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Southwest to launch flights to Hawaii as its battle with mechanics deepens

Southwest has finally released details for its initial service offering to Hawaii. The highly anticipated service suffered a few setbacks including a delay in receiving FAA approval for the over-the-water routes due to the government shutdown earlier this year. With the appropriate certification in hand, the news of the official service launch comes as Southwest’s battle with its mechanics deepens. After declaring a “state of operational emergency” over the high number of aircraft out of service in February, Southwest has filed a lawsuit against its mechanics union alleging that the union is encouraging mechanics to write up aircraft maintenance issues that they believe have no effect on flight safety. The increased maintenance write-ups caused a larger number of aircraft to be out of service, which forced Southwest Airlines to cancel flights. Southwest is further alleging that the union’s strategy is an attempt to boost its bargaining position in labor contract negotiations, which have gone on for six years.

Despite Southwest’s problems with its mechanics, the carrier will launch its first flights to Hawaii on March 17. The first offering will be Oakland-Honolulu. The carrier will add flights from Oakland to Maui and the Big Island in April and May respectively. Service from San Jose to Honolulu, Maui and Hawaii will commence in May. Southwest previously said it would offer flights from San Diego and Sacramento as well, but details have yet to be announced. Passengers will find connecting fares from a few cities such as Phoenix and Denver, but those departing from other locations will have to purchase separate tickets for now.

Travelers should note that Southwest will be using its standard single class Boeing 737 aircraft on the 5-½ hour flight. There will be no in-flight meals other than a free snack bag. Passenger will still receive two free checked bags, but there will be a charge for surfboards. Similar to its policy on international flights, Southwest will not accept pets other than service or emotional support animals that meet the carrier’s official criteria.

 

Lithium-ion batteries officially banned from commercial aircraft cargo holds
The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a new order officially banning the transportation of lithium-ion batteries in passenger aircraft cargo. While many U.S. airlines already have restrictions on lithium-ion batteries in their cargo holds, the new rule makes it official for all passengers on all airlines operating in the United States. Items containing lithium-ion batteries such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, powered headsets and camera equipment, along with spare batteries and power banks must be transported in carry-on luggage (within the airlines’ carry-on rules) or shipped with a freight provider.

A government study found that between March of 1991 and August of 2018, there were at least 225 in-air and airport incidents involving lithium-ion batteries in cargo or baggage. While lithium-ion batteries can still overheat and cause a fire in the aircraft cabin, it is believed that cabin crew along with aircraft fire suppression systems could handle an in-cabin emergency situation. However, a battery fire in the cargo hold could exceed the capabilities of an aircraft’s fire suppression system and lead to a catastrophic failure.

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