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What is keeping Southwest Airlines from flying to Hawaii?

What is keeping Southwest Airlines from flying to Hawaii?
A Southwest Airlines plane taxis on the tarmac after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport. The Dallas-based airline plans to begin selling tickets to flights to Hawaii by the end of the year. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)

Southwest Airlines, the nation’s most popular domestic carrier, plans to begin selling tickets to Hawaii as soon as the end of this year, with flights taking off next year.

That was one of the takeaways from a conference call between executives of the Dallas-based airline and analysts during a discussion of third-quarter earnings.

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During the Thursday call, analysts were anxious to get details about the timing of ticket sales to the Aloha State by the low-cost carrier. For good reason: The more competition on a route, the lower airfares will drop.

“Our goal continues still to be to sell tickets at the end of this year and operate flights early next year,” said Michael G. Van de Ven, chief operating officer at Southwest Airlines.

The delay has to do with a certificate needed from the Federal Aviation Administration called ETOPS, which stands for Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards. Planes that are ETOPS certified are tested to operate safely for extended periods of time — at least 60 minutes — away from an airfield or airport even after an engine failure. Flights from California to Hawaii can take up to six hours.

Van de Ven said the review process began about 12 months ago, when Southwest Airlines announced its plans to fly to Hawaii, and the FAA process typically takes between 12 and 18 months to complete.

Southwest Airlines has said that it plans to fly to four airports in Hawaii from Oakland Metropolitan Airport, San Diego International Airport, Mineta San Jose International Airport and Sacramento International Airport. Flights from Los Angeles International Airport may be added later, airline officials said.

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