Southwest Airlines: Hawaii flights could begin this year

Dawn Gilbertson
A Southwest Airlines jet takes off at Midway Airport April 3, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois.

Hoping to fly Southwest Airlines to Hawaii this year?

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said Thursday the airline's plans to fly to Hawaii are on track but that it's unclear whether the flights will begin at the end of 2018 or in early 2019.

"I think there is a chance that we could be flying by the end of the year and that will be our goal,'' he said on the airline's earnings conference call.

He said the timing is largely dependent on the Federal Aviation Administration. The airline has submitted its application with the FAA to operate long flights over water.

Kelly declined to handicap the odds of flights in time for the busy holiday travel season, and said it really doesn't matter in the long run. 

If it happens, he said, "I'll be happy. If we don't, it won't be the end of the world.''

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Kelly said Southwest is confident it will at least begin selling tickets to Hawaii this year. There is no timetable for the opening of reservations.

The airline plans to start its Hawaii service with flights from California, a competitive market with many carriers offering flights to the vacation hot spot. Southwest frequent fliers and other passengers have long requested Hawaii as a destination.

Southwest has never promised flights will begin this year. In an interview after the company's annual meeting in Phoenix last year, Kelly for the first time said Hawaii would be a priority for the airline in 2018. He said then that 2018 flights were possible but not likely. He said Thursday that this year has always been the goal, if not publicly revealed.

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