Hawaiian Airlines prepares for possible flight disruptions due to Olivia

9/11 11 a.m.: Tropical storm warning issued for Kauai, Niihau ahead of Olivia

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Airlines are closely monitoring Olivia, which could end up disrupting Hawaii flights.

The state's airports usually remain open unless there is damage to a runway or a problem with the facility, according to the Hawaii Department of Transportation. Officials are urging travelers to check with their airlines for the status of flights.

Hawaiian Airlines is busy gearing up for this latest storm. With routes connecting the state to other parts of the world, the company is always tracking potential weather problems.

"Clearly, the safety of the guests and of our own employees at the various stations that we operate to is paramount," said Ken Rewick, Hawaiian's vice president of flight operations.

Hawaiian has been busy recently, with Hurricane Lane and Typhoon Jebi that struck Japan last week. During the height of Lane from August 23-25, there were 10 storm-related cancellations, or about 1% of all flights during that 3-day period, according to the airline.

Teams in the company's Systems Operations Control Center (SOCC) are now focused on Olivia.

"If nothing changes on Olivia's track, it looks like Maui will probably have the greatest impact at Kahului Airport," said David Rouse, managing director of the SOCC. "We're probably going to look at making some final decisions later on this evening."

Professor Steven Businger, chair of the Department of Atmospheric Services at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, believes that Kahului may experience powerful winds.

"The trouble is that Kahului is between Haleakala and the West Maui mountains, and that is a funnel for low level winds to come through," he said. "I think the strongest winds are going to be in that valley on Maui."

The training for Hawaiian Airlines' pilots includes flight simulators to help prepare them for severe weather scenarios, including hurricanes and tropical storms.

"Mostly our concerns with flight operations is related to winds, especially cross wind components so winds coming from the side of the aircraft," said Brian Beres, senior director for flight standards and qualifications. "And then rain, which can lead to low visibility."

The company is waiving reservation change fees for passengers on Hawaiian and its codeshare partners traveling through Hawaii from September 11-13 due to Olivia.

"There is a potential that it could drift, so we're mindful of that. If we make decisions too early in advance we could get it wrong and then we're impacting flights that might otherwise we could potentially run," said Rouse.

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