Southwest Airlines has announced that its proposed flights to Hawaii will be delayed even further due to the ongoing U.S. government shutdown. The carrier is planning to start service to the islands of Oahu, Maui, Hawaii and Kauai from the Californian cities of San Diego, Sacramento, San Jose and Oakland, joining the long list of airlines currently flying between the mainland and Hawaii. The airline has claimed that its facilities, staff, equipment and flight schedules are ready for the commencement of Hawaii flights.
However, Southwest is still awaiting certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Extended-Range Twin Operational Performance Standards (ETOPS) certifications for the Boeing 737 aircraft that will be performing the routes. ETOPS allows twin-engine aircraft to fly extended flights over water, including the flights to Hawaii which spend nearly the entirety of the flight over the Pacific. According to the airline, key reviews and revisions of operations and maintenance procedures have been made and the carrier is now awaiting the validation flights with FAA officials.
“Until the government shutdown ends we are at a total standstill,” Mike Van de Ven, Southwest’s Chief Operating Officer said on the airline’s earnings conference call this week.
Since the government shutdown has affected FAA employees, the remaining steps of Southwest’s ETOPS certifications are now in a limbo.
“Our remaining work is currently suspended until the government reopens and the FAA is allowed to resume normal certification activities,” said Gary Kelly, Southwest’s CEO, in a profit report released by the airline on Thursday.
“We are anxious for the government to resolve this shutdown so we can bring low fares and a boost to Hawaii’s travel and tourism industry.”
Van de Ven said the airline has a “reasonable chance” of initiating the Hawaii service by the end of March, but that is only if the government shutdown ends by next week. It is reported that Southwest was aiming for Feb. 1 to begin the flights. If the shutdown continues even further, then the airline could be looking at commencing the flights in April or June of this year, as it will take six to eight weeks to get the flights started once approval is received.
Southwest isn’t the only airline that has had to delay the start of its flights due to the government shutdown. Alaska Airlines also announced this week that it would be pushing the start of its operations to Paine Field from Feb. 11 to March 4.