We just learned about American’s win in the battle for Delta’s unused Haneda slot. But now, it appears more will become available again as Hawaiian surrendered its Haneda slots. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting that, even though doing so makes sense.
Not long ago, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) gave Hawaiian an ultimate for its KOA-HND Haneda slot: use it or lose it. Hawaiian has been squatting on the spot with virtually no usage until relatively recently when they began operating one flight every week-and-a-half-ish. However, it seems that Hawaiian has decided that this slot isn’t worth hanging on to any longer.
Hawaiian Surrendered Its Haneda Slots
We’ve known for a while now that Hawaiian is struggling to operate its Japanese routes, especially since demand from Japan is still nowhere near pre-pandemic levels. This has put significant financial pressure on Hawaiian, as Japan accounted for an outsized portion of its revenue but now has to operate its three Haneda routes with mostly empty aircraft. And that’s only if and when the flights actually operate as scheduled. That’s not sustainable economically or environmentally. But no more, as Hawaiian surrendered its Haneda slots.
Specifically, FlightGlobal reports that Hawaiian’s official letter to the DOT states:
Asia and Japan specifically have been among the last markets to recover from the precipitous drop in travel demand” after the Covid-19 crisis, the company says. ”While Hawaiian saw improvement throughout the second and third quarters of 2023, the recovery stalled when load factors dropped as waivers of the slot and route usage requirements expired.
Further, Hawaiian states:
Hawaii’s and Hawaiian’s disproportionate reliance on Japan point of sale business has made it difficult to generate sufficient demand to meet the capacity that returned to the market after the expiration of the slot waivers in October.
To be fair, Hawaiian has zero control over the current situation. The slots are use it or lose it, but because of the exchange rate and Hawaii hotel rates that soared following Hawaii’s reopening, a vacation to the island is simply out of reach for most Japanese. When that will change is anyone’s guess.
Logic says that things will get better in time, but can Hawaiian afford to wait for that change? Given their current financial health, the answer to that is a resounding no. Remember, Hawaiian is projecting a $700 million loss this year and has lost $xxx million in 2023.
While the focus has been on Hawaiian’s Kona-Haneda service as we discuss the fact that Hawaiian surrendered its Haneda slots, it’s worth noting that they operate more than just this route using these slots. These nighttime slots were used to operate thrice-weekly from Kona and four times-weekly from Honolulu.
The specific Honolulu flight numbers being impacted are HA855/856, while the Kona flights are HA851/852. The slot return is effective April 2, 2024, at which point Hawaiian will cease operating these flights.
After the surrender, Hawaiian will continue to operate its two remaining Honolulu-Haneda frequencies – HA457/458 and HA863/864.
As you’d expect, right after news broke that Hawaiian surrendered its Haneda slots, United jumped on the opportunity to revive its application for slots for its Guam-Haneda proposal. If granted, it will be the only flight between Guam and Tokyo Haneda. Current flights between Guam and Japan include Tokyo Narita, Nagoya, Kansai, and Fukuoka. United competes on these routes with Japan Airlines and Asiana.
Hawaiian Surrendered Its Haneda Slots, Final Thoughts
Hawaiian’s seasonal summer 2024 schedule makes a lot more sense now that we know that Hawaiian surrendered its Haneda slots. They definitely need to put that excess capacity to work, and hopefully, it’ll be more profitable for them than the Haneda frequencies they’re giving up. That said, I wonder what they plan on doing with the extra capacity once these seasonal routes end?
For those of you wondering how this impacts Hawaiian’s merger with Alaska Air, it likely doesn’t. Hawaiian has probably had discussions about this decision with Alaska already, and if Alaska does plan on utilizing Hawaiian frames in their fleet, this could work to their advantage. Either that or Alaska could have other plans for Hawaiian to utilize their freed-up assets. Regardless, this will have no material impact on the merger.
It’s also a necessary move for Hawaiian, as they need to shore up their financials and can’t operate under the assumption that the merger will happen. I think it will, but you never know. JetBlue’s management’s entire strategic plan revolved around acquiring Spirit, but…