The essence of Hawaii’s beauty is not just found in the lush and volcanic landscape that’s surrounded by the world’s largest ocean. It extends beyond gorgeous beaches, mountainous forestation, and vibrant tropical reefs. The Aloha State’s deeply rooted culture endures as one of the most beautiful and intriguing aspects of the Islands. And the Aloha culture fits hand-in-hand with Southwest Hospitality.
Southwest approached Hawaii with a concerted effort to understand and appreciate the unique cultures of the individual islands, affording each a deserved respect. In October 2017, on the verge of announcing our intention of serving Hawaii, kūpuna—or “revered elders”—were invited to a meeting in Waikiki to share perspectives and to ensure Southwest would enter the Hawaiian Islands in a culturally appropriate and locally relevant way. In March 2018, when we first announced the four Hawaii destinations Southwest planned to serve initially, we hosted a cultural training event for the Company’s entire Senior Management Committee, bringing Hawaii-based cultural practitioners to translate. The lessons were translated into a cultural guidebook with additional resources to ensure all Employees understood the multidimensional facets of Hawaiian culture.
Before serving routes, we planted roots through frequent scouting visits and transplanted Ground Operations Teams to set up processes and operations that would be uniquely required to serve Hawaii. About a dozen of these Southwest Employees were born and raised in Hawaii, and they helped galvanize a bond between the Southwest Family, or Ohana, and the strong sense of community linked by the Aloha Spirit.
Del Tauaese, Southwest Maui Station Manager, returned home to espouse the Leadership characteristics he had championed for years with the Company—love, family, respect, and treating others properly—all hallmarks of Southwest Culture—all summed up in one word: Aloha. “It speaks directly to our core values at Southwest.” said Rob Lee, Southwest’s Honolulu Station Manager, “The Spirit of Aloha means connectedness”—fitting for an airline with a Purpose of connecting People to what’s important in their lives.
Building our Place in the Community
Southwest believes community is more than a place—it’s at the heart of what brings people together. We work hard to build relationships with community leaders in every place we serve, and Hawaii was no exception.
It was important for us to develop those relationships long before we ever started serving the Islands. Following years of research, we became acquainted in communities of Hawaii nearly a year and a half before inaugurating service in the Islands. Just like our Partners on the mainland, it’s crucial for us to get to know each individual community and understand what they really need. In Hawaii, some consistent points of passion include sustainably caring for land (aina), nurturing children (keiki) and the elderly (kūpuna), reducing homelessness, and protecting and preserving Hawaiian culture. Since 2017, we have invested more than $450,000 in Hawaii community organizations supporting these areas.
Following years of listening, the time had arrived to share the Southwest “Talk Story,” a storytelling tradition. In partnership with the Hawaii Visitor and Convention Bureau, we invited stakeholders on each island to “A Southwest Talk Story: Serving Hawaii with Heart,” where Southwest Executive Leaders shared stories about Southwest Culture, history, and our community goals. We heard from so many people about how our Culture truly aligned with the Aloha Spirit—a compliment that means so much to us!
The first Southwest aircraft to touch Hawaiian soil (as part of an FAA certification process for extended over-water flying) met the blessing of a Kahu—an honored guardian or keeper—to usher years of safe and prosperous service. On March 17, 2019, Southwest’s first Customers landed in Honolulu following an inaugural flight from Oakland that also introduced elements of Hawaii into the world’s most loved Customer Experience. In addition to complimentary drinks always offered, Customers traveling to and from Hawaii also receive a complimentary snack bag and may order Minute Maid® Pineapple Orange Juice Blend, or they may purchase a Kona Longboard® Island Lager® or Blue Chair Bay® Coconut Spiced Rum.
Hawaii brings new relevance for the Rapid Rewards® Loyalty Program. Members enjoy travel to, from, and among the Islands with flexibility, award seat availability, and overall service that fits travel needs. In August 2019, one Southwest Customer used more than a million of his Rapid Rewards points to bring 33 of his family members to Hawaii to celebrate the remission of his cancer.
We want to display our Heart and Fun-LUVing Attitudes to locals in Hawaii, while finding a customized way to support each of the communities across the islands we serve.
As Southwest continues to grow its footprint of service across Hawaii, the Company looks forward to learning more about, and becoming a greater part of a unique culture that embraces tradition and a history making the Aloha State one of the most special communities in the Southwest network.
Visit the winning organizations:
Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute
Hawaiian Island Land Trust
Hawaii Youth Surfing Development Organization
Surfrider Foundation Kaua‘i Chapter
Friends of NELHA
Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation