Government shutdown adds months to timeline for Southwest’s Hawaii debut

Government shutdown adds months to timeline for Southwest’s Hawaii debut

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Waiting for Southwest’s long-awaited entry into the Hawaii market?

Thanks to the government shutdown, you’ll probably be waiting for several more months.

The airline’s executives said in a conference call Thursday that if the government reopens within a week, service to Hawaii could launch by March.

But if it doesn’t, Hawaii service might not become a reality until the second quarter of 2019.

It’s the first time Southwest has put a timetable on the shutdown’s delays to its launch of Hawaii service.

“Until the government shutdown ends, we are at a standstill" on kicking off service to Hawaii, said Southwest Chief Operating Officer Michael Van de Ven in the call.

The hold-up is a key FAA authorization known as ETOPS, or extended-range twin-engine operational performance standards. That certification can’t happen until the government — including the FAA — reopens.

“All that we have left are tabletop and validation flights that demonstrate our ability to execute a long-range navigation and our extended operational procedures,” Van de Ven said.

The good news: Southwest executives say even with the delay, they believe about half of the airline’s capacity growth in 2019 will be with service to and from Hawaii.

Last year, the airline announced plans to operate from Hawaii to several California airports, as well as offer Neighbor Island service. But the exact routes that will be offered and how frequently haven’t been discussed publicly.

The airline had hoped to start selling tickets by the end of 2018.

Southwest is known for its low operating costs, and competes by passing on those cost savings to passengers.

This story will be updated.

Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.