The grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX after two deadly crashes – and the ongoing struggle to get it airborne again – is taking a toll on U.S. airlines. And it's starting to affect some travelers looking fly to Hawaii on Southwest's new service.
Perhaps no U.S. airline has been hit harder than Southwest, which is the country's largest operator of the troubled plane with 34 in its fleet. In addition to daily cancellations and delays, The Points Guy reports that the Texas-based budget carrier has suspended 13 routes due to scheduling issues caused by the grounding.
The temporary cuts are spread out nationwide. But at least four suspended routes were into Oakland (OAK), Southwest's biggest hub for flying passengers onward to the Hawaiian islands. The airline has paused flights into OAK from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), Indianapolis (IND), San Antonio (SAT), and Newark (EWR).
That means it's not currently possible for travelers based in those cities to book a direct ticket to the islands. Most Southwest flights to Hawaii flow through OAK – it's much bigger than San Jose (SJC), the airline's second hub for Hawaii flights.
The return date of the 737 MAX up in the air, though Boeing executives say it could come back into service in October at the earliest. So barring any other schedule changes, it's tough to say when these flights to OAK may return, too.
It was already difficult for many travelers outside of the West Coast and Rocky Mountain range to fly to Hawaii with Southwest. Southwest's schedule was geared mainly toward coastal cities, which sometimes forced an overnight connection for anyone in the Midwest and farther east.
But now, Southwest won't let travelers from some cities even search for flights. That's true even from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), a city Southwest has started marketing for its Hawaii flights.
The grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX continues to cause problems for travelers and airlines alike. And until it returns, flying Southwest Airlines to Hawaii will be difficult for many travelers.