Hawaiian Airlines questions

Hello aviators,
My name is Jackson Busbee and I am a senior at Jacksonville University, a part 141 school located in Jacksonville, Florida. I am currently finishing my commercial multi engine rating. My dream is to be a commercial airline pilot. A class that I currently taking called Air Transportation Operations goes over the airline pilots life and what exactly an airline pilot does. As a project we are to have a presentation of an airline that we would like to work for in the future. I aspire to one day work for Hawaiian Airlines (which is what my project is on) and I have lots of questions for pilots who work there. So here are my questions:
Why did you choose Hawaiian Airlines?
What do you love most about the airline? What would you like to see improve?
What sets Hawaiian apart from other carriers?
How/what is the culture of the airline?
What is the safety culture of the airline? Is it visible when you are at work?
Are you apart of a union and if so what are the benefits?

Hello Jackson and welcome,

As the forum’s resident Hawaiian Airlines pilot I guess I’m best equipped to answer your questions. Some of the questions/answers overlap but I’ll do my best.Here goes:

  1. I chose HAL for a number of reasons. First and foremost was I had friends at every Major in the country and most weren’t happy. Those I knew at HAL were and I’m all about the happy. Second I don’t any other airline that offers the opportunity to fly Interisland and be home every night AND also offers heavy worldwide widebody experience as well (aka Best of both Worlds). That and don’t forget I get to live in Hawaii.

  2. What I love best is the company culture. HAL is a smaller airline and everyone knows everyone. You’re not just a number which I appreciate greatly. If there’s a problem or concern you can literally walk up to anyone in the company’s desk *from the Chief Pilot to the CEO) and have a chat. They don’t even have offices to encourage an open environment. What I DID feel needed improvement was the training dept. While there were many talented instructors the training was still very traditional in many ways. I say DID because last year we hired a new VP of Training and a promoted a new Director of Flight Standards and Qualification. Together they’re doing an outstanding job of revamping EVERYTHING and bring the training up to where it should be.

  3. As I stated above the fact there are 2 separate operations at the same airline is very unique and I don’t believe it exists anywhere else. Also as I said the size and intimacy of the airline makes for better relationships (for the most part).

  4. Again the culture is fantastic here IF you like this type of culture. I do know a few pilots who I believe came to the wrong place. They would prefer to be just a number and get lost in the abyss. This is not the place for that. While I can’t say I know every single person there are more I know than not and I’m not just talking flight ops. Maintenance, HR, IT, and the Execs all know me by name and I theirs. Additionally I always felt there was a lot of friction between the work groups at my last carrier. If there was delay there was often a lot of finger pointing vs here where it’s more what do we need to do to remedy the situation. The Reason I believe is the name on the plane. We’re Hawaiian Airlines and we have one base which is in Hawaiian. The majority of the employees are Hawaiian (though all are welcome) and they take a lot of pride in what they do in that they don’t only feel they’re representing an airline but their people, culture and land.

  5. Funny you should ask. I’m also a CRM facilitator at the airline and one of our modules is titled “Just Culture” where we discuss the safety culture at the airline. What’s interesting is HAL is the oldest airline in the country and we have employees who have been here for decades. Many before the concept of Just and Safety Culture were developed so obviously it wasn’t always that way. I pleased to say it’s changed dramatically but some still harbor old memories and will challenge the concept. You’ll sometimes hear a pilot talk about “a guy who knows a guy who’s cousin’s brother’s son was fired” but I’ve yet to met “the guy” in question or anyone who has actually ever been dealt with punitively or harshly.

  6. HAL pilots belong to ALPA (the Airline Pilots Assoc, the largest pilot union in the country). Personally I’ve never been a huge fan of unions but I do believe it’s necessary in the industry. The benefits are many. We just signed a new contract which literally just took effect April 1. It’s the best contract this pilot group has ever seen (CAs top out at $337hr which is pretty good) and I doubt we’d have done as well without Alpa’s help. The union also offers assistance to pilots in many areas including training issues, aeromedical, contract compliance etc. Let’s be honest, I’m a huge fan of HAL and our mgmt. as well but our CEO’s job is not MY quality of life, it’s to make money for the shareholders (which he does very well). While it’s not personal sometimes mgmt.'s goal of making money competes with my goal of making money and that’s where the union comes in.

Hope this helps. As you can tell I’m a fan of Hawaiian Airlines and have been very happy with my decision to become part of the ohana :slight_smile:



Wow Adam,
That is some great information and absolutely helps! It is great to get your personal opinion and details of HAL. The culture of the airline sounds wonderful and definitely something that I would be interested in several years from now! I’ve always liked being in a smaller setting. My university is pretty small. I have several more questions I would like to ask. Why did you want to be a CRM facilitator? What is your favorite airport to fly into? Should I build my hours on the mainland or on the island? Besides hours, what else stands out in the hiring process?



Glad you found the info beneficial. Truth is originally I applied for a Systems Instructor position when I was at ExpressJet. They offered me the job but I discovered the Ground Instructors rarely flew which was unacceptable to me (I never understood how pilots spend a huge amount of time, money and energy getting their ratings and then never fly?). When I declined the position they mentioned there was an opening for a CRM Facilitator and because the wanted their facilitators to have “street cred” the alternated a month on and a month off. That sounded appealing plus I had studied Psych and Human Factors so I decided to give it a shot. That was 11yrs ago and I still thoroughly enjoy the classes.

