We are continually grateful for the opportunity to serve the Hawaiian Islands, and as a symbol of thanks to our Employees and the people in Hawaii who have welcomed us with warm aloha, we flew Imua One to each Hawaii station over the last weekend in April, as we commemorated four years of interisland service.
Imua One is the first state-dedicated aircraft in the fleet with a unique livery that departs from our tradition of featuring state flags, and it’s also the first time a non-English word is included in a livery. We’re proud of these milestones, because we reached them by working closely with an Oahu-based design agency on the creative, keeping local sentiment top-of-mind, as well as Hawaiian Cultural Practitioners to serve and understand the unique cultures and language of Hawaii. These Practitioners have guided us even before our first flights served the Hawaiian Islands, and we’ve been focused on most appropriately utilizing Hawaiian words. The Cultural Practitioners guided us, above all else, to be consistent. They recommended that we not use diacritical markings (such as the okina and the kahako), as they customarily recommend many other companies doing business in the Islands. We hired a Cultural Advisor to guide and review everything relating to Imua One to ensure we accurately represented the cultural elements we intended to honor with this high-flying tribute. We regularly revisit our decision regarding markings with experts (we received the same guidance even as recently as Autumn 2022), and we plan to continue to review best practices on a regular basis to ensure we do our part to preserve, protect, and celebrate the beauty of Hawaiian culture.
The events surrounding the Imua One unveiling were special and unique to each location and island. Imua One is dedicated to our Employees and the people in Hawaii, so as a gesture of gratitude, the aircraft visited each airport we serve in Hawaii for a unique ceremony and event. Read on to learn more about these meaningful moments.
The MAX 8 aircraft transformed into Imua One at a painting facility in Spokane, Wash., where a crew of 8-10 people worked in shifts over 17 days. Before its first flight from Spokane to Long Beach, Calif., citizens of the Spokane Tribe of Indians joined Kahu Kordell C. L. Kekoa, a Hawaiian church Minister, in a special ceremony that brought together Washington First Nations and Kanaka Maoli/indigenous Hawaiian people to share in a blessing and pay tribute to the launch of Imua One.
Citizens of the Spokane Tribe of Indians and Kahu Kekoa joined for a special blessing and tribute ceremony.
Imua One departed Spokane and headed to Long Beach for a celebration and a memorable welcome into the Southwest fleet. Since our first flights between Long Beach and Honolulu in March 2021, we continue to build awareness with our Customers about the gateway cities to Hawaii in our network, including Long Beach, so it was the perfect place to launch the tour. As Imua One came into range, event attendees gathered to watch the aircraft land and witnessed Kahu Kekoa lead a blessing and dedication of the aircraft. I am so grateful that many of you watched in through a livestream, and you saw the Employees featured in the Honoring the Heart of Hawaii video series at the event in Long Beach to welcome Imua One. We had Hawaii Cultural Entertainment, remarks from Bob and Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson, and the aircraft was on the ground long enough for a lot of photos of the aircraft. Bob and I were honored to christen the aircraft and a group of our local Hawaii Employees draped a livery lei on Imua One.
Kahu Kekoa and Bob with Imua One in Long Beach.
Bob and I christened the aircraft with special ‘champagne’ bottles that are made for this purpose – they’re empty and made from sugar, which easily dissolves and doesn’t damage the aircraft or create ramp FOD.
Southwest Employees who are local to Hawaii welcome Imua One to the fleet and prepare to drape a livery lei on the aircraft.
Imua One in Long Beach.
