Southwest Airlines sounds like it’s (finally) getting close to selling tickets to Hawaii

Southwest Airlines still plans to start selling tickets to Hawaii before the end of the year, with flights to begin soon after, executives said Thursday.

The airline remains tight lipped about key details travelers are seeking, including dates, prices and initial routes.

But company officials talked more about Hawaii than they have in months on the airline’s quarterly earnings conference call, suggesting the airline is confident regulatory approval is near. Southwest has been working with the Federal Aviation Administration for more than a year to get certification for long, over-water flights.

Southwest says its facilities, equipment, staff and flight schedule for Hawaii are ready to go. The airline is opening a pilot and flight attendant base in Los Angeles in December in part to staff the Hawaii flights. 

“We are really just chomping at the bit,” Southwest President Tom Nealon said.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said Southwest will start selling tickets within days of receiving so-called ETOPS certification from the FAA.

The first Southwest flights to Hawaii could be launched within weeks of that, though the timing depends on the calendar.

“We don’t want to start flying on Christmas Day (a slow travel day) as an example,” Kelly said.

Southwest Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven said Southwest has made “steady progress” in the FAA certification process, and has completed key reviews and revisions of its operations and maintenance manuals. He said the certification process now transitions to a “demonstration phase,” with exercises and “validation” flights with FAA officials. 

Southwest Airlines has said little about its new Hawaii flights, which will account for half its growth in 2019, since it announced definitive plans to start service a year ago. Travelers hoarding Southwest frequent flier points for a dream trip to Hawaii press the airline daily on social media for more details.

Representatives generally have the same answer: stay tuned.

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