There are many airports I enjoy for a number of reasons but I’d say my favorite approach is the visual to RWY 8 in PHTO. It’s a pure visual and you hung the coast with Mauna Kea on your right on the arrival and then just follow the bay around to the runway. It’s great fun to fly and the view is breath taking.

Your call where to build your hours but keep in mind the opportunities are somewhat limited and even if you find a gig there’s only so far you can fly in the state. The other aspect I think is huge is you can get much better and diverse experience on the mainland. It’s awesome that it’s VMC 90% of the time but that doesn’t help with your skills. Flying for ExpressJet we flew from Canada to Mexico and everywhere in between. Snow, ice, terrain, busy airports, international ops, you name it. I know quite a few very talented pilots at Hawaiian who literally never flew out of the state. While they’re great sticks their exposure is somewhat limited.

As I said Hawaiian is really about the culture. Internally recommendations are highly regarded when it comes to getting an interview. Beyond that let’s be honest, everyone who applies will have the qualifications and Hawaiian’s interview is really more HR based. If you’ve received an invite it’s safe to say you’re qualified so now its a question of will you “fit in”. There’s no tricks or “good cop/bad cop” is simply is this someone we’d like to fly with. Be yourself, be honest and you’ll be fine.


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Aloha Adam,

I am currently working on my commercial license and it would really be my dream job to fly for Hawaiian Airlines! I was wondering how important is it to have a 4 year college degree to get a job there? The North shore is my home away from home and I do a work trade on an organic farm there and would love to relocate there! So I was going to see what you think someone in my positions best plan of action would be to get a job there? I currently have my private license and a 2 year degree. Ideally I would move to Hawaii ASAP!

Mahalo for any help


While all the Majors like a 4yr degree, Hawaiian is a little less rigid on it. If you’ve got competitive time and some ties to the islands you’ve got a good shot.


Aloha Adam,

Appreciate the quick response and very helpful! I am hoping to move to the island with my private, instrument, and commercial with 500 hrs. In your opinion what would be a good route to make it to Hawaiian for someone who wants to be based in Hawaii the entire time of possible?



Honestly if you want to fly for Hawaiian that won’t be possible. They want to see some solid mainland Regional flying experience which is not available in Hawaii. If Hawaiian is your goal you should plan to spend a couple of years flying for a mainland Regional.


Aloha Adam,

Just want to say thanks again! This info is helping me decide so much and coming at a very pivotal time in my life. So I have one more question if from my 500 hrs I did about 3 years at a mainland regional then applied to Ohana would that be a possible route to Hawaiian? Also, what do you think about Ohana?

Mahalo Chase


I’ve heard and spoken to many Ohana pilots and they all have great things to say.

As for the rest you’ll need 1500hrs for a Regional and frankly after 3yrs you could probably apply directly to Hawaiian.



Thanks for all the great info! Hopefully this will go full circle and I will be your first officer on that air bus one day!


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Aloha Adam!

So I was just kidding about only 1 more question I have a few more if you are kind enough to answer? So a little background I’m 26, about to get my private and have a 2 year degree. My dream would be to fly for Hawaiian number one or really any major as long as I’m based in Hawaii. Would I have a good shot at making it to that goal without the 4 year degree? Also, would be open to fly for Ohana if necessary but wasn’t sure how long someone usually has to work with Ohana before flowing through to Hawaiian? Also, if you go through Ohana for 3 years and transfer to Hawaiian would you come in as year 4 or year one? Just looking for some advice and greatly appreciate any received!



I’m a little confused as you’re asking the same questions I already answered so please look above.
The only new one was about Ohana.

There is no flow to Hawaiian from Ohana. They’re a separate airline and if you were to come to Hawaiian whether you flew for Ohana or not you start year one.


Ok thanks just in a toss up on either doing the 4 year during fight school or not. Also in regards to Ohana flow to Hawaiian I found this article “ Hawaiian Airlines, ‘Ohana by Hawaiian Launching New Pilot Recruitment Program

HONOLULU – Pilots seeking to join Hawaiian Airlines will soon be able to pursue a new recruitment pathway available through the carrier’s ‘Ohana by Hawaiian operation.

Starting this fall, pilots interviewing for a position at ‘Ohana by Hawaiian will have the opportunity to also apply to Hawaiian’s Flow-Through hiring program. Candidates accepted to the program will be able to transition to Hawaiian after flying with ‘Ohana as Empire Airlines pilots in good standing for two years and achieving certain required qualifications. Pilots currently working at ‘Ohana will also be eligible for the Flow-Through program, which will invite applications periodically throughout the year.

“Our Flow-Through program provides ‘Ohana by Hawaiian pilots more opportunities to transition to Hawaiian Airlines while incentivizing pilots to remain in Hawai‘i as they build their flight qualifications,” said Ken Rewick, vice president of flight operations at Hawaiian Airlines. “

Seems ideal for me


The “other requirements” mean again flying at a mainland Regional prior to flying for Ohana which in many cases rules out the need to go there. It also requires a separate interview so in reality it’s more of a preferential interview.


Thank you for the insight

Hi Adam,

I’d like to resurrect this old topic to ask another Hawaiian-related question: Do HAL pilots commute much? HAL’s only official domicile is Honolulu, but can you live on the other islands and commute?



Yes you can and many do. The same goes for any airline. The airlines really don’t care where you live as long as you show up for work ontime and rested.

Fyi, Hawaiian just announced there will be a CVG cargo only base opening shortly with the possibility of more mainland bases to follow.


Thanks Adam!