Southwest Airlines has received verbal approval from the FAA to begin Hawaii flights, with formal approval expected in the coming days, CEO Gary Kelly told employees at a rally in Dallas Monday.
Southwest did not release any details on the timing of ticket sales, when the flights will begin or where it will launch the first flights.
Kelly has previously said Southwest would start selling tickets within days of receiving FAA certification for long overwater flights, with the first flights within weeks of that.
“Our commercial and operational teams are finalizing our timelines for announcing the sale of tickets and preparing to publish schedules for Southwest service to the Hawaiian Islands,” Southwest said in a statement after the rally. “We will announce more details after we receive an official ETOPS authorization.”
Southwest formally announced plans to begin Hawaii service in October 2017. It has dribbled out details since. Last year, the airline said it planned to serve four islands in Hawaii: Oahu, which is home to Honolulu; Maui, Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii, home to Kona.
The airline said it planned to fly to Hawaii from four California cities: San Diego, Sacramento, San Jose and Oakland.
Southwest initially dangled the prospect of flights beginning in late 2018 but that date slipped as the year went on. It still hoped to start selling tickets to Hawaii by the end of the year but that didn’t occur, either.
Southwest executives have said the airline was nearing the final phase of its efforts to get so-called ETOPS (extended range twin engine operational performance standards) certification from the FAA, with flights due to start Feb. 1, when the federal government shut down a few days before Christmas.
ETOPs certification, a lengthy process involving new flight manuals and procedures, training and exercises and test flights with FAA officials, is required for twin-engine planes on routes where alternate airports aren’t in close range should flight troubles arise.
Southwest Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven said on Jan. 24 that the government shutdown put the Hawaii flights approval process at a “total standstill.”
He said Southwest had a shot at beginning flights by the end of March if the shutdown ended within a week but otherwise it wouldn’t be able to start flights until April at the earliest. The shutdown ended Jan. 25, a Friday.
Southwest and the FAA resumed their ETOPS activities the next week and Southwest’s first Hawaii proving flight, from Oakland to Honolulu, was on Feb. 5. Exercises with the FAA took place in Dallas the week of Feb. 11 and daily test flights began later that week. Those flights included a diversion to Hilo, on the Big Island, on a Saturday flight from Oakland to Honolulu, according to flight tracker FlightAware.
The airline’s last test flight was from Maui to Dallas on Feb. 19. Southwest has no plans to fly from its Dallas home base to Hawaii but had flown from Oakland to Maui a day earlier, a test flight that drew a lot of attention on Maui.
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/2019/02/25/southwest-airlines-receives-verbal-approval-for-hawaii-flights-gary-kelly/2983585002/