- Exemptions granted for Delta, Alaska, Hawaiian
- Long-term view to reducing Hawaii service
- Generous (and rational) seasonal exemptions granted
Flights to Hawaii will remain limited for the foreseeable future. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) ruled that Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines can significantly reduce capacity into the islands and remain in compliance with their service obligations under the CARES Act, a major win for the carriers. Delta Air Lines also received good news with the approval of its requests from the Department.
[S]ervice to these points requires long travel distances of several thousand miles, and the imposition of Hawaii’s mandatory 14-day quarantine order for all travelers to or within Hawaii impacts severely and discourages such passenger travel. Moreover, various Hawaiian State and local government officials have submitted filings in Docket DOT-OST-2020-0037 noting the existence of the 14-day quarantine period and the goal of minimizing the number of visitors to Hawaii until the current coronavirus (COVID19) public health emergency has ended.
–Hawaii doesn’t want visitors
The Hawaiian islands made it clear that visitors are not welcome right now. The Governor’s imposition of a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals on to the islands proved a major factor in the DOT’s decision to grant exemptions for Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines, particularly as both still offer token service between Honolulu and the mainland.
Moreover, the suspension of service to the Islands was granted for the duration of the CARES Act period, ending 30 September 2020. Either the DOT does not expect the quarantine mandate to lift before then or it does not care, but the ruling is a win for these airlines as they will not be forced to fly empty planes to the islands.
–Seasonal Services Spared
While the DOT ruled against JetBlue and Spirit Airlines last week, denying seasonal service exemptions the Agency found otherwise with Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines in their requests. For Alaska Airlines the service to Sun Valley, Idaho is exempt through May and that could extend. The DOT acknowledges that local authorities support the flights financially. Should that funding disappear the Agency appears inclined to permit the service to not operate, without risking compliance issues.
Delta’s seasonal services include seven airports that were not yet slated to operate for the Summer. The DOT agreed to exempt those services until the previously planned seasons begin.
We agree. It is not reasonable or practicable for Delta to commence its seasonal summer 2019 baseline schedule immediately and it is not reasonable or practicable for the air carrier to extend its seasonal summer 2019 baseline schedule through the end of September as contemplated by Order 2020-4-2…
Delta did see two destinations – West Yellowstone, MT (WYS) and Cedar City, UT (CDC) denied, with Essential Air Service obligations overriding the CARES Act rules.
The DOT’s rulings for these three airlines diverges from the first two issued. Seasonal services are treated differently for a number of destinations. The DOT does highlight staffing issues for some locations in the latter rulings. Apparently that matters more than lack of passengers or the airports agreeing with the airlines that running the service is not in the best interests of the communities and businesses.
Similarly, service to Hawaii received a long-term, blanket exemption from the DOT. Perhaps if other states issued more strict quarantine rules the DOT would have rules similarly for those destinations. Or maybe not.