Mauna Loa eruption triggers flight cancellations, delays

Scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said the eruption began at about 11:30 p.m. Sunday in Mokuaweoweo, the summit caldera of the volcano.
Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 8:06 AM HST|Updated: Nov. 28, 2022 at 5:33 PM HST
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HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) - The eruption of Mauna Loa prompted Southwest Airlines to cancel most of its flights in and out of Hilo on Monday but rival Hawaiian Airlines kept flying.

Jon Snook, Hawaiian’s chief operating officer, explained: “Because we’ve experienced this many times before in our history, we’re cautious about doing anything definitive until such time as we have better understanding of what’s going on.”

He added, “Once we determined that there was no ash in the air, then we decided to keep flying. And that’s obviously the benefit of being around for 93 years in the islands.”

Hawaiian, which has 140 daily interisland flights, said the eruption did cause delays on three of its flights.

Meanwhile, Southwest canceled nine flights. A 10th flight was reinstated.

Southwest offered a waiver for customers scheduled to fly to, from or within Hawaii to change their reservation with no changes in fares. The waiver is applicable to bookings Monday and Tuesday.

Experts said the type of volcanic activity in Hawaii isn’t usually harmful to aircraft.

“Typically in Hawaii, the eruptions are very clean. It’s a lots of lava, not much ash. So these can generally be worked around and flown safely around,” said aviation industry expert Peter Forman.

“But if you have a really high ash, volcanic eruptions like they had in Iceland and Mount St. Helens in Washington decades ago, those eruptions are really a concern because they can damage the engines and turbine blades.”

Aviation officials are closely monitoring the situation which could rapidly change.

The Hawaii County Civil Defense has raised the aviation code to red, due to the threat of gasses, ash and volcanic glass strands. An ashfall advisory has been canceled.

This story will be updated.