Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Connecting people with ‘Aloha’ is the motto for Hawaiian Airlines.
With over seven thousand employees, many of whom are of Hawaiian descent, Hawaiian culture and traditions are a big part of the workplace.
Director of Community and Cultural Relations – Debbie Nakanelua-Richards says she has seen a lot of change in the time she’s been with the airline.
“This is my 45th year, so being able to work with people when I was much younger, to see them in their prime, laying these seeds of thoughts, of actions, of hope for our organisation decades to come and to be in a place to foster that, to feed that, and nurture that, is inspiring,” she says.
Nakanelua-Richards says today the airline embraces Hawaiian culture making it a top priority.
“They see Hawaii, they see Hawaiian and they think of a people, of a place, of a culture. It is up to us to really live and breathe into that and how we treat each other, how we look at work, how we make decisions.”
Hawaiian Airlines offer a non-stop service to Hawaii from destinations in North America, Asia and the South Pacific, as well as a service to every major Hawaiian island.
For the company it is important to represent its people with Hōʻihi – Respect.
The airline has launched many initiatives to bring the culture into the workplace and also to go out into the community with inhouse programmes. One such initiative is Team Kōkua, which focuses on supporting communities in areas including culture, education and the environment.
Senior Specialist for Community and Cultural Relations, Mathew “Manakō” Tanaka, teaches Hawaiian language classes at the head office and helps his department coordinate the cultural aspect of the company.
“Part of my role is to assist with cultural activations. So things like blessings for new aircraft, new routes, things like that,” he says.
Encouragement to speak the language is important for the airline, flight attendant Mālia Kruger Benevides has embraced this having written children’s books.
“I make it a point every day to use ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i as much as possible. I always encourage my coworkers because they do have a sense of wanting to incorporate more ‘ōlelo Hawaii in our everyday tasks that work.” Says Benevides.
Nakanelua-Richards says, for the airline, the sky’s the limit when it comes to flying the cultural flag.
“I think as I’ve grown, as Hawaiian Airlines has grown, so has our culture,” she says.
“It is part of the strategy. It is part of the whole. I think it comes a lot from having a name like Hawaiian, the Kuleana -responsibility – that goes along with that, is expected, and not just of the people that are from here, but the cities that we serve.”