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Airline troubles on continent affect flights to, from and across Hawaiʻi

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David Zalubowski/AP
A traveler wades through the field of unclaimed bags at the Southwest Airlines luggage carousels at Denver International Airport, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Holiday travel woes continue to make headlines across the country. More than 18,000 flights were delayed in the U.S. on Tuesday, and 5,000 were canceled. That's having a snowball effect on flights to, from and across the Hawaiian Islands.

With mass airline cancellations due to a severe winter storm during the Christmas holiday, airlines are playing a game of catch-up this week.

According to FlightAware, major airports in Hawaiʻi saw nearly 100 canceled flights in a 24-hour span on Tuesday. And 83 were delayed at Honolulu's Daniel K. Inouye Airport.

Southwest Airlines has become the unofficial face of holiday travel issues. The airline has had to cancel nearly 60% of its flights this week.

According to the FlightAware tracking service, more than 91% of all canceled flights in the U.S. early Wednesday were from Southwest, which has been unable to recover from ferocious winter storms that raked large swaths of the country over the weekend.

The airline’s CEO said it could be next week before the flight schedule returns to normal.

The Dallas airline was undone by a combination of factors including an antiquated crew-scheduling system and a network design that allows cancellations in one region to cascade throughout the country rapidly.

A Southwest spokesperson said the airline’s fleet of Boeing 737s flies between every destination in its network, including interisland destinations. That’s part of the reason behind delayed interisland flights.

But for some, like Houston resident Renae Penny who is traveling with her family throughout Hawaiʻi, it was smooth sailing. On Tuesday, she was waiting for her Southwest flight from Honolulu to Maui without delay.

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