Connecting Flight

‘Ohana Flight

By Mark Dunkerley, Chief Executive Officer, Hawaiian Airlines

The idea was born last summer, on a flight from Hawai‘i to French Polynesia. I was talking in the galley with flight attendant Ida Teiti when she mentioned in passing that Tau—another of our flight attendants who was traveling that day as a passenger—was her great-nephew. (It’s a mystery how two generations can separate the ebullient Ida and Tau.) She proceeded to list the names of other flight attendants familiar to me, all of whom, it turned out, are among her relatives. As the number swelled to eight, it became apparent that there was sufficient ‘ohana to staff an entire widebody flight.

In Hawai‘i, as it is throughout the Pacific, family is a core facet of cultural identity. As the airline born of this region and its people, we define ‘ohana more broadly to encompass all of our employees, and we celebrate the ties that bind us together. What better way to demonstrate this than with a flight staffed entirely by flight attendants from a single family?

So in late September, the scheduling stars aligned and we operated a round-trip flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles staffed by Ida, her daughter Teiti Correa, three nieces—Tatiana Johnson, Kananilehua Conner and Marita Marama—nephew John McCabe, cousin Sean Reindollar and grandnephew Tauarii “Tau” Nahalea-Marama. “What’s the occasion?” a surprised guest asked on receiving an orchid lei as he boarded the return flight. “We are all from the same family, all related,” explained Kananilehua.

“Some of us have flown on flights together over the years,” said Ida while preparing meals alongside John and Kananilehua in the galley of our Airbus A330. “But this is probably the first and perhaps the last time we will be able to do this.” Flight attendants bid for their flights based on seniority, and with nearly three decades of employment separating Teiti from Kananilehua—the most recent family member to be hired, in 2012—getting the entire family together on the same flight was next to impossible.“We naturally enjoy being around each other at home or at a party, but to be together at work is very special,” Tau said.

While I suspect these two flights might have established a record for staffing a flight with relatives, it’s not unusual to find several generations of a single family at work in the aisles or hallways of our company. Even on the return flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, Ida’s ‘ohana was joined by pilots Woody Child and John DeRego, each of whom also have deep family roots in our airline. Woody often flies alongside his father, a Hawaiian pilot since 1984, and his flight attendant stepmother. “We travel the world together, see new things, new experiences,” said Woody while going through pre-departure checks for our ‘Ohana Flight. “As a son flying with a father, it’s awesome.”

“I grew up with Hawaiian Airlines,” added John, the son of a former Hawaiian Airlines pilot and a flight attendant. John, whose brother is also a retired pilot for our airline, often gets to share the cockpit with his son Nathan, who was hired in 2016 and flies as a first officer in our A330 fleet. “Seeing my son next to me, doing the same work that I did for years, and us working together … it’s hard to put into words,” said John, whose mother’s wing pin clips the tie of his pilot uniform. “Anybody who is a parent would understand the feeling.”

The strength of Hawaiian Airlines lies in its employees and the family ties that bind so many of them together—this is one of the unique elements that makes our company so special.

From our ‘ohana to yours, enjoy your flight.