As Hawaii’s hometown carrier, it’s our kuleana (responsibility and privilege) to serve as ambassadors of the Islands to those who visit our shores. From the moment our guests check in for their flight and are greeted by a member of our Hawaiian Airlines ‘ohana, mea ho'okipa (I am host), our signature hospitality, welcomes them and provides a primer in celebrating our culture of Aloha.

Our employees know Hawai‘i like the back of their hand and, day-in and day-out, keep the incredible legacy of our airline alive. In recognition of their service excellence, knowledge and passion for the Hawaiian culture, we were honored to have earned the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA) 2018 Legacy Award, a prestigious accolade presented to Hawai‘i organizations that are carrying the torch in the revitalization of ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language).

Hawaiian Airlines' John Borden, manager of in-flight services, and Debbie Nakenelua-Richards, director of community relations, accept the HTA Legacy Award of the 2018 reception.


Hawaiian Airlines received the award at the Oct. 3 Global Tourism Summit, alongside two respected local organizations: ‘Aha Pūnana Leo and Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa.

“This year, the year of the Hawaiian, marks the 40th anniversary of the Hawaiian language being recognized as the official language of the state – equal to English once again,” said Kainoa Daines, director of sales at O‘ahu Visitors Bureau, at the award reception. “Hawai‘i is the only U.S. state to have two official languages, and we’re proud to recognize these organizations who have prioritized the value and implementation of ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i in their respective disciplines.”

Crew members involved in the ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i flights joined the award reception and were recognized for their work in making our ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i projects a success. (L to R): Robin Sparling, vice president of in-flight services, John Borden, manager of in-flight services, flight attendants Punahele Kealanahele-Querubin, Kainoa McGill, Hoku Kamakeeaina, Malia Kruger, Kaʻohi Kahaunaele-Contrades, Keawe Goodhue, and Debbie Nakenelua-Richards, director of community relations.


“What an incredible opportunity it is for our employees to share our language, whether it’s on a safety video or when our crewmembers give instructions in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i, or simply while talking story,” said Debbie Nakanelua-Richards, director of Community Relations at Hawaiian, upon accepting the 2018 Legacy Award. “It is with great humility and honor that I accept the award on behalf of our airline. We believe it is through our language that Aloha becomes more than a greeting; it becomes a story about our present, our past and our future.”

Keep reading to learn about just a handful of ways Hawaiian Airlines incorporates ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i into its everyday operations, and how our company has joined hands in perpetuating Hawaiian language.

‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i Flights

In April 2018, three of our flight attendants took guests by surprise when they conducted their inflight announcements entirely in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i. The flights took off from the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) and landed at Hilo International Airport (ITO), where a few miles down the road later that day, the Merrie Monarch Festival, a week-long celebration of Hawaiian culture, would kick off its world-renowned hula competition. Flights included HNL/ITO - HA332, HA112, and ITO/HNL - HA121/HA181

The crew leading the ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i flights between Hilo and Honolulu.


That same month, our inflight ‘ohana went one step further and shared Hawaiian culture with guests traveling to Hawaii’s “ninth island” in Las Vegas. The crew on flight HA18 between HNL and McCarran International Airport made history with the first native language flight to the U.S. Mainland. They conducted staff briefings and boarding announcements in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i and welcomed guests waiting to board with Hawaiian oli (chant) and mele (song). The skilled crew also conducted all guest services for HA18 in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i and followed with the English translation.

Honoring Dr. Larry Kimura, grandfather of Hawaiian language revitalization, before the Honolulu to Las Vegas flight.


The flight attendants – all Hawaiian language immersion school graduates – used the opportunity to honor and welcome onboard Dr. Larry Kimura, who’s considered the grandfather of Hawaiian language revitalization and a fellow teacher of their own.

You know what they say, what happens in Vegas…stays in Vegas!

Ke Kumu Classes 

For four years, we’ve offered our employees complimentary cultural classes as part of a company-wide effort to perpetuate Hawaii’s rich history. Employees may take two different lesson types: hula lessons and language 101.

Ke Kumu Papa Olelo


The classes alternate each week and are led by members of our own Community Relations team. The curricula are beginner-friendly and range from learning the basics, to developing cultural skills that extend beyond the classroom. Students can test their mana‘o (knowledge) in one of several company performances throughout the year, including one we put on upon accepting the 2018 Legacy Award!

Aircraft Names

Before being launched into service, each of our aircraft is adorned with a special name selected by members of Hawaiian’s cultural committee. Our Boeing 717s, which fly interisland routes, and 767s found on transpacific flights are named after local and migratory birds respectively, and each Airbus A330 bears the name of a star or constellation used by Polynesian voyagers for navigation. Our ATR-42s (ʻOhana by Hawaiian) are named after winds found on Maui, Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi and Oʻahu (Leeward) – the short-haul routes served by our turboprop fleet. The newly introduced A321neos flying West Coast to Hawai‘i routes are named after native flora. 

Click here to view all our aircraft names.

Interior Design

Our guests are immersed in Hawaiian language 35,000 feet in the air with ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i incorporated into our aircraft design.

Our new medium-haul A321neo aircraft was released with a distinctive interior design that pays homage to Hawaii’s rich history and unique culture. Its single-aisle cabin is adorned with textures, textiles and other materials that allude to traditional Hawaiian crafts, from bark cloth (kapa) to fishing nets. The design of our long-haul A330 aircraft’s Premium Cabin, which features 18 lie-flat leather seats that fold into 180-degree beds, boasts flowing curves inspired by Hawaii’s trade winds and the Pacific Ocean.

A321 Logo Emblem


On both aircraft, guests kick back and relax to a full LED mood-lighting system that mimics the sensational spectrum of colors in Hawaii’s breath-taking sunrises, and they’ll find ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i in our aircraft signage and seat numbers.

Our attention to Hawaiian language and culture also extends into our working spaces. Hawaiian Airlines’ Honolulu headquarters reflects a sense of place through artwork by local and Native Hawaiian artists.

Hawaiian Airlines Lobby


All of our operational buildings – including our headquarters, maintenance and cargo hangars, and inflight training facilities – and their respective conference rooms were also named to honor the flow of the ahupua‘a, the traditional Native Hawaiian land division system that extends from mauka (mountain-side) to makai (oceanside). For example, conference rooms on the fifth floor of our headquarters are named after waterfalls, fourth floor after mountains, and third floor after valleys, mimicking the perfect movement and energy within nature.

Pualani and Our Brand

After a year of research and detailed feedback from a committee of front-line employees, we revealed a new brand and aircraft livery designed with Hawaii’s culture and people in mind.

The 2017 launch was a proud moment for our company. Watch the video to learn more: