Pacific Business News and the Los Angeles Times report that Southwest Airlines recently moved one big step closer to starting it’s service between the mainland and Hawaii, but progress has also been stymied by the partial federal shutdown.
Recently, Southwest’s Chief Operating Officer, Mike Van de Ven, stated that the FAA had approved the Extended Operations (ETOPS) procedures and manuals submitted by Southwest, which is a very important step in obtaining the full ETOPS authorization needed to commence service. However, since that time the aviation inspectors needed to further certify operations have been furloughed due to the federal government’s partial shutdown (now in its third week).
In a December interview before the shutdown, Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly told Bloomberg news service that the airline was “very close” to obtaining government approval. “Weeks, not months,” Kelly said. “We’re ready to roll.”
The shutdown, which began Dec. 22, prompted aviation and travel industry officials to write a letter Thursday urging President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to end the appropriations impasse in Washington. “This partial shutdown has already inflicted real damage to our nation’s aviation system and the impacts will only worsen over time,” the letter said.
Sources originally said that service would likely begin in March or April, but that timeline seems likely to be delayed with every passing week that the government remains partially shut down.
When Southwest does start flying, it will be competing with Hawaiian Airlines, among others. Hawaiian plans to introduce its version of a basic economy airfare in the second half of the year. Both Southwest and Hawaiian get high marks for customer service, so it remains to be seen how this competition will play out.
The full articles from PBN and the LA Times can be read here: