Southwest Airlines is still hopeful about beginning to sell tickets to Hawaii this year.

"We are ready to go with our flight scheduling once we receive the requisite approvals," Southwest president Tom Nealon said during the carrier's earnings call Thursday. 

Southwest announced a year ago that it would begin serving Hawaii, and since that time the airline has been working its way through the process of getting Extended Operations Service authorizations from the FAA for each of the Boeing 737 Max 8 and 737-800 aircraft it intends to fly.

That authorization typically takes a year to 18 months, Southwest COO Mike Van de Ven said. At present, Southwest is transitioning from the design phase of the process into the demonstration phase, he added. 

Once Southwest receives the authorization, it will be able to begin selling tickets within days, CEO Gary Kelly said. "From the time we get our certification, we could be flying within weeks," Kelly said. 

Southwest has said that it will fly to Hawaii from Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento and San Diego, but hasn't announced specific routes. Its Hawaii destinations will be Honolulu, Maui, the Big Island and Kauai. The carrier also plans to operate interisland service.

During Thursday's call, company executives stressed that Hawaii will be the primary focus of network growth in 2019. Southwest plans to grow capacity by no more than 5% next year, with approximately half of that growth attributable to Hawaii service, CFO Tammy Romo said. 

Southwest reported Thursday that its net income for the third quarter was $614 million, up 16% year over year, boosted by $133 million in savings on income taxes under the new rates that Congress and President Trump established last year. Not counting tax savings, the carrier's income was $786 million, down 5.5%.

Southwest reported revenue of $5.57 billion in the third quarter, up 5.1% from last year and beating analyst expectations by $10 million, according to the website Seeking Alpha. 

Expenses were $4.78 billion, a 7.2% increase. 

The company's stock was down 8.6% Thursday, likely due in part to Kelly's focus during the earnings call on expected cost increases of 3% or higher (fuel excluded) in 2019.

 

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