Southwest CEO: FAA Gives 'Thumbs Up' on Hawaii Validation Flights
Southwest Airlines has received a "thumbs up" from the Federal Aviation Administration for its validation flights to Hawaii, the airline's CEO reportedly said at an internal meeting on Monday.
Speaking at the airline's annual employee rally at its Dallas headquarters, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said the airline has "completed [its] validation flights" to receive certification for its Hawaii flights and received a "thumbs up" from the FAA, as the carrier awaits its "report card" that will allow it to launch ticket sales and, eventually flights, to Hawaii, a Southwest spokesperson told TPG.
No information on actual flight schedules or ticket prices was mentioned.
Kelly also did not reveal when fares to the Aloha State would go on sale, but the carrier has previously said that ticket sales would begin soon after Southwest receives its formal certification from the FAA to operate its Hawaii flights. That formal certification might come any day now.
For months, Southwest has been chugging through the certification process with the FAA. An airline flying twinjets, like Southwest does, needs to go through an Extended Range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards certification process to launch flights over oceans. The certification, ETOPS for short, is essentially a multi-step process in which Southwest proves to the FAA that it can fly its twin-engine Boeing 737s over the Pacific Ocean for an extended period of time without a diversion airport available within a certain distance.
The entire ETOPS process had to be put on hold during the government shutdown in January, which delayed Southwest's initial timeline. The airline was wrapping up certification tasks last week, with its last few test flights back and forth from the islands with FAA officials.
As TPG‘s Summer Hull reported in January, Southwest said to expect roughly a six-week to two-month window from when the FAA resumes the ETOPS process to when Hawaii operations can begin. So if that holds true, that would mean the airline’s Hawaii flights will be taking off with passengers sometime in very late March or April.