Southwest Airlines recently said that it had earned approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate flights from California to Hawaii. The airline said it would announce schedules and ticket availability for the coming flights soon.

Southwest Airlines will fly Boeing 737s from Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego and San Jose to Honolulu on Oahu, Kahului on Maui, Kona on Island of Hawaii, and Lihue on Kauai. The airline also plans to fly between the Hawaiian Islands.


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The airline had first announced plans for the new Hawaiian operations in 2017. Earning approval for Extended Operations (ETOPS) is a lengthy process. The airline had hoped to being selling tickets for the new operations in January but had to delay their plans due to the recent government shutdown which put a pause on FAA certification.

Extended Twin Operations (ETOPS)

Extended Operations or Extended Operations (ETOPS) refers to a type of operation in which air carriers are allowed to fly for extended ranges over areas where airports and landing areas are limited or sparse. ETOPS approval is an added privilege which each carrier must earn.

FAA ETOPS Definition

The FAA defines ETOPS in advisory circular AC-120-40B as:

“An airplane flight operation during which a portion of the flight is conducted beyond 60 minutes from an adequate airport for turbine engine-powered airplanes with two engines, and beyond 180 minutes for turbine-engine-powered passenger-carrying airplanes with more than two engines. This distance is determined using an approved one-engine inoperative cruise speed under standard atmospheric conditions in still air. “

CFR Part 121.161

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) CFR Part 121.161 says that:

“…no certificate holder may operate a turbine-engine-powered airplane over a route that contains a point farther than a flying time from an Adequate Airport (at a one-engine inoperative cruise speed under standard conditions in still air) of 60 minutes for a two-engine airplane or 180 minutes for a passenger-carrying airplane with more than two engines”

The regulations have evolved over the years so that airlines can earn approval for twin engine airplanes to fly further than 60 minutes from an adequate airport.

Air Carriers using twin-engine aircraft can now apply for ETOPS certification in the following categories:

  • 75-minute ETOPS
  • 90-minute ETOPS
  • 120-minute ETOPS
  • 138-minute ETOPS
  • 180-minute ETOPS
  • 207-minute ETOPS
  • 240-minute ETOPS (for a specific geographical area)
  • 240+minute ETOPS (based on specific city pairs)

ETOPS Pilot Jobs

When pilots fly an airplane type approved for ETOPS their employment contracts typically provide an hourly override when operating under ETOPS rules. That is, pilots flying these routes will receive an hourly pay adder during the time spent on the routes.

ETOPS operations are typically longer routes than what pilots would work in non-ETOPs flying. Because of this pilots flying these routes will have longer but fewer legs they need to fly to earn their monthly credit minimums. They will need to work fewer days each month and will have more time off at home.

Southwest Airlines Pilot Jobs

Southwest Airlines pilot hiring window is open. That is, they are currently accepting applications. You can learn more about this here.

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About Greg Thomson

Greg started his professional pilot journey in 2002 after graduating from Embry Riddle. Since that time he has accumulated over 7,000 hours working as a pilot. Greg’s professional experience includes flight instructing, animal tracking, backcountry flying, forest firefighting, passenger charter, part 135 cargo, and flying for a regional airline. Greg took a 5 year hiatus from flying and worked in software development and marketing. He has since returned to flying as a cargo pilot. Greg enjoys educating and helping pilots improve their professional lives and is passionate about applying technology and new methods to help with traditional challenges.