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Shutdown Clips Wings of Southwest Airlines Hawai‘i Service

January 24, 2019, 9:44 AM HST (Updated January 24, 2019, 9:44 AM)
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Southwest Airlines announced plans for the Hawaiian Islands in May 2018. PC: Southwest Airlines

Although Southwest Airlines intended to start flying to Hawai‘i early this year—including to Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole on the Big Island—the government shutdown has kept the company from pursuing that route.

The Dallas-based carrier can’t get this long-awaited Hawai‘i service off the ground until specific government employees return to work to complete the validation process, Southwest Airlines Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly said.

Southwest has received the necessary Federal Aviation Administration approvals, but two validation steps remain to be completed that were scheduled for January, but have been delayed due to the shutdown.

The FAA employees responsible for the validation process are considered non-essential employees, Kelly said, so they have been furloughed.

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Southwest must wait for the government to resume full operations before it can take the next steps to launch its Hawai‘i flights.

Southwest’s original plan for Hawai‘i was to sell tickets by the end of 2018 with service beginning not much later.

When service commences, Southwest will fly to four Hawai‘i destinations from four California cities.

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In addition to Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport, Southwest will fly to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport on O‘ahu, Līhue Airport on Kaua‘i and Kahului Airport on Maui.

Southwest will fly from Oakland International Airport, San Diego International Airport, Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport and Sacramento International Airport—all in California.

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