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Twenty years ago, Hawaiian Airlines embarked on a new chapter in its history with the launch of nonstop service between Honolulu and Sydney, Australia, one of its first long-haul destinations and most traveled international routes. Over a million Aussies have since chosen the carrier’s five-times-weekly nonstop flight to visit the Hawaiian Islands and experience the authentic hospitality and aloha of Hawaiʻi’s flagship carrier. 

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An iconic view of Sydney, photographed at sunrise from the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

 

This week, Hawaiian’s leaders and employees celebrated alongside the local Sydney travel industry and community with events connected to the people and places of New South Wales.

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Live music and hula from the Hawaiian Airlines Serenaders kicked off the carrier's celebrations in Sydney.

 

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Live music and hula from the Hawaiian Airlines Serenaders at the carrier's Sydney 20th anniversary event.

 

“Our Sydney-Honolulu route has always been a special one to serve and connects two very special places to live and visit,” said Andrew Stanbury, managing director of international and North America sales at Hawaiian Airlines, at the celebratory gathering for employees, partners, friends and family in downtown Sydney.

Committed to Aussies since May 17, 2004

Hawaiian’s Sydney service, which holds the trophy for its longest international flight at 5,066 miles, has also been a significant and convenient bridge for Aussies connecting to the U.S. mainland. In the past decade, as many as one in four Sydney travelers have leveraged the carrierʻs seamless connectivity in Honolulu to fly to U.S mainland cities they love, such as Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas, New York City – and now Salt Lake City – and break up the long journey with a stopover in Hawai‘i.

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Kathy Mainerd, senior manager of South Pacific airport operations, was among Hawaiian's first employees hired in Sydney, and also commemorated her 20th anniversary with the company. Here, she is pictured with a special lei alongside several of Hawaiian's current Australia-based team members.

 

In addition to Hawaiian's award-winning service, Aussies will soon enjoy complimentary high-speed Starlink Wi-Fi as the technology is rolled out on its Airbus A330 fleet beginning this summer. Hawaiian also intends to operate its newest flagship aircraft, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, in 'The Land Down Under.'

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From left: Andrew Stanbury, managing director of international and North America sales, Debbie Nakanelua-Richards, director of community and cultural relations, and Avi Mannis, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, pictured at Hawaiian's anniversary event in Sydney.

 

Stanbury added, “For decades, Hawaiʻi has never stopped winning over the hearts of Aussies, and we know that because of their love for the islands, they also hold a particular place in their hearts for Hawaiian Airlines. For that, we are grateful, and it keeps us motivated to put our best foot forward for Australia.”

Celebrating the ties that bind 

Hawaiian’s Team Kōkua this week also donned their purple shirts for a community service day around the bronze statue of beloved Hawaiian waterman and Olympian Duke Kahanamoku at the Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Statue and Commemorative Park on the northern headland of the famous Freshwater Beach.

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Hawaiian Airlines employees, Friends of Freshwater and Bush to Bowl gathered in front of Freshwater Beach's bronze Duke Kahanamoku statue for a group photo.

 

In December 1914, and again in January 1915, Kahanamoku paddled into the surf at Freshwater Beach and made history. Riding a hand-carved board made of solid sugar pine, his elegant wave riding ignited Australiaʻs passion for the water sport. Today, Freshwater is known as the birthplace of Australian surfing and remains a symbol of the strong ties that bind Hawaiʻi and Australia.

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Image sourced from the Manly Observer
Kahanamoku walks up Freshwater Beach in January 1915 after giving his second surfing demonstration.

 

On the morning of Thursday, May 22, 15 Hawaiian employees from Honolulu and Sydney joined local nonprofits Friends of Freshwater and Aboriginal-owned Bush to Bowl to commemorate Duke’s legacy. The morning began with a traditional smoking ceremony, welcome-to-country protocol for Australia’s First Nations, by Adam Byrne of the Garigal/Gadigal clan, followed by an oli (chant) from Hawaiian’s Community and Cultural Relations team and remarks on the Duke’s significance.

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Bush to Bowl Co-Founder Adam Byrne (Garigal/Gadigal) hosted the smoking ceremony and explained the significance of fire and smoke to Australia's First Nations.

 

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Volunteers were invited to mask themselves in the bush's smoke, an indigenous practice of cleansing, connection and seeking permission before entering a place.

 

As a final gesture of aloha, volunteers adorned the Duke's statue with a lush and vibrant red carnation lei – a lei the waterman would have worn during his days representing Hawaiʻi’s spirit, culture and people to the world. 

“Lei brings the giver and the receiver together, and in Hawaiʻi, sharing lei allows us to acknowledge and celebrate family, friends and community. In offering carnation lei to the Duke today, we recognize his presence in the Freshwater community and his contributions to Australia, Hawaiʻi and the tradition of surfing,” Debbie Nakanelua-Richards shared during her remarks.

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The bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku at Freshwater Beach was adorned with red carnation lei, a lei he often wore as Hawaiʻi's official ambassador of aloha.

 

Before beginning the day's work, Hawaiian surprised the Friends of Freshwater with a $2,500 (USD) check donation to support its efforts to preserve Freshwater Beach. Then, volunteers took to clearing weeds, cutting back foliage and planting native shrubs along the peaceful pathways that wind through the park.

“This donation will support our work of making sure this area [Freshwater Beach] remains with and improves for the community and its locals," said Denise Goldstein, Friends of Freshwater founding member and committee co-chair. 

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Nakanelua-Richards and Byrne planted a waratah, one of Australia’s most iconic native flowers and the state emblem of New South Wales.

 

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Employees surprised Friends of Freshwater with a donation before digging into the day's work.