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Workspace: Mark Dunkerley: Where You Can See Airplanes and the Aloha Spirit

Hawaiian Airlines’ company headquarters are adjacent to Honolulu International Airport.

1. Project runway

Our headquarters are adjacent to the Honolulu International Airport. We have the third through the fifth floors of an industrial building that overlooks the runways. We’ve been at this location since 1993. In 2014, we changed to an open office environment where everyone has the same desk setup.

2. Tool of the trade


From time to time I’ll pick up the binoculars I keep in my desk. Perhaps I’ll see a plane from a different airline and wonder what it’s doing there, or I’ll see one where it shouldn’t be. The binoculars also help keep me in touch with what we do as a business, which is invaluable.

Open-collar culture


Mark Dunkerley, president and chief executive of Hawaiian Airlines in Honolulu.

I wear a Hawaiian shirt to work like everyone else at Hawaiian Airlines. It’s commonplace in this state. I joke and ask people, “What do you call someone in a suit in Hawaii?” The answer is “the accused.” The courtroom is one of the few places you’ll see a suit.

Toughing it out

When I’m not traveling, I do email triage in the morning and endure about an hour of exercise, often surfing. I am probably the world’s worst surfer. I flail around and whip the Pacific Ocean into the consistency of cream. Or I’ll run four and a half miles, cursing every step. I alleviate the pain by listening to podcasts of cricket games. Then I go to the office and hold between nine and 14 meetings a day.

Performance tracker

Every so many feet we have an area called a hui, which means group in Hawaiian, that has high-speed copiers, coffee machines and refrigerators. On the wall above are large TV monitors that show our on-time performance, customer satisfaction, share price and a range of other corporate metrics. At the end of the day, employees can see whether the route home is green or miserably red.

3. Power pens

I tend to write all my to-dos and my staff’s delivery obligations in my notepad. Employees recognize that when I open it and take out a pen, someone’s going to be assigned a task. The pen on the left, a Namiki, was a gift from a Japanese concern we do business with. I hadn’t used a fountain pen since grade school in England, but now I’d find it hard to imagine using anything else.

No lonely lunches

I go to the cafeteria for lunch like everyone else. We have a rule that no one is allowed to eat at their desk, including me. This is a complicated business with a large number of very different activities that need to come together to deliver a good product. By obliging employees to go to the cafeteria, we encourage them to interact with one another and those in other departments.

4. Planes with a story

Ohana by Hawaiian is our commuter operation. Ohana means family in Hawaiian. We commissioned a prominent local designer and his son to do the artwork on the outside of the planes, and as with all good brands, there’s a story behind the design. One element signifies the way in which native Hawaiians navigated, and another is derived from the taro leaf, which has great significance in Hawaiian culture.

A walk for well-being

I like to walk around when we’re at our busiest. Inevitably in a role like mine, you spend a lot of time dealing with difficult issues that aren’t much fun, and it’s easy to believe as a matter of course that things aren’t going well. But walking around and seeing that our employees are taking care of customers recalibrates that perception. I realize that 99 percent of the time we’re doing well because of our employees.

Pass the praise

Once a week, I write what we call our orchid letters. I read every letter from customers, and when they’re good, I write to the employees mentioned and include the letter. Aside from our visible employees like flight attendants, there are many unsung people in our business, such as aircraft cleaners and baggage handlers, who play an important role.

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