A sudden surge in demand for travel has overwhelmed Hawaiian Airlines’ systems for booking flights – both online and on the phone – leaving Hawaii’s dominant carrier unable to serve customers.

The problems, which the airline described as separate issues, come as people have begun traveling again between the islands and to and from the mainland amid eased COVID-19 restrictions and an uptick in vaccines.

Hawaiian Airlines aircraft parked near the Daniel K Inouye International Airport Interisland terminal side of the airport. June 11, 2020
Pandemic travel restrictions last year led Hawaiian Airlines to park much of its fleet, as shown by this June 2020 photo at Honolulu’s airport. Demand has begun to resurge. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Alex DaSilva, a Hawaiian Airlines spokesman, said the problems with online and telephone reservation systems were separate but compounded each other.

Technical problems have made it impossible for customers to log in to the company’s online reservation system, which has driven more people to call the company’s telephone call center. Meanwhile, he said, the call center isn’t adequately staffed for an unexpected flood of calls.

On Tuesday, the state launched a COVID-19 “vaccine passport” for interisland travel, which allows people who can show proof that they were inoculated in Hawaii to sidestep the otherwise mandatory 10-day quarantine and testing protocols.

Meanwhile, demand for travel from the mainland has increased significantly, as an increasingly vaccinated public feels safer to fly. Hawaii’s low rate of coronavirus cases also makes it an attractive destination as other countries where vaccines have been slow to roll out maintain travel restrictions.

Customers trying to book Hawaiian Airlines flights online this week have been greeted with this message. Courtesy: Hawaiian Airlines

DaSilva said the entire industry is struggling with the surge. “It’s a result of pent-up demand,” he said.

On Friday, the company apologized to frequent flyers and promised to do better.

“Our technology team is working night and day to solve the performance issues on HawaiianAirlines.com,” Hawaiian said in an email. “Our Customer Contacts team is training new agents and staffing up our call center. Neither of these things has progressed as quickly as we had hoped and will likely not be fixed overnight.”

DaSilva stressed the company is eager to serve people who finally want to travel again.

“We’re excited to welcome people back,” he said. “We just ask for their patience and appreciate their understanding.”

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