Why Sun Country Dropped Hawaii

Sun Country Airlines had to suspend flights to the US tropical state of Hawaii due to high fuel costs.

The US pilot shortage has reportedly forced Sun Country Airlines to cut routes to Hawaii. That’s despite the airline posting record profits for the third quarter of 2022 and adding 13 new cross-country routes. While pilot availability has certainly influenced the airline’s decision, at the heart of the matter is the rising cost of jet fuel.

The grounds to leave Sun Country, Hawaii

Sun-Country-Livery_03-1500x844-1 - Sun Country Airlines Boeing 737 on tarmac

Photo: Sun Country Airlines

In an April 2022 statement, when routes were first suspended; Sun Country Airlines spokeswoman Wendy Burt said;

“Anticipating that we will continue to be operationally constrained by labor shortages, including crew, Sun Country is adjusting our summer schedule to better align with staff and aircraft availability. We’re eliminating Fairbanks and Honolulu—two long-haul flights that also save on high fuel costs. We apologize to our guests for the change.”

The airline hoped to return to Honolulu in 2023, but its summer 2023 flight schedules indicate that won’t be the case. When Simple Flying recently contacted Sun Country Airlines to find out why, Burt explained that rising fuel costs were indeed the main reason.


The rising cost of jet fuel

Sun-Country-Livery_05-1500x844 - Sun Country Airlines 737 taking off

Photo: Sonnenland

Yes, kerosene costs are rising. On November 15, 2021, the price of jet fuel was $2.26 per gallon, according to Airlines for America. On November 15, 2022, the price of kerosene rose to $3.48 per gallon. At its peak in May 2022, it peaked at $4.85 per gallon due to Russia’s war with Ukraine.

Considering that a Boeing 737-800 uses 6,875 gallons of fuel, an increase of $1.22 per gallon means that filling that tank costs an additional $8,387.50. Imagine if the cost increased by $17,806.25 as was the cost difference between November 2021 and May 2022. Spreading this additional cost across approximately 189 fare-paying passengers, if the 737-800 were at full capacity, would mean an additional $94 for each ticket.

Then there is International Air Transport Association (IATA) tracking. Noting that a barrel of fuel contains 42 US gallons since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the price of jet fuel has skyrocketed:

chartb_11112022 - IATA tracking kerosene and crude oil price per barrel

Graphics: IATA

As a result, Sun Country Hawaii is no longer able to offer affordable seating. Knowing that it would be out-priced by the competition, the airline has decided to focus its summer 2023 efforts on routes where it is able to stay ahead of the game.

Other airlines connect the 48 contiguous states with Hawaii

Sun Country had to face stiff competition to connect the 48 contiguous states with the US state of Hawaii. For example, Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines are all in the mix.

Some of these airlines, such as Airlines such as Alaska Airlines use fuel hedging as a means of controlling fuel costs. That means airlines buy fuel up front at a lower price – helping avoid losses during fuel price spikes that can’t be passed on to customers flying.

What are your thoughts? Please share with courtesy in the comments.

Sources: Airlines for America, Beat of Hawaii, IATA