Imua One made its first stop in the Aloha State at Honolulu, the first airport we served in Hawaii. Lt. Governor Sylvia Luke joined guests to greet the aircraft as a taiko group performed. Kahu Kekoa led a blessing ceremony that included local Hawaii Employees who again draped a livery lei on the aircraft. Inside the terminal in Honolulu, guests enjoyed live music and a hula performance. Bob and Lt. Governor Luke gave remarks, with Bob thanking our Employees in Hawaii who deliver exceptional Hospitality to our Customers in the Islands during the past four years. We also made a $10,000 donation each to AccesSurf, Hoola Na Pua, Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association, and Boys and Girls Club Hawaii, organizations that we tie into four of the cultural elements represented on the aircraft: honu (turtle) move with endurance, ama (support) connect to strengthen and balance, lokahi (unity) succeed with Teamwork, and imua (forward) to go forward with strength, courage, and strong spirit. (Read on to learn about the other five organizations who received a donation, as well).
Honolulu Station Leader Christina watches as Imua One taxies into a gate at HNL for the first of many times ahead.
Left to right: Kahu Kekoa, Regiane Santos, Lt. Governor Luke, Capt. Paul Miller, Capt. Jim Curtis, me, Bob Jordan, Kurt Osaki, Christina Leilua, Cultural Practitioner Herman “Piikea” Clark, Flight Attendant Duane Redmond, and Eric Daniels take part in the ceremonial blessing in Honolulu.
Employees from the Honolulu Station and Kahu Kekoa with Imua One.
Guests in Honolulu enjoy Hawaii Cultural entertainment.
Imua One departs Honolulu
The second day of the Imua One tour in Hawaii began as the aircraft departed Honolulu for Lihue (Kauai), the island where Kurt Osaki, our partner for the design of Imua One, went to high school. Imua One landed and taxied to a backdrop of Kauai mountains, for guests to experience the aircraft up-close. Kahu Kalaniaukai Kekoa, Kahu Kordell Kekoa’s son, led the ceremonial blessing of the aircraft in Lihue, and local Employees draped a livery lei on Imua One. Following the event at the airport, guests, including many members of the Kauai Chamber of Commerce, joined Southwest Leaders for a celebration. Mayor of Kauai, Derek S.K. Kawakami, gave remarks and thanked Southwest for our dedication to serving the Islands, even during the hardships of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Southwest made a $10,000 donation to the National Tropical Botanical Garden to tie to the cultural theme of aina (land) to find common ground.
Imua One on approach to Lihue (Kauai)
Employees in Lihue (Kauai) prepare to drape a livery lei on Imua One
Imua One in Lihue (Kauai)
The third stop that Imua One made in Hawaii was in Kahului (Maui). Following the aircraft arrival and blessing by Kahu Kekoa, local Employees placed a lei on Imua One as a symbolic welcoming gesture. Guests joined a celebration at the Maui Tropical Plantation that included refreshments and local entertainment. The Pacific Whale Foundation received a $10,000 donation from Southwest, tying to the theme of kai (ocean) to harness good energy.
Imua One and the Heroine of the Heart, a tribute to Southwest President Emeritus Colleen C. Barrett in Kahului (Maui)
Imua One is greeted by a water arch in Kahului (Maui)
Kahu Kekoa leads a ceremonial blessing of Imua One in Kahului (Maui).
Invited guests gather on Maui to welcome Imua One
Kahului (Maui) Station Leader Del with Imua One
I was honored to give voice to our donation to the Pacific Whale Foundation, located on Maui
Hilo (Island of Hawaii)
On the final day of the tour of the Hawaiian Islands, Imua One visited the Island of Hawaii, first stopping at Hilo. The sun shined brightly as the aircraft banked over Hilo Bay, giving Island residents a look at the beautiful livery, and landed at the airport. Carlos Navor, a Supervisor in Hilo, created beautiful letters that spelled out Imua using local flora and Employees draped a lei on the nose of Imua One. Kahu Danny Akaka, who is from the Island of Hawaii and led the blessing ceremony for our inaugural Honolulu flight, joined for the Imua One special events. At the reception event, community partners and guests celebrated and Southwest made a donation to the University of Hawaii Institute of Astronomy in Hilo.
