Southwest’s much anticipated low-fare flights to Hawaii could be back on again for a spring debut, as the Federal Aviation Administration fully reopened for business on Monday.
“We are continuing to work with Southwest on the necessary approvals now that all of our people are back at work,” an FAA spokesperson told TMR.
The Hawaii flights, the first for the carrier, had been put on ice during the 35-day federal shutdown, because aviation inspectors were on furlough. The flights are subject to an additional FAA certification for twin-engine aircraft operating on long flights over water, which is required, since for much of the 5.5-hour flight from the West Coast to Hawaii, the aircraft will be hours from the nearest emergency landing strip.
As recently as mid-December, carrier CEO Gary Kelly said he was hopeful that the flights could begin sometime in the first quarter of the year.
While Southwest declined to comment on the latest timetable, according to several published reports, the airline could expect to start flying within six to eight weeks after the FAA wraps up its work. That would put an April launch date within the realm of possibility. Once the FAA gives its blessing, the airline could start selling seats immediately. However, the government has only reopened until Feb. 15, adding more uncertainty to the situation.
The carrier previously announced the cities that are in line to get the new nonstops, including Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento and San Diego; addition to Honolulu, Southwest said it will serve other points in the island chain, including airports in Kauai, Maui and the island of Hawaii.
Meanwhile, the shutdown has caused other delays in new services: Alaska Airlines has pushed back the start of its flights out Paine Field, a newly reopened airport outside Seattle, from Feb. 11 to March 4. And Delta has also postponed the debut of its new Airbus A220 aircraft from Jan. 31 to Feb. 7. The first routes for the new plane type will be out of New York’s LaGuardia, to Boston and Dallas-Fort Worth.