Hawaiian Airlines Embraces Japan in Good Times and Bad

 ”The purposeful and business-like approach of Japan to recovering from these events is an example to us all.  One cannot fail to be impressed by how quickly daily activity has returned to near normality in Tokyo and Osaka.  It is clearly the case that those of us watching developments in Japan from afar have little appreciation for what is actually happening in these cities that are some distance away from where devastation has occurred.”

Mark Dunkerley, CEO Hawaiian Airlines

I am proud to be associated with Hawaiian Airlines. It’s a smart company with great employees led by a rare CEO who thinks strategically with an eye on the long-term.

For readers not aware of my relationship with Hawaiian, full disclosure: they brought me in as a consultant last year to educate 1,400 of its employees from the top of the organization on down, including flight attendants and airport customer service agents. The goal was to help Hawaiian upgrade its product to meet the exacting demands of Japanese customers in its new route to Haneda Tokyo (launched in mid-November of 2010). The plan was to expand the upgraded product (with appropriate cultural adjustments of course) to its next new route in Incheon- Korea, just launched in January, and eventually to other existing routes that include Sydney, Manila, etc.

Happy to say that Hawaiian Airlines hit the target: the Japanese market responded by exceeding Hawaiian Airlines’ most optimistic expectations.

Then disaster struck.

Then the foreign media went into hyper-hype mode about the nuclear crisis and a mass exodus of foreigners from Tokyo ensued.

Now your typical Western CEO might have gotten that prickly feeling on the back of his neck and gone into retreat mode. In fact, that’s exactly with Delta and American did: American suspended its flights into Haneda from New York, while Delta suspended its service from Los Angeles and Detroit.

But not long-term thinking Hawaiian Airlines: nope, they decided to get aggressive! Below is a snippet from a recent WSJ article:

“Hawaiian Holdings Inc. (HA) has continued its daily flight to Haneda and wants to start a second to the congested airport if Delta and American, a unit of AMR Corp. (AMR), fail to restart their own.”

Not sure if the CEOs of competitors’ Delta and American did this, but Hawaiian’s CEO Mark Dunkerley actually went to Japan to assess the situation with his own eyes. Here’s what he said upon his return:

“While other airlines have announced service reductions to Japan, we have no plans to reduce our daily service to Tokyo, and we remain committed to launching new service to Osaka beginning July 12.  It is clear from our current results that we are seeing a significantly less severe downturn in traffic than is being reported by other companies in the airline and tourism sectors.  At the same time, discussions with our travel partners in Japan indicate that while a downturn is currently upon us, they expect a recovery in bookings after a short interval.”

To which he added:

“Our experience in Tokyo before the earthquake surpassed our expectations by a substantial margin and led us to accelerate our plans to commence services to Osaka. We remain profoundly confident about our long term expectations for Hawaiian’s role in the Japan-Hawaii travel market and enthusiastic about our existing and planned services.”

If this isn’t a long-term commitment I don’t know what is! And this commitment will indeed resonate with the Japanese market long after the dust settles.

Hawaiian Airlines is just the kind of organization we aspire to work with. A big mahalo to CEO Mark Dunkerley, V.P. of Product Development Blaine Miyasato–and to all the employees at Hawaiian Airlines for making this initiative a success.

More important, thank you for reaching out to Japan during these tough times by sponsoring the Lei Day for Japan event held yesterday.

Next up: a report on yesterday’s Lei Day for Japan fund-raiser, including pictures and clips of none other than Jake Shimabukuro and his “special guest”. Stay tuned.

Copyright © Tim Sullivan 2011


2 responses to “Hawaiian Airlines Embraces Japan in Good Times and Bad

  1. Dear Tim Sullivan,
    I was introduced by Grif Frost. My family just recently moved to Kona from Japan. I and my wife Yumi launched “Tsunagu Hikari” in Japan for support of pregnant women and mothers with minor children from afflicted areas in Fukushima. Grif told us of your great work supporting those afflicted people in Japan. It would be our pleasure if we could communicate each other and exchange information. The site: http://tsunaguhikari.weebly.com/
    Gen Morita

  2. Ouch… forget I was here… LOL.

    Glad Hawaiian is a good client. I wish they would sponsor my blog but happy that their competitor sees some value in my site.

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