Since Southwest announced that it would begin operations to Hawaii, the big question on everybody mind is when? Well apparently, even Gary Kelly the Southwest CEO can’t answer that question. In an interview with the Chicago Business Journal, Kelly outlined the two obstacles that are in the way of Southwest beginning flights to Hawaii.
Inspector General Investigation
The first factor facing Kelly is an investigation by the Inspector General in the United States Department of Transportation of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA). The inquiry which has dragged on for months is into the safety and maintenance culture at Southwest. The investigation is being very thorough and is exploring many avenues including third parties with whom Southwest has maintenance contracts.
Lack of A mechanics Contract
The other hurdle facing Kelly is the lack of a ratified contract for the airline’s maintenance mechanics. Negotiations have been going on for six years. Unfortunately, a preliminary contract agreed last year was voted down.
The Heart of Safety
Both outstanding issues lie at the heart of Southwest, and its ability to operate flights safely. While three is no rule that strictly prohibits the FAA from granting Southwest a permit to fly to Hawaii, it is very unlikely the regulator will grant permission to do so in the current environment. Granting an airline that has limited extended overwater experience a license to commence those kinds of flights, with key questions unanswered about its safety culture would be a very bad move from the FAA.
In the unlikely event Southwest had an accident on a flight to Hawaii, and its safety was the main culprit. The FAA would be in trouble and have some serious questions to answer. Clearly, the FAA is playing it safe (as they should) and wants to ensure that southwest has a clean bill of health in its safety and maintenance cultures before granting the airline a license to begin its flight to Hawaii.
This news and latest update are disappointing for those who want to enjoy Southwest’s competitive fares on flights to Hawaii. Perhaps from now on the question, people should be asking is not when southwest will start flights to Hawaii? But has Southwest got its House in order?