Imua One on approach over Hilo Bay (Island of Hawaii)
Kahu Danny Akaka leads a ceremonial blessing of Imua One in Hilo (Island of Hawaii)
Imua One behind letters created by Carlos, an Employee at Hilo
Southwest makes a donation to the University of Hawaii Institute of Astronomy in Hilo
Kona (Island of Hawaii)
To close out its initial tour of Hawaii, Imua One made a final stop in Kona (Island of Hawaii). Kahu Akaka led a blessing of the aircraft, and local Employees in Kona draped a livery lei on Imua One. The reception took place just outside of the secure area at the airport, where our community guests enjoyed live music from local performers. Miss Kona Coffee and Miss Aloha Hawaii attended the event and danced hula for our guests. Partners from Liv. Pregnancy and Women’s Wellness accepted a donation, which tied their work into the value of ohana (family) to root in relationships.
Imua One on approach to Kona (Island of Hawaii)
Miss Aloha Hawaii performs hula at a reception for Imua One
Partners from Liv. Pregnancy and Women’s Wellness accept a donation from Southwest
Miss Kona Coffee dances hula at the reception for Imua One
Local musicians play music at the Kona celebration
The next day, Imua One departed Kona and headed to Dallas to close out its 7,746 mile journey. Employees at DAL and Headquarters had a chance to see the aircraft and on May 2, Imua One entered our schedule and has visited several stations since then.
Has Imua One visited your location yet? You can track the aircraft by tail number N8710M and share your photos using #ImuaOne.
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As the adage says, time flies! It is hard to believe that five years ago this week Southwest Airlines began an international chapter in our now nearly 50-year history. On July 1, 2014, seven flights pushed back from gates at Atlanta (ATL), Baltimore/Washington (BWI), and Orlando (MCO) and carried our first Customers toward three international destinations in the Caribbean. Today brings an opportunity to look back at all that has unfolded since and, while celebrating this exciting milestone, look forward to future opportunity.
The framework for Southwest’s entry into an international arena began several years prior with the acquisition of AirTran Airways. As many workgroups from across the Company can attest, navigating various commercial, operational, and regulatory complexities of an international operation are daunting. Bringing in AirTran’s people, planes, and processes enabled us to get a jumpstart on a steep learning curve.
As time went on, we used shared knowledge to take our international network to the next level. Rather than concentrating international service to a small number of mega stations and relying on connections to fill those aircraft, we found opportunities to open point-to-point international service for several cities in which Southwest had already earned a great deal of Customer loyalty. Now, during peak schedules, we offer international service through 24 U.S. airport gateways!
Southwest has continued to mature our international franchise by finding new avenues to improve our performance and offering precision in how we approach serving our international Customers. Our current strategy focuses on bringing U.S. travelers to leisure destinations, so we consistently analyze demand patterns to deploy flights to address that demand. This is why we tend to see additional international service prior to Labor Day, as well as additional trips around the end-of-year holidays. Our schedule design and production groups even address daily fluctuations within individual weeks now to offer less-than-daily service when demand is lower.
Southwest has built out facilities for international operations and places to distribute our service. We have invested in new facilities in both Houston and Fort Lauderdale. These international gateway facilities allow more of the network to connect to international destinations, while maintaining point-to-point routes that enjoy a high level of local demand. Another high priority for future international capability focuses on our ability to accept foreign currencies. Several departments are hard at work to make this capability a reality. In the meantime, we have developed a new avenue for distribution of our product in San José, Costa Rica, to allow direct sell of Southwest tickets to local residents through a City Ticket Office located in the business center of town. This offers a great way for us to build brand recognition in Costa Rica while we work on the capabilities to offer direct sales through Southwest.com.
As the United States celebrates and embraces Independence Day weekend, we also mark a milestone in Company history: five years of spreading our wings to now 10 countries beyond the U.S. Not bad for an airline that started flying between three Texas cities! It is truly remarkable—yet it’s not surprising when you consider Teamwork across the Company that now brings Southwest Hospitality, bags fly free, and no change fees to even more international destinations.
The airline that democratized the sky beginning in 1971 continues that mission today in places where the Southwest effect brings new Customers and changes the landscape of value and service.
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