A day in the life of a flight attendant | Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaii Stories


A day in the life of a flight attendant

As a flight attendant at Hawaiian Airlines — 16 years and counting — I’m often asked what my day (or night) usually looks like. Not everyone travels to different time zones regularly. I’m honored to share a glimpse into my unique everyday life.

Pre-departure: not your typical commute

My average workday begins well before I board the plane. Soon after waking up, I’m preparing for the flight. Breakfast is eaten while reconfirming my departure time, checking the passenger loads and seeing who my crewmates are. With a long day ahead of me, I usually pack vegetables with some protein and a small side like Greek yogurt or fruit and cottage cheese. For layovers, I like to bring a mason jar of homemade cold-brew coffee, usually Maui Coffee Roasters beans that I grinded myself so it’s extra fresh.

Since I live on Maui, oftentimes I need to first fly to Oahu. This commute can add 2-3 hours to my morning, depending on the day. (At least the view’s nice.) If I’m working a flight to the Continental U.S. that departs from Kahului Airport (OGG) on Maui, I’m able to bypass checking into our crew center in Honolulu. Once I’m with my crewmates, we have the pre-flight briefing and go over all the flight details together, coffee in hand.

Crew and shaka

Left: The crew walking through Mauka Concourse to get to their gate. Right: Kiakona throwing a shaka just before take-off.

Boarding: all hands on deck

Before guests can board the aircraft, the plane must be thoroughly cleaned and all our emergency equipment checks needs to be completed. I frequently take position in the galley, the aft of the plane. Prior to boarding, I make sure we have all the correct food and supplies for the flight.

Once boarding begins, the flight attendants head to our assigned stations to guide guests to their seats and answer questions. After everyone has boarded, the crew walks around to ensure that everything (and everyone) is safe and secure. Then it’s time for our safety demo and take-off!

In the air, the crew does another quick briefing before starting our in-flight service. The Pau Hana Cart, always a crowd pleaser, is stocked with snacks for purchase. While we do offer items like cheese and crackers, I encourage guests to try the locally made foods to taste our Hawaii flavors. Most choose to buy Hawaiian Chip Company taro chips or Island Princess caramel macadamia nut popcorn, but my favorite is the Kona Chips furikake potato chips — so ‘ono (delicious).

In flight: sky-high service and safety

On flights between Hawaii and the Continental U.S., the second phase of our in-flight service features complimentary hot meals. And in First Class, the menu is curated by MW Restaurant executive chefs Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka. Everyone also receives a beverage, but guests who are 21 years or older can enjoy an alcoholic drink — of course, I recommend the local selections like Maui Brewing.

After the food service is complete, we set up the galleys for our guests to visit if they would like to purchase additional food or drinks. Second helpings are welcomed. We walk the cabins periodically to check on passengers (without interrupting any movies). About 45 minutes before landing at our destination, the flight attendants go through the cabins to confirm everyone is secured.

Once the plane has landed and parked at the gate, we bid our guests aloha, ensuring they all disembark safely with their belongings. Soon enough, it’s our turn to exit the plane and head to the partner hotel to rest before another workday.

Exploring Sydney and Boston

Left: Exploring beautiful Sydney, Australia. Right: Enjoying a bike ride with coworkers in Boston, Massachusetts.

Layover: seeing all the sites

One of my all-time favorite routes to fly is from Honolulu to Sydney, Australia. The views are so different than Hawaii, yet so beautiful in their own right. Whenever I’m in the Land Down Under, I like to run or take a bike ride through Sydney — it’s a great way to see the sites and makes it easy to stop at the city’s famous specialty shops. I can’t get enough of Australia's local cuisine, which explains why at certain corners I pick up the speed.

International layovers last longer than domestic ones, so I have plenty of time to play tourist. As always, when traveling and visiting a new destination, it’s important that you respect the guidelines of the city, state or country. Especially now during the pandemic, everyone needs to be mindful and respectful of the communities they visit.

Exploring Sydney and Boston

Kiakona and his flight attendant classmates (2006).

Baggage claim: work that doesn’t feel like work

Sure, the layovers are fun — really fun. But what makes my job truly special is the service we provide: We get to share the spirit of aloha with the world and provide a personal Hawaii experience for our guests, all while keeping them safe. Best of all, every time I fly, I get to work alongside fun and positive coworkers, crewmembers whom I also call friends. Because of this environment, there are many times that going to work doesn’t feel like work at all.

That isn’t to say it’s all fun and games. A lot of people don’t know the intense process to become a flight attendant. Three rounds of interviews are followed by seven weeks of daily training, then one must pass their final test with a 90% score or better. (It’s definitely a bonding experience for those in the same class.) After graduating from training, there is a six-month probationary period until you are officially a flight attendant.

The hard work is worth it. As a flight attendant for Hawaiian Airlines, I love being a part of our guests’ vacations and memories. We are the beginning and end of their trips. We have an incredible opportunity to give them a special experience of not only Hawaiian Airlines but also our Island home. Traveling the world is just icing on the cake.


Story By Kiakona O., Flight Attendant

February 14, 2022