Southwest Airlines’ planned expansion of service into the Hawaiʻi market is suspended amid the now 34-day-old federal government shutdown.
The airline is in its final phase of obtaining authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration for Extended Operations for service between California and the Hawaiian Islands.
In a discussion of fourth quarter and annual 2018 financial results, Gary C. Kelly, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer said Hawaiʻi remains in the company’s expansion focus for 2019, but “remaining work is currently suspended until the government reopens and the FAA is allowed to resume normal certification activities.”
Kelly reported a 46th consecutive year of profitability and said: “We are well-prepared to perform the next steps in the ETOPS application process. We are anxious for the government to resolve this shutdown so we can bring low fares and a boost to Hawaiʻi’s travel and tourism industry.”
In April of 2018, Southwest Airlines announced its intent to begin service in 2019 to four airports in Hawaiʻi . The planned expansion includes service to the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, Kahului Airport on Maui, Līhue Airport on Kauaʻi and Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole; from Oakland Metropolitan Airport, San Diego International Airport, Mineta San Jose International Airport and Sacramento International Airport
According to a the company’s fourth quarter report, Southwest Airlines estimates first quarter 2019 unit costs (excluding fuel and oil expense and profitsharing expense) to increase approximately 6%, compared with first quarter 2018’s 8.65 cents.
“The year-over-year increase is driven largely by the Company’s underutilization of its fleet in first half 2019 due to the delay in its impending service to Hawaiʻi, and the resulting one-time start-up costs; higher airport costs; higher depreciation and ownership costs; and the timing of maintenance events and technology investments,” according to the company’s cost performance outlook.