Southwest Airlines will conduct a validation flight to Hawaii this week, as it continues to work towards certification to begin passenger service to the islands.

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A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 jet lands at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in December 2017.

But there won’t be any passengers on board. Instead, the flight from Oakland, California, to Honolulu, will be a proving flight that’s part of Southwest’s effort to secure the “ETOPS” certification it needs from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate long overwater flights with its two-engine Boeing 737 jets.

The airline’s first Hawaii flight is scheduled for Tuesday, “barring any unforeseen changes,” Southwest spokesman Brian Parrish said in a statement to USA TODAY’s Today in the Sky blog.

Following a successful validation flight, Southwest must conduct tabletop exercises of its full ETOPS procedures and then conduct more validation flights before the FAA will authorise it to begin Hawaii flights, the airline says.

“Our staff is ready, our procedures are ready, our gates are ready, our equipment is ready,” said Mike Van de Ven, chief operating officer of Southwest, on its Hawaii preparations on 24 January. ETOPS certification, he added, was the remaining requirement before it can begin flights.

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Van de Ven and other executives said if the government shutdown ended that week, the airline could begin selling Hawaii flights by the end of the first quarter. The shutdown ended the next day, 25 January.

Southwest will face a competitive market between California and Hawaii when flights begin. Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines both fly from the four California airports and Hawaii, with the former serving all four of Southwest’s planned destinations from Oakland, San Diego and San Jose, FlightGlobal schedules data shows.

For now, Southwest continues its efforts to secure the certification that would allow its 737s to fly between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii. The certification short for “Extended-range, Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards” is standard for airlines wishing to deploy two-engine aircraft on long overwater routes where diversion airports are scarce.

Sources: FG, Aviation News, Southwest Airlines

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