Southwest Airlines’ long-awaited flights to Hawaii are on hold due to the federal government shutdown.
The problem: The airline needs to complete the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification process for extended overwater flights, but the FAA workers who oversee those so-called ETOPS activities are on furlough.
Southwest received key ETOPS approvals before the shutdown, covering its manuals and proposed procedures, but the final steps, including “validation” flights, remain.
Southwest spokesman Brian Parrish said the airline continues to prepare for Hawaii internally but can’t complete the process until the required FAA employees are back on the job.
“We are ready to continue the ETOPS application process when the FAA is allowed to resume full certification activities,” the airline said in a statement Monday.
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Southwest had hoped to start selling tickets to Hawaii in late 2018, with flights debuting in early 2019. Airline executives have said they can begin selling tickets and launching the flights as soon as they receive ETOPS certification.
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Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said in late October that the airline will start selling tickets “within days” of receiving certification, with the first Southwest flights to Hawaii launched within weeks of that.
Travelers hoarding Southwest frequent flier points for the Hawaii flights pepper the airline daily with questions on the timing of the Hawaii flights. The airline has not revealed any Hawaii schedule. It has only said that it will initially fly to Hawaii from four California cities: San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland and San Jose. It will fly to four destinations in Hawaii.
Many have spring break plans on hold for the new flights. The airline doesn’t have any answers since no one knows when the record shutdown, now in its 24th day, will end.