Hawaiian Airlines’ ongoing expansion will create more than 520 jobs next year, even as the local economy’s resurgence has been slowing in recent months causing more uncertainty for the years ahead.
Company President and CEO Mark Dunkerley told Pacific Business News that the state’s second-busiest carrier plans to continue its hiring in 2012 and 2013 as it adds more new wide-body A330s to its growing fleet of aircraft. It also anticipates announcing at least two new routes sometime next summer.
The creation of 520 jobs in 2012, which includes the 275 flight attendants interviewed en masse earlier this week at a job fair at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center, comes on the heels of Hawaiian Airlines adding 271 jobs this year.
Specifically, Hawaiian Airlines has added 144 flight attendants, 71 pilots, 21 maintenance workers, 19 ramp workers and 16 employees in its accounting, finance, sales and marketing, and information technology and operations departments, according to Ann Botticelli, senior vice president of corporate communications and public affairs.
The airline currently has 4,227 employees and anticipates having a total 4,750 employees by the end of 2012, an increase of 36 percent since 2003, when Dunkerley joined the airline.
It’s an exponential growth facilitated by the carrier’s multiyear $8 billion investment in a fleet of new aircraft, and the launch of new service in Asia and North America, Dunkerley said.
With Hawaii’s unemployment rate at 6.5 percent in October, any job growth is welcome news for a recovery that economists with the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization have dubbed as sitting in “pause mode.”
“At a time when the national debate is about the level of unemployment, Hawaiian Airlines has been able to buck the trend and is hiring,” Dunkerley told PBN. “It’s a case of every little bit counts, and while I wouldn’t describe us as single-handedly fixing any problems, we’re doing more than our part to try and address unemployment in the Islands.”
On the heels of the launch of new direct nonstop service to Haneda Airport in Tokyo and Incheon International Airport in Seoul in the last year, Hawaiian more recently announced it will expand direct nonstop service to Fukuoka, Japan, in April and to New York City in June.
Bruce Mayes, a Honolulu aviation consultant with Vintage Aviation and a former Aloha Airlines captain for 22 years, said Hawaiian’s continued expansion and its codeshare agreements with major legacy carriers such as American Airlines, Delta Airlines and the newly merged United Continental Airlines helps set the airline up for some stability going into the future.
With a current fleet of 36 aircraft and 190 daily flights in rotation, Hawaiian is still a relatively small player compared to those legacy carriers, making it difficult to compete on routes and fares.
“Hawaiian still doesn’t come close with competing with those big powerhouses, and maybe they need to cast a wide net and become, if not physically bigger than they are, then at least appear bigger than they are,” Mayes said. “Fortunately for Hawaiian, they codeshare with virtually everybody in the world, and they will get a lot of spinoff from that. Hawaiian is looking around to see what else they can do, and their model almost mirrors the old Southwest [Airlines] model of as long as we’re expanding, we’re growing. And as long as we’re growing, we appear to be in good business positions.”
Hawaiian Holdings Inc., the carrier’s parent company, reported a $110.3 million profit in 2010, down slightly from the $116.7 million it earned in 2009. This year hasn’t been profitable, although revenues continue to be strong. In the third quarter of 2011, the company posted a profit of $25.6 million on sales of $455.9 million, but it is still carrying a year-to-date loss of $23.6 million on sales of $1.2 billion through September.
Commenting on the results, Dunkerley was quoted by Yahoo! Finance as saying: “The third quarter marked a return to some better results for our business.”
It’s the ripple effect of generating more airlift to the Islands that Hawaii’s tourism officials are banking on for sustained momentum.
“Hawaiian has been able to look at the markets, created partnerships with industry partners that would support those markets and has been able to position themselves so that they can start these routes,” said David Uchiyama, vice president of brand management for the Hawaii Tourism Authority. “Anytime you put direct service into the market, it’s going to have an incremental effect on people who thought about coming to Hawaii before but didn’t want the hassle [of layovers]. There’s great potential anytime you start direct service, and it stimulates the entire market. And, from that regard, Hawaiian has helped us.”
Similarly, other carriers such as United Continental Airlines and Alaska Airlines have made similar investments in Hawaii by adding direct nonstop service from West Coast destinations, for example.
While that helps bring the visitors upon which Hawaii so heavily depends, job growth still is essential to long-term economic stability. And carriers that aren’t based here don’t compete when it comes to long-term economic impact.
“When Hawaiian Airlines starts a new route, we hire people who live and work in the state of Hawaii. These are very high-paying jobs. They contribute to taxes, they contribute indirectly to taxes as employees spend their income on goods and services in the community,” Dunkerley said. “When a competitor airline starts a new route, the economic benefits are a tiny fraction of that. They hire people in their own place of work, which is on the Mainland or in Asia, not here. And that’s about it so not all new routes are created equal.”