Aloha: One year later
Former employees share stories of struggle, triumph
Melissa Tanji and Claudine San Nicolas
Last year's shutdown of Aloha Airlines was sudden, and word spread quickly,
like a death in the family. Employees were notified via a company e-mail at
10 a.m. March 30, 2008, a Sunday.
On Maui, Kahului Airport passengers became aware of what was happening when
they saw employees weeping at ticket counters. Aloha's trans-Pacific passenger flights
made their last trips the same day, and the longtime airline flew its last interisland flight
at the close of business the next day.
Nearly a year later, hundreds of Maui residents who worked at Aloha Airlines are still
putting their lives back together, many still missing the sense of ohana they shared with
Most have found new jobs. Others have struggled to find steady employment in Maui's
depressed economy. Some have gone back to school, and still others have found life is
even better after leaving Aloha.
Former Maui Aloha Station Manager Mitchell Hazama said his most difficult task, after
learning of the airline's shutdown, was breaking the news to the more than 375 employees he supervised.
"To see the tears in their eyes and the look of disbelief made it extremely
difficult to find the right words to cheer them up," Hazama, 56, recalled recently.
Despite their sadness, the employees fulfilled their assignments "and made sure the passengers
were serviced with a smile to the very last flight," he said. "It was a fitting tribute to the true spirit
of aloha that lived in the 3,500 employees who made the company proud to the very end."
Now working as a director of operations and sales at a private company he declined to name,
Hazama said he doesn't miss his work at Aloha Airlines, where he was employed part time and
full time since the summer
of 1970. Other than management, he also worked as a baggage handler and in reservations,
the ticket office, cargo and customer service. He worked on Oahu and Maui.
What he said he misses are his fellow employees.
"The employees worked hard, and we were like one big ohana," he said.
But now, "I tell people, 'Life is good outside the airport,' " said Hazama, who added that it was an
honor to work for an airline that was named the No. 1 airline in Hawaii in the early 1990s.
Hazama said he never lost employment after the Aloha shutdown. He worked for a few months with
Aloha Contract Services and later took the management position with a private company.
He credits Aloha's management training for his success today. And he said his career at Aloha and his
experience with the layoffs have taught him a great life lesson: "Nothing lasts forever.
You should never take anything for granted."