Changing Course: From Sales Leader to Pandemic Crisis Coordinator

Hawaii is our home

Hawaii is Our Home

Changing Course: From Sales Leader to Pandemic Crisis Coordinator

Managing Director, Tina Larson, shares her journey as the leader of our much-needed Corporate COVID Coordination Team – a group of amazing employees from different departments, collaborating on all COVID-19-related projects through this unprecedented time.

Tina Larson, managing director - sales analytics, distribution and planning

On March 10, a day before the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 virus outbreak a pandemic, my role at Hawaiian completely changed.

At that point, a few groups had been leading our early COVID-19 response by monitoring updates and guidance from public health agencies, while consulting with industry partners and state, federal and international government officials.

As the severity of the pandemic rapidly increased, there was an urgent need to create a team dedicated to coordinating numerous efforts suddenly occurring throughout the company, and I was asked to lead a group of seven people representing various departments - Finance, Information Technology, Human Resources and Tech Ops - that became known as the Corporate COVID Coordination Team (CCCT). Coordinating COVID-19-related projects became our sole priority as Hawaiian navigated an unprecedented crisis in our industry. In other words, this was my new job.

Tina's role at Hawaiian quickly changed from sales leader to crisis coordinator once the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Given the uncertainty of the pandemic, I advised my Distribution, Sales Analytics & Planning teams that I would be sequestered in a conference room for the foreseeable future and to holler if they needed me, thinking this would just be a two-week project. I had been conducting a post-event analysis of our annual Global Sales Conference while finalizing a new distribution technology contract. My team was working on updating various sales and distribution reports, and everyone was excited for the roll out of new technology supporting our sales division operations. Within a blink of an eye, I was forced to drop all that work and found myself orchestrating and communication myriad efforts springing up across the company.

At this point, we had suspended our South Korea route, something unimaginable just a few short weeks ago. By the end of my first week as the CCCT lead, we received news that New Zealand would be closing its borders, with Australia following shortly after. We had to quickly figure out how to coordinate and communicate that we were suspending our Auckland, Brisbane and Sydney routes. Realizing we had a lot of people who needed to receive accurate information quickly, we created a “stakeholder distribution list,” which grew from 15 to more than 80 employees within a day.

Members of the CCCT conducting daily briefings from the temporary emergency response room at corporate headquarters.

The situation was incredibly fast paced and fluid, so we began holding daily CCCT briefings to keep departments informed on the latest news and company efforts. We began coordinating urgent IT projects, such as our pop-up reservations center launched to support a surge in guests whose travel plans were being disrupted; organized a resource staffing initiative to reassign employees to departments requiring extra support; and oversaw the reduction of our flight operations to a barebones schedule that is largely still in place today as a result of the state of Hawaii's mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers arriving to the islands.

Other ongoing CCCT activities include:

  • Collaborating with the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to address a range of issues tied to business agility, commercial initiatives, marketing/communications, among others.
  • Partnering with departments to develop new ad hoc processes (i.e. schedule change, cancelation and re-accommodation notifications) in response to our changing business needs.
  • Providing executive briefing support and serving as the primary information source for leadership.

Once Hawai'i issued a work-from-home mandate, Tina led the CCCT from her home office.

We also shared workforce concerns to our executives so they could proactively address questions and support departments. In early May, with the state successfully flattening its infection curve and announcing a phased reopening of Hawai'i, we pivoted and helped coordinate efforts focused on recovery initiatives, including a phased reopening of our corporate offices with new health protocols, and determining what our “new normal” operating model looks like – a situation that continues to evolve today.

The Corporate COVID-19 Coordination Team, top row, from left: Josh Forloine, Al Harjati, Tina Larson, Mel LeFever and Diane Crouch. Bottom row: Roger Morikawa, Justin White and Philip Giusto.

The CCCT came together quickly and is comprised of many talented employees with differing expertise and skills. We didn’t know each other prior to this endeavor but quickly became a close-knit ‘ohana. I must credit Jim Landers, our senior vice president for technical operations and CCCT executive sponsor, for compiling a team of action-oriented individuals who work extremely well together. No matter what it is that comes our way, we figure it out and get it done. I am also thankful for my dedicated Distribution, Sales Analytics & Planning team members who have pushed existing initiatives forward and identified new projects during this crisis, even as I spend most of my time away from them. It’s been an absolute privilege to be a part of both teams during this crisis and I truly am “Pualani Proud.”

Story By Tara Shimooka,
External Communications

September 18, 2020