Aloha Airlines starts
on right flight path

Employees live up to Hung Wo Ching's
legacy of pride and a can-do attitude

By Rosemarie Bernardo

Hung Wo Ching steered Aloha Airlines on the route to success, never forgetting along the way the people who helped him.

Every Christmas, the former company president traveled throughout the state thanking employees for their commitment to the airline.

"He was like a patriarch," said Stephanie Ackerman, senior vice president for external affairs.

"He always felt the company was a family operation. He would treat workers like they were his family," added Randy Kauhane, assistant general chairman of the International Association of Machinists District Lodge 141, who started with Aloha as a customer service agent.

Ching died in 1996 but his devotion lives on.

An Aloha Airlines plane gets serviced at Honolulu Airport. The airline's first flight was to Hilo and back, on July 26, 1946.

"The key factor is our people. Aloha employees possess a pride and can-do attitude of being able to live up to the spirit that is our name," said Glenn Zander, president and chief executive officer, in an e-mail statement.

On July 26, 1946, Aloha Airlines, then called Trans-Pacific Airlines, made its first flight from Honolulu to Hilo and back, carrying 21 passengers.

In the 56 years since, Aloha Airlines has earned a reputation for accommodating its passengers with friendly service. The airline also became known for its on-time flights, becoming the first interisland carrier to offer first-class service, e-ticketing, and drive-through and curbside check-in.

The airline struggled financially as it battled chief competitor Hawaiian Airlines (formerly called Inter-Island Airlines).

To help boost revenue, Aloha launched tour flights over Kilauea Volcano during eruptions, and interisland family-fare discount programs.

Ching changed the company's name to Aloha Airlines and replaced unpressurized DC-3 turboprop airplanes with pressurized Fairchild F-27 jets that allowed for more passengers to be seated in the cabin area.

He later privatized the company to fend off a hostile takeover.

"He was someone who wasn't going to take a back seat to anyone," Kauhane said.

Then on April 28, 1988, the company made international headlines when part of the fuselage of a Boeing 737 jet ripped apart on a flight from Hilo to Honolulu. The pilots miraculously landed the plane on Maui, but veteran flight attendant Clarabelle Lansing was swept from the aircraft and never found.

The tragedy forced a restructuring of inspection standards in the airline industry.

By 1992, Aloha had become Hawaii's largest interisland airline by handling nearly all intrastate air shipments.

Last year, Aloha and Hawaiian airlines announced plans to merge, saying it was necessary for their survival in the wake of the economic downturn following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The merger proposal fell apart in March.

But that hasn't stopped Aloha from moving forward.

Starting Nov. 1, Aloha will operate daily nonstop service between Vancouver, Canada, and Maui, Zander said.

During the first quarter of next year, the airline plans to launch daily nonstop flights between Maui and the Los Angeles area via Burbank Airport.

"Wherever we fly, we aim to exceed customers' expectations," Zander said.

Aloha Airlines

Founder: Rudy Tongg

Aloha Air First flight: July 26, 1946, which carried 21 passengers from Honolulu to Hilo

Original Name: Trans-Pacific Airlines; adopted name Aloha Airlines in 1958.

Current CEO and president: Glenn R. Zander

Employees: 3,000+

Aloha Airlines

E-mail to City Desk


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