After a bruising year for the airline industry, Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram told CNBC he believes it’s only up from here.
Airlines spent much of 2020 cutting routes and reducing flights due to the decline in travel demand from the coronavirus pandemic, but companies including Delta and United Airlines have announced some new additions in recent months.
Hawaiian Airlines is joining the fray with new nonstop flights from Honolulu to Austin, Texas; Orlando, Florida, and Ontario, California, to be added in the spring. The Honolulu-based company anticipates a rebound in air travel in the new year and seeks to capitalize on population trends in the Southern states.
“The reason it’s the time to announce three new routes is because … we’re very optimistic about 2021,” he said on “Closing Bell.” “These are places we’ve been looking at for a long time. They have good strong demand for Hawaii.”
Austin has established itself among the top tech scenes in the country, rivaling the traditional tech ecosystem that the San Francisco Bay Area is renowned for. The Texas capital city has drawn interest from multiple technology companies that have either opened up factories there or announced plans to relocate their headquarters from California.
Earlier this month, Oracle, a Silicon Valley mainstay, said that it would shift its headquarters to Austin. It is one in a string of companies planning to relocate corporate operations outside of California.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has moved his personal residence to Texas, splitting the bulk of his time between Austin and Boca Chica, where SpaceX facilities are located. Tesla, which remains headquartered in Palo Alto, California, and Musk’s tunnel start-up, Boring Co., both have operations in Austin.
Apple is also growing its presence in Texas’ capital, where it’s investing $1 billion into a 3 million-square-foot campus. The site is expected to employ 5,000 people and is scheduled to open in 2022.
“I’ve seen coverage on your air about how Austin is booming as a tech center these days, and we think that many of those people are going to want to travel to Hawaii,” Ingram said. “The same goes for Orlando, which has a growing population.”
Florida is a longtime hotspot for retirees to relocate, and the population in the state has steadily climbed. Due to population shifts in the U.S., Texas is projected to add three seats to its U.S. House delegation and Florida is expected to pick up two, the Associated Press reported.
Based on Census Bureau estimates, 10 states, including New York, Michigan and California, are at risk of losing at least one seat in the House chamber, which could have a noticeable effect on the nation’s political map, according to the AP.
Hawaiian Airlines reported roughly 90% revenue declines in its last two quarterly reports.
“In a period where the depth of some of our traditional routes may not be what it was, it’s a good opportunity for us to look at broadening our network, and we see great opportunities from all of these, not just for next year but for the long term,” Ingram said.
Shares of Hawaiian Airlines fell 1.55% on a shortened day of trading in recognition of Christmas Eve. At $17.78 per share, the stock remains down 39% year to date.
The stock is more than double its pandemic low of $7.55 from mid-March.