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Hawaiian Airlines CEO: ‘We’re definitely on the road to recovery’

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Peter Ingram, Hawaiian Airlines CEO & President, joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the company’s Q3 earnings and recovery outlook on travel.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: All right. We talk a lot about travel, especially with the holidays coming up, and want to let you know that shares of Hawaiian Holdings, Hawaiian Airlines, are up right now, as we head toward the closing bell, almost 2%. Let's bring in, once again, the CEO from Hawaiian Airlines. President and CEO Peter Ingram is joining us because you had an earnings report for the last quarter that was better than Wall Street expected.

We know you're still on the road to recovery. But I don't want to jinx it for any of the airlines. It looks as if the worst is in the rear view mirror, still a long way to go. But you're adding flights. What do you want people, whether they be investors or customers, to know about why you're adding flights for the holidays and what your outlook is looking forward to 2022?

PETER INGRAM: Sure. Well, Adam, great to be with you today. You know, it's been an up and down recovery over the past year, but we're definitely on the road to recovery. And you know, I want to remind people that it was only a little over a year ago where people couldn't travel to Hawaii at all without a 14-day quarantine, which really limited any of the demand we had. And we've seen a strong recovery in the domestic part of our business this year.

We're expecting the international to start recovering soon now that conditions are falling into place. And we see good demand for the fourth quarter right now. And so we've added some extra flights around Thanksgiving and Christmas to some of our key markets on the West Coast. And you know, we're excited about moving into '22 and seeing a continued recovery and build of demand as people start moving around again as we get to a more manageable stage of the pandemic.

SEANA SMITH: And Peter, the routes that you have added recently, those being Orlando, Long Beach, Austin, just to name a few of those, what has traction been like on those routes?

PETER INGRAM: It's been good. We've really been encouraged how those new routes have started. We started, as you said, Austin and Orlando as well as Ontario, California, this spring, which was a little bit of a bold move for us in the middle of a pandemic recovery to add so many new markets for an airline like ours in a short period of time. But we really have seen strong demand.

And through the first half of this year, it was really gratifying to see how much demand did come back on our US domestic routes. And you know, we're keen to, as I said, move into the next phase where we see a recovery in international with the reopening of some of the foreign destinations that we haven't traveled to in the last year or so. We've already announced Sydney starting in December. So we're excited to rebuild our network, and those new routes are a big part of our network going forward.

ADAM SHAPIRO: I'm glad you brought up international because Monday, November 8 is an important day for all of the airlines that have international routes. And we know that in previous conversations with you, you've talked about the importance of the Japanese tourists who like to go to Hawaii. Do you have any indication of what kind of demand there may be once the new eased restrictions, which allow vaccinated people to travel into the United States, what kind of demand you're going to get from the routes that traditionally were very strong for you?

PETER INGRAM: Yeah, November 8 is very important because now we've got clarity on what the requirements are going to be for foreign nationals traveling to the United States. What we still are waiting for, particularly from Japan, and you're absolutely right, Japan is the largest source of international visitors to Hawaii, and it is the largest part of our pre-pandemic international network, right now the challenge on demand in that market is not clarity on the US requirements, but it's the remaining quarantine that is in place, which is at least a 10-day quarantine for anyone returning to Japan from an international point.

We do think that we're getting to the point where the environment is absolutely in place for policymakers in Japan to reassess that policy. And specifically I would point to the fact that over 70% of Japanese nationals are vaccinated now, fully vaccinated. They're in the high 70% in terms of the first dose. Cases are very low in Japan.

So we think that that could be, on the very near-term horizon, that we start to see a change there. And that's when we're really going to start to see what demand looks like. But I have every belief it's going to be very, very strong. There's such a great affinity for Japanese travelers for Hawaii. And once people get the chance to book those trips without having to worry about the quarantine, I think we're going to see a very encouraging rebound.

SEANA SMITH: Peter, we only have about a minute left. But do you plan to ramp up capacity, I guess, how quickly can you do that? And do you have enough workers to do that in a very timely fashion?

PETER INGRAM: Yeah, well, we've been working very hard to make sure that we've got the staffing in place. Our fleet is ready. What we would expect is we're poised to be able to add more flying as early as the back half of December, which we think would be the right time if we had a near-term policy change. And then our expectation is that we ramp that up through the first quarter.

And we've been making sure we're preparing our staffing to be ready for that eventuality. So the expectation right now is that we ramp up through the first quarter and the second quarter. And we are running a schedule by the middle of '22 that looks very similar, in fact, maybe slightly larger than what we were operating before the pandemic in 2019.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Peter, we wish you the best. And please, we will keep an eye open. If the Japanese quarantine for returning folks should change, let us know. We want to let people know because I know investors would be key on that data point. And we look forward to you returning to talk to us about how the airline is doing. Peter Ingram is Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO.