MIAMI – Today in Aviation, Hawaiian Airlines (HA) was formed in 1929. Ever since, we have been treated to 92 years of history from Hawaii’s flag carrier. Seeing as today is the 92nd anniversary of Hawaiian, what would be better than to explore that with an Aviation Deep Dive.

Today we are going to be looking at the rich history of HA and how it has shaped the airline as we know it today. So without further ado, let’s get right into it.

Hawaiian Airlines initiated air service in 1929 as Inter-Island Airways with this Bellanca CH-300, restored in 2009 by Hawaiian to flying condition. Photo: Wiki Commons

Beginnings


Hawaiian Airlines as we know it today started off as Inter Island Airways, with a fleet of 3 aircraft consisting of one CH-300 Pacemaker and two Sikorsky S-38 flying boats. The airline started doing US$5 sightseeing flights over Oahu in October of 1929, before starting inter island service a month later in November. The Original route took the S-38s from Oahu to Hilo, via Molokai and Maui.

In 1934, the airline were awarded the first contract for the archipelago’s air mail services. By 1935, HA had expanded its fleet to include the Sikorsky S-43 flying boat, which carried 16 passengers. In August 1941, as air travel continued to grow, HA phased out the old Sikorsky S-38s and S-43s, for the brand new and Iconic Douglas DC-3.

A few months later in October 1941, Inter Island Airways officially changed its name, rebranding to Hawaiian Airlines. Part of the reason for this change in name, was for the future of HA and the company looking beyond the Islands at the United States Mainland. December 7, 1941 was a date that changed history.

World War II


It was the date that the United States entered into WWII and forever changed the course of the world. The Japanese Empire’s attack on Pearl Harbour that day is well documented in our history books, but HA has a pretty cool story from that day. According to its website, a Hawaiian DC-3 was hit with an explosive shell from a Japanese plane.

One of the DC-3s engines caught fire and started to burn up until a minute later when another burst of machine gun fire hit the fire extinguisher, putting out the blaze. A really cool and interesting story on such a dark day in history. As WWII went on, HA was the first to start a scheduled air cargo service and was given US Cargo certificate number 1.

Convair 640 turboprop airliner of Hawaiian at Honolulu in 1971. The airline operated Convairs from 1952 until 1974. Photo: Wiki Commons

Post WWII


Fast forward past the ending of WWII and into 1952, where HA got its first Pressurized aircraft, coming in the form of the Convair 340. The Convair sat 44 passengers and cost HA US$520,000 each. Also in 1952, the native liwi bird made its appearance on Hawaiian’s new logo.

1958 saw the introduction of the long range 4 engine DC-6, 1959 saw HA’s total passenger count rise to 498,000. In 1960, Hawaii was launched into the Jet Age with a Jet aircraft service between Los Angeles and Honolulu. 1966 saw HA introduce the DC-9-10s for quick connections between the Islands. 66’ also saw the Jetbird logo introduced as Hawaiian fully embraced the Jet era.

Hawaiian McDonnell Douglas DC-10 introduced to replace the Lockheed L-1011 TriStars. Photo: Wiki Commons

Trans-Pacific Flights


Fast forward another 7 years, and the classic peach, pink and purple Pualani logo was released in 1973. Pualani meaning Flower of the Sky or Heavenly flower. 75’ saw the upgrade of the DC-9 fleet with the acquisition of new 130 seat DC-9-5s. 1979 saw HA operate the first all Women crewed scheduled commercial flight in the United States.

Six years later in 1985, HA launched their first Trans-Pacific flights, the first of any Hawaii based carrier to do so and also saw the acquisition of 5 Lockheed L-1011 tristars. Fast forward 9 years into 1994 and HA took delivery of the DC-10. The DC-10 was acquired as a replacement for the aging L-1011s.

Lockheed L-1011 TriStar displaying the livery introduced in 1975. Photo: Wiki Commons

Chapter 11 and the New Millennium


The turn of the century saw a new logo and brand for HA. With an updated Pualani logo and a brand new fleet of 717 and 767s to replace the DC-9 and 10, HA was rolling into the new millennium with one of its youngest fleets ever. 2003 brought a few rough years for HA as it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Operations continued as normal as the company underwent a reorganization plan. In 2004 during the middle of their bankruptcy protection, HA launched its inaugural Honolulu to Sydney route. On June 2nd, 2005 HA emerged from bankruptcy protection with reduced operating costs and a few new investors.

In the years following their bankruptcy, HA saw exponential growth within their route network. Late 2005 saw the launch of a new route to San Jose, and a focus on increased service to the United States mainland. In 2010 HA took delivery of their first A330. The A330 is a long haul widebody aircraft that can sit up to 440 passengers in an all economy configuration.

HAWAIIAN AIRLINES N389HA AIRBUS A330-243. Photo: Andrew Henderson/Airways

New Aircraft, Routes


The Airbus A330 gave HA a much better range and more opportunities to launch new routes, which it capitalized on. 2010 through 2014 saw a huge growth in HA’s Asian and International markets. The growth started with the launch of a daily Tokyo service in late 2010. 2011 brought Seoul and Osaka onto the route network, 2012 brought Sapporo, Brisbane and New York JFK to the Network.

Auckland and Sendai, Japan were added in 2013 and finally, Beijing was added to the Network in 2014. 2014 also saw the launch of a new subsidiary, ‘Ohana by Hawaiian. Ohana is operated by Empire Airlines, using 4 ATR 42 500 turboprops owned by Hawaiian.

In October 2015, HA announced its plans for lie flat business class seats on its A330 Aircraft. 2016 saw the airline receive the first of these A330s with Lie flat beds with the rest of the fleet soon being upgraded. 2017 was another huge year for HA.

In May, HA unveiled their new brand and livery. This logo and livery were an updated and more modern version of the Pualani logo. The announcement included that HA was to operate A321Neos and A330Neos. October 2017 saw HA take delivery of their first A321Neo. The A321Neo has 189 seats in Hawaiians configuration, and is used for Inter-Island and West Coast routes.

In March 2018 however, HA threw a bit of a curve ball and canceled its order for the A330Neos and instead opted for 10 Boeing 787-9s. In April 2019, HA launched a Non-Stop service from Honolulu to Boston. This route set a record for the longest regularly scheduled domestic flight in United States history. As we rolled into 2020, COVID-19 entered the scene. 

Hawaiian Airlines N392HA Airbus A330-243. Photo: Luca Flores/Airway

Amid COVID-19


The pandemic significantly hit the travel and aviation industry. HA was no exception and in the 2nd quarter of 2020, had a net US$100m dollar loss. COVID-19 caused HA to announce that they were looking to downsize 15-25% as a response to the market crash.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned anything about crashes. That may be because HA has never had a fatal incident at any point in their 92 year history, making it one of the safest airlines to ever exist. All together, HA has an awesome and rich history.

From the humble beginnings with a CH-300, up to a fleet of long haul aircraft connecting Hawaii to the world, HA has built a lasting legacy. As we continue to fight the COVID-19 Pandemic, we can only hope that everyone stays safe and that the airline industry continues to rebound from these tough times.