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Southwest gains FAA approval for Hawaii flights

Updated February 27, 2019 - 4:57 pm

Southwest Airlines has been given the green light to operate nonstop flights to Hawaii, according to the airline.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday approved Southwest’s plans to operate extended operations flights, that among others, will allow the carrier to fly between California and Hawaii, according to Chris Mainz, Southwest spokesperson.

“We have teams now finalizing our plans to offer service to Hawaii,” Mainz said in a statement. “We’ll publicly announce our timing for inaugural flights and other service when we publish our schedule in the coming days,”

The planned Hawaiian flights will originate from San Diego, Sacramento, San Jose and Oakland. The flights will serve four Hawaiian Islands — Kaui, Oahu, Maui and the Island of Hawaii, according to Southwest’s website.

Southwest successfully carried out several test flights displaying its ability to operate lengthy, over-water flights, where options for emergency landings were few. The approval comes more than three weeks after the carrier’s first test flight.

The approval likely could have come sooner, but the 35-day long partial government shutdown that began in December and ended Jan. 25 delayed the process.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told the Review-Journal earlier this month that Hawaii was the carrier’s top priority.

“We’re going to go very focused into Hawaii,” Kelly said. “We want to ramp up and be relevant rather quickly.”

With the nonstop service originating from four cities in neighboring California, Kelly said Southern Nevada would see an impact from the service as well.

“You’ll (Las Vegas) have great access,” he said. “We’ll definitely have Hawaiians taking advantage of access to Las Vegas.”

With Southwest’s initial Hawaiian flights almost ready to go, the next destination the carrier could originate nonstop flights to the islands from could be Las Vegas.

Southwest began using the Boeing 737 Max 7 planes this year, allowing the airline to fly farther than before, which could open up the Vegas-to-Hawaii flights as soon as 2020, Kelly said.

“It’s (Las Vegas) strong, stable and we’re going to look for opportunities to grow,” he said. “It’s (737 Max 7 planes) something we’re thinking about for Las Vegas and maybe for Hawaii.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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