Hawaiian Airlines Celebrates 'Ha'aheo' Through Inclusivity and Innovation

by Jill Gleeson

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday June 22, 2019

Ha'aheo means "pride" in the Hawaiian language, and perhaps no other word can sum up Hawaiian Airlines quite as well. The name of Hawaiian's LGBTQA+ Employee Resource Group (ERG), it also describes the attitude the carrier's owners, management and employees take toward their work and the company itself. It's satisfaction well-earned.

From its modest beginnings in 1929 with a fleet of just two eight-seater Sikorsky aircraft and a Bellanca monoplane, Hawaiian Airlines has grown to serve more than 10 million passengers annually, making it the largest and longest-serving carrier based in the 50th state. And Hawaiian shows no signs of slowing down — or altering its commitment to excellence.

A Trailblazer for More Than a Half-Century
Hawaiian Airlines started setting the industry standard for innovation and excellent service early in its history, winning a National Safety Council 20-year award, the first airline ever to do so, in 1950. It has remained a leader in on-time arrivals, in 2018 marking 15 straight years as the most punctual airline in the country. And Hawaiian's dedication to supporting diversity and equal rights for all goes back, too. In 1979, it made history again with the first all-female crew to operate a certified scheduled U.S. air carrier.

Today, Ha'aheo works to ensure that LGBTQA+ employees are represented in the workplace and community. The company is a top-level sponsor of Honolulu Pride, sending 150 employees, family and friends to volunteer for the event in 2017, the largest such turnout that year. In 2018, Hawaiian doubled that participation to 300. Also, Hawaiian supports the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival and the Annual Honolulu AIDS Walk.

But Hawaiian Airlines hasn't stopped there. Ha'aheo has hosted guest speakers such as Kim Coco Iwamoto, a transgender woman who ran for Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii in 2018, as well as a quarterly Rainbow Pau Hana for employees to socialize in a casual setting. In addition, says Ha'aheo Co-chair Hoku Beltz, "Ha'aheo is actively engaged to ensure that Hawaiian is fully supportive of passengers and employees with non-binary gender identification. We feel that the limitation of Male or Female gender does not adequately reflect our community and the rich Hawaiian culture that is a part of our corporate identity."

"Looking forward," Beltz adds, "the group is looking to start a mentoring program that pairs LGBT youth with Hawaiian Airlines employees. The formation of Ha'aheo is a significant step for the airline. We only expect better things to come."

Flying into the Future
Like any world-class company, Hawaiian Airlines continues to improve and expand its offerings, recently announcing new flights to Boston, San Francisco and Fukuoka, Japan. Smaller, but still plenty pleasing upgrades have been underway this year as well, including an enhanced in-flight drinks menu with tropical cocktails and more.

The company continues to do good work in a myriad of ways, which includes celebrating the Hawaiian language by incorporating it into its everyday operations (which earned the airline a 2018 Legacy Award from the Hawai'i Tourism Authority) and supporting the very first World Reef Day on June 1.

There's more excitement to come in 2021 from Hawaiian Airlines, with the scheduled introduction of the new Boeing 787-9 aircraft to the carrier's transpacific network. Benefits include excellent fuel efficiency and operational performance, according to Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Peter Ingram. "The Dreamliner combines excellent comfort for our guests with fantastic operational performance and will allow us to continue modernizing our fleet into the next decade. It has more seating capacity than Hawaiian's current wide-body fleet, which will allow us to further build upon our successful growth in Asia."

Jill Gleeson is a travel and adventure journalist based in the Appalachians of Central Pennsylvania. Find her on Facebook and Twitter at @gopinkboots.

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