After years of planning, delays, testing and paperwork, Southwest Airlines is on the way to Hawaii, waiting only for its final 'report card' from the FAA.
CEO Gary Kelly told employees Monday that the FAA had tipped him that the airline's testing flights for extended over-water operations were successful. Airlines flying long routes like that need special approval and training. Southwest's final process was delayed by the government shutdown in December and January.
Once the official word comes, Southwest is ready to start selling tickets almost immediately, and will announce first flight dates and schedules, which may sell out quickly: Southwest has a strong fan base, and many of its members have been planning on Hawaii, either buying tickets or cashing in loyalty rewards.
While final schedules have not been announced, the airline had already announced it would serve four Hawaiian airports in Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Kona on the Big Island. The flights will all link to California, using San Diego, Sacramento, San Jose and Oakland.