Government Shutdown Delays Southwest Flights to Hawaii

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Southwest Airlines had hoped to begin flights to Hawaii early this year, however, the government shutdown has delayed the process.

Delays in the Program

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires certification for long, over-water flights. Chief Operating Officer, Mike Van de Ven says, “until the government shutdown ends we are at a total standstill.

Southwest is unable to attain the extended twin-engine operations (ETOPS) certification with FAA employees furloughed.

Getting the approval from the FAA for the detailed procedures of the ETOPS certification is the most time-consuming part of the process, however, Southwest has already accomplished this step.

“The FAA has approved our program, it’s ready to go,” says Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly. “We only have to demonstrate that we can execute that programme. It’s just a shame we are where we are because of the shutdown.”

Expected Launch Date

Originally, it was expected to have the Hawaii flights start up on February 1. However, Kelly estimates that it will take about six to eight weeks from when the FAA resumes work, to when flights will launch.

Southwest could be flying to Hawaii by March, but to say they will fly in February is probably unobtainable at this point in the shutdown.

A realistic estimate for their launch date is actually going to be in the second quarter, which runs from April through June.

Shutdown Impacts on Southwest

The US government partially shut down on December 22. Southwest is estimating a negative impact of $10 to $15 million on revenue in January as a result of the shutdown.

Calling the shutdown “maddening”, Kelly warns that a prolonged shutdown could derail their near-term revenue outlook for the first quarter.

Even in the competitive market, Southwest is the largest carrier at Baltimore/Washington airport, which is only one of three airports servicing the greater Washington DC area.

In Hawaii, Southwest is expected to serve Honolulu on Oahu, Kahului on Maui, Lihue on Kauai, and Kona on the Big Island. There will also be inter-island flights between those cities in Hawaii. This partial government shutdown will continue to have unfavorable consequences for everyone involved in the aviation industry, including Southwest and their attempt to reach Hawaii.

Alternative Options

There are other options to consider when traveling during the partial shutdown. The safer alternative is private jet charters. With the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) feeling the impacts of the shutdown, lines at security are bound to be long and troublesome.

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