The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses, and in particular, the travel and hospitality industries to be more flexible than ever and adjust to meet unforeseen challenges. At Hawaiian Airlines, we've had to rethink every aspect of our operations so we can continue to protect the health and safety of our guests and employees during and long after the pandemic.
In our blog series "Changing Course," leaders across departments, from airport operations and information technology to human resources and sales, share how their teams have quickly adapted to continue to safely welcome and serve our guests with aloha.
Keep reading to learn how our hard-working airport teams have adapted their day-to-day roles amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mike Navares, managing director of airport operations, Honolulu hub:
Since March, when Hawai‘i Gov. David Ige enacted the first of a series of emergency proclamations, my team has had to change the way we do business at our Honolulu hub, the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL). We implemented additional health and safety directives and have had to get creative as we adjust to a severely reduced network, new cost-savings measures, and the state's travel quarantine orders.
Mike Navares oversees our operations at HNL, our airline's hub and the busiest airport in the state.
Some changes my team has had to make at HNL include:
- posting signs about social distancing and mask requirements in our lobbies, gates, jet bridges, and guest service areas;
- applying floor tape in HNL's various waiting areas to help our guests maintain six-foot spacing;
- requiring our guest-facing employees to wear face masks and gloves throughout their shift and frequently disinfecting kiosks, work areas, and counters;
- working with our aircraft appearance team to implement enhanced cleaning procedures, including electrostatic spraying of our cabins for additional disinfection;
- and expanding our upgraded cleaning procedures to our employee gathering spaces, restrooms, and breakrooms at HNL.
Editor's note: To learn more about what we are doing to keep our employees and guests safe in the airport and on our planes, click here.
Guest Service Agent Avelino Sabog smiles at the camera behind his mask as he sanitizes a check-in kiosk at HNL.
My team has been working with county, state, and federal agencies as we all adapt to the situation. Before the pandemic, we were working out of lobbies 2 and 3 in Terminal 1 and lobby 4 in Terminal 2 to accommodate guests traveling on our approximately 180 daily flights departing HNL during our peak period. Given our significantly reduced flying, we've moved all operations to lobby 2 and worked with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Hawai‘i State Department of Transportation Airports Division (HIDOTA) to keep at least one screening checkpoint and bag inspection room open.
We've also had to find ways to save on costs. In addition to consolidating our lobby operations, we reduced the frequency of our once-busy employee shuttle service and temporarily suspended operations at the Makai Pier (gates B1-5) to minimize lease and utility expenses. (We are currently only using these gates for parking aircraft that are not in service or undergoing maintenance.)
Until the state is prepared to welcome visitors back to the Hawaiian Islands, my team at HNL will continue to pivot as necessary.
I feel very fortunate to have a great team and tremendous leaders who continue to guide us through all the challenges, changes, and the "new normal." We are one 'ohana and a unified company with a strong tradition of overcoming obstacles!
Pat Rosa, managing director of airport operations, Neighbor Islands:
The speed and scope of COVID-19 created an extraordinary challenge for any leader. There was no handbook to help us through this crisis. It required timely responses to our front-line employees, decisive actions coupled with consistent, honest communications, and the recognition that mistakes are inevitable.
Some of the challenges we faced at the state's major Neighbor Island stations (Kona and Hilo on the Island of Hawai‘i, Kahului on Maui and Līhu‘e on Kaua‘i) were:
- keeping employees on voluntary leave up to date with their required qualifications and skills, via computer training from home, to ensure they are prepared to return to work;
- and implementing enhanced cleaning measures in our lobbies, breakrooms, and check-in counters with reduced staff. (Our guest service agents and ramp employees combine efforts and work with their colleagues to disinfect all work areas and equipment.)
In times of crisis, it's essential to keep your team focused. As we reduced our network to four daily flights between Honolulu and each major Neighbor Island airport, constant communication has been critical; we make sure we listen to each employee's perspective before we make any big decisions. In the beginning, we conducted daily briefings with four-to-five employees at a time to talk about company updates and new operational tasks. We also used any downtime to focus on improving as a team, including encouraging our chiefs and leads to complete professional development courses through training tools provided by the company.
Keane Lee, one of our ramp agents at Kahului Airport, wearing a mask while completing his daily duties on Friday morning.
I've also had to adjust how I manage my team. Since operations require a hands-on approach, I prefer to meet with my team in person. Prior to COVID-19, I was traveling between the islands at least once a week to visit the various stations, and rarely used Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or other video conferencing platforms to do my work. Now, I manage the Neighbor Islands stations from my office in Kahului, where I've quickly learned to become a virtual leader.
I am proud to be a part of Hawaiian's Airport Operations and feel my counterparts and front-line team have done a great job in adapting and supporting each other. Many of our employees, including those who took voluntary leave to help our company, still stop in to say hello and drop off pastries, bentos, and home-cooked meals. They take their time to talk story, check in on each other, and express their appreciation for their work 'ohana.
If this pandemic has confirmed anything, it's that working together toward a common goal, or in our case, a common enemy, can help you overcome anything.