Lee Cataluna: Saying Aloha To Hawaiian Airlines - Honolulu Civil Beat

Audrey Kwok and Glenn Awakuni started working at Hawaiian Airlines at a time when flight attendants didn’t need to pack overnight bags because every flight was interisland.

They flew when the airline first expanded service to the West Coast, back when inflight movies were actual film strips run through a projector. They served plane loads of soldiers when Hawaiian provided military transports during Desert Storm.  They’ve flown millions of miles. Served millions of cups of guava juice. Spent untold hours away from their families.

Their last act of service to the airline is to leave the jobs they loved.

Awakuni tried to explain. He’s sad for it to end this way. At the same time, he’s happy to take the place of a younger person who would otherwise lose their job.

Hawaiian Air flight attendant

Glenn Awakuni appeared in this ad for the airline in the 1990s.

Courtesy photo

“I’m going to really miss wearing the uniform,” he said. “When you’re wearing a Hawaiian Airlines uniform, you’re so proud.”

Kwok and Awakuni accepted a volunteer Early Out program from the airlines, taking retirement sooner than they had planned with the hope of sparing a younger flight attendant from involuntary furlough. They are two of 682 flight attendants who made this choice.

The economic impact of the pandemic led the airline to cut flights and announce mass layoffs. That triggered the start of negotiations between the company and unions representing the employees. Awakuni had to decide whether to accept the retirement deal.

Awakuni, 68, flew with Hawaiian for 42 years. “Those were all good years,” he said.

When he started, he was newly married and had been laid off from his job. He had been a diesel mechanic, working on heavy equipment on construction sites like Kipapa Bridge, Aloha