’s not a reliability issue. It’s just that cracks can develop earlier than thought, so they need to move up inspections sooner than originally planned. Thanks to a bottleneck in inspection capacity and the lengthy time to do the work, it’s taking 250 to 300 days to get a single airplane through the process.
For Hawaiian, this is an enormous problem. In my last post about this, I showed how many aircraft by airline had the problem engines and how many did not. But for Hawaiian it was misleading. See, Hawaiian has three aircraft types in its passenger fleet. There are 24 A330-200s, 18 A321neos, and 23 717s (if you count the four that it picked up this year from Delta).
Looking at it that way, less than 30 percent of Hawaiian’s fleet is Pratt-powered. But these airplanes are not interchangeable. The 717s cannot fly anything but interisland. Looking at airplanes with enough range to do more than that, the Pratt-powered A321neos make up 43 percent of the airline’s fleet.
Of those 18 A321neos, not all are in service (as of yesterday when I checked).
- N204HA hasn’t flown since October 6
- N205HA has been in the Philippines since September 25, presumably getting heavy maintenance
- N212HA didn’t fly between October 3 and October 13
- N217HA last flew October 6 to Long Beach and is supposed to re-enter service today
- N220HA hasn’t flown in six months
- N226HA hasn’t flown since last year
With some airplanes just not available, Hawaiian has to make a decision. Does it cut service more or does it try to fly with less margin for error? In other words, how much spare capacity does it need? I have to wonder if that’s what’s been causing trouble here.
Since the middle of September, Hawaiian has had a cancellation problem with its A321neo fleet. Here’s what was canceled departing the islands for the mainland from September 15 through October 11.
It starts getting tough after this, because they don’t show as cancels. For example, the cancellation on Long Beach – Kahului continued for a few more days, but it was far enough in advance that they could just pull it out of the schedule and not call it a canceled flight.
In most cases, the return flight back to the islands was canceled the next day but not always. Sometimes there were balanced cancels and shifting of resources. There were also Kahului – Līhuʻe flights canceled interisland, but those were easily made up with 717s.
As you can see, Hawaiian has its favorite routes to cut, and they are nearly always involving Kahului. It makes sense. Honolulu is the primary market where connectivity is most prevalent. If Hawaiian cancels a flight from Kahului, it can try to route people through Honolulu.
What’s really interesting here is that for the most part these flights all have the same pattern. It’s an afternoon flight to the mainland with an evening arrival. Then the airplane overnights and flies back. Since the pattern is the same, Hawaiian can pick and choose which routes it wants to cut, and I would assume that’s done based on which markets are weakest.
Judging from this, Kahului – San Francisco looks like the favorite whipping boy. Maybe it’s a mix of being able to route people through Honolulu and having them fly nonstop to Oakland or San Jose. Then again, Kahului – San Jose was another favorite on the chopping block.
As of late, it’s Kahului – Long Beach that has taken the hit. This is the one that bit me, but it’s also interesting because Long Beach is where Hawaiian does maintenance on the fleet. I suppose if it can keep flowing the airplane through Honolulu to Long Beach, it can still get the fleet where it needs to be.
Southwest doesn’t even bother flying Kahului – Long Beach outside of summer, but it does fly Honolulu year-round. It’s not a big surprise that this Kahului route would be one of the weaker links in the network.
Specifically on last week’s cancels, Hawaiian did provide this statement.
We unfortunately had to cancel on short notice due to aircraft availability associated with accelerated engine inspections by Pratt & Whitney. We apologize to our guests affected by these cancelations, and we continue to work with Pratt & Whitney to mitigate the impact of its work on our fleet and schedule.”
That doesn’t tell us much, so I dug in even further. Hawaiian has already pulled down flying, and I guess that’s not enough.
Block Minutes by Month for Hawaiian A321neo Fleet
Hawaiian has been cutting block hours on the fleet since earlier this year. September 2023 was scheduled down more than 15 percent versus September 2022. And it’s not even done yet. Though the flight cancellations from earlier last week were straight cancels, later in the week it was far enough that Hawaiian could just do a schedule change and remove capacity. That will fall out of these schedules.
Chances are some of those aircraft going out of service earlier in the month weren’t related to engines and just put the airline in a pinch. If it does have less slack in the system thanks to those engine issues grounding airplanes, Hawaiian has no choice but to cancel more.
Just when it seemed like Hawaiian was going to get a tailwind, it gets hit with the one-two punch of the Pratt problem and the decrease in demand to Maui after the wildfires. This airline just can’t catch a break.