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When was the last time you visited a place for its welcoming ambiance and genuine hospitality of its people? A tropical island paradise, Hawaii is not limited to its dramatic coastlines and coral reefs alone. To think that the place makes you feel at home for its warm aloha and mouth-watering food is all the more compelling!

Hawaiian Airlines have been a lifeline for people who regularly connect between Hawaii and the islands for essential services and work-related travel. At a time when the pandemic would have rendered life hard for many, they stood out for their exceptional service and hospitality.

Listen in to this episode of Hawaii’s Best as Bryan speaks with Jeff Helfrick, VP of Operations at Hawaiian Airlines, about their services during and after COVID and how the pandemic has affected its place and people. Jeff walks us through some essential information we need to keep in mind while planning a journey to the islands.

In this episode, we are reminded that although travel to Hawaii has reopened, the pandemic is not over yet. Please do not compromise on the pandemic rules of wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. Upon arrival in Hawaii, follow all the rules and regulations put forward by the authorities to keep the disease under control.

To experience the beautiful reset that the place has undergone during the virus, plan on spending time around quiet and refreshing areas. Soak in the beauty of Hawaii, for now, is when we don’t have a lot of people visiting the islands.

If you’re pumped up for a fantastic time in Hawaii any time soon, make sure you opt for the outstanding services provided by Hawaiian Airlines. They have partnered with the State of Hawaii and use the same technology as they do. This means that you won’t have to queue up when you land to have your QR code scanned. Hawaiian Airlines will pre-clear you and you won’t have to wait at the airport.

Upload all your information to Safe Travels; this includes your negative COVID tests from a trusted travel partner. Once you have it done, you’ll find yourself on the beach within moments!

Listen in to Hawaii’s Best for valuable insights on safe travels to Hawaii!


Hawaiian Airlines New Routes
Safe Travels Account

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The Vault – Best Practices

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Bumper music, Ukulele, and Chill, provided by Coby G (used with permission)

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Bryan Murphy 0:00

On this episode of Hawaii's Best, we're talking all about Hawaiian Airlines for brand new North American routes with Vice President of Operations. Jeff helfrich. If you're thinking about traveling to Hawaii from the mainland of the US, this episode is just for you. So let's go.

Hawaii's Best 0:19

Welcome to Hawaii's Best podcast where we help you prepare for your next trip to Hawaii. Discover the experiences businesses and stories that make Hawaii the Aloha state. And now your host Brian Murphy. Hello,

Bryan Murphy 0:34

I welcome to Episode 54 of Hawaii's Best, where we help prepare you for your next trip to Hawaii. I'm your host Brian Murphy, the owner of Hawaii's Best where we offer resources, tips and local cultural insights to get the most out of your state on the islands. So as the world is starting to slowly open up and travel to Hawaii is reality. Hawaiian Airlines has done something unprecedented. They have opened up four brand new routes from the US mainland to Hawaii. Like all businesses, Hawaiian Airlines reduced their service throughout 2020. But with Hawaii now open to travel through the state's Safe travels program. Hawaiian Airlines has doubled down or should say quadruple down on their routes to Hawaii. Proud to travel to Hawaii and how to navigate the state Safe travels program. Check out Episode 50 at Hawaii's Best travel.com slash Episode 50 for all that info. So on March 17 2021, my wife and I, Allie we're honored to be the first ones on the plane of one of Hawaiian Airlines new routes we flew from Ontario, California to Honolulu on the island of Oahu. now living in Southern California, Ontario is literally a 10 minute drive for us from our house. So working together with Hawaiian Airlines and Ontario International Airport was a no brainer on this and the festivities were amazing as I wouldn't expect anything less from Ontario airport and from Hawaiian Airlines. It was complete with Hawaiian music hula a blessing and remarks from Hawaiian Airlines officials as well as Ontario and local government officials. And at the helm, spearheading all these new routes is Jeff helfrich of Hawaiian Airlines. Jeff helfrich, was appointed vice president of airport operations in April of 2016. He is responsible for airport operations including passenger ramp and the contract services business across all global networks. His role also includes defining performance standards related to on time arrivals, and departures, baggage reliability and customer satisfaction. Helfer brings to Hawaiian over 20 years of experience in airport and airline operations. helfrich holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Loyola University, Maryland. So right now I love to bring you to the moment at the gate at ontario International Airport. Just before we boarded the inaugural flight from Ontario, California. Let's go and talk story with Jeff helfrich from Hawaiian Airlines.

Jeff, thank you so much for coming on Hawaii's Best We are at ontario International Airport. How are you doing this morning?

Jeff Helfrick - Hawaiian Airlines 3:28

It's great. We're super excited. sun's coming out. kulani smiling and we're ready to go

Bryan Murphy 3:33

saying that we're at ontario airport for years, we've been flying out of Le x. And that's just what you did right in Southern California. But this is a brand new route starting today, March 17. Catch up the speed. How did this come about? Sure. So

Jeff Helfrick - Hawaiian Airlines 3:48

first of all, thanks for the opportunity to talk about Hawaii and Hawaiian. You know, during the pandemic, it was sort of a time for us to do a lot of reflection on on what our mission is. And we're the airline of Hawaii. So during the pandemic, our main mission was to connect Hawaii and the islands to sort of be a lifeline for people who needed to travel for essential work and medical and those kinds of things. But we knew as with all things being resilient, we would come out of this and need to look toward the future. So our strategy really was to look to more places to share our genuine Hawaiian hospitality with people. So last week, we started Orlando, Florida. This week, we start Ontario, California, which is why we're here and super excited. And then in the middle of April, we'll start service to Austin, Texas. All three locations have really large demographics of people who want to come to Hawaii right here in Ontario. Being in Southern California. You know, it's our goal to really say if you want to go to Hawaii, there's no other airline, you should fly and we're going to come to all the airports to give you that opportunity. So we'll be up to six out of Los Angeles a day by the summer. We have the new nonstop hear from Ontario and we have from Long Beach, we have a daily to kahului Maui as well as the Honolulu, if you're live in Southern California, you don't need to go to LA x, we have plenty of service from LA x. But we just want to be your airline. Because when you think of Hawaii, you should think of Hawaiian

Bryan Murphy 5:15

totally agree. First thing you step up, really when you get to the gate, he feels like you're stepping into Hawaii, even when you're checking at the terminal, right? You're just greeted with that Aloha and you feel it. And I think that's something that encompasses from takeoff to touchdown,

Jeff Helfrick - Hawaiian Airlines 5:32

Hawaii is all we do. And it takes a special meaning to us. And today for those who will be here for the inaugural festivities, when we have the only and the blessing and the untiring of the Miley. It's all very symbolic. But it also represents how important the culture of Hawaii is to Hawaiian Airlines. As you mentioned, from the time you check in to the time you step off the airplane, we find that while most of our business is bringing people to our island home for vacations, we also bring a lot of kamina or local people back and forth. And what they tell us is just what you said, I know once I'm with you, I feel at home already right? You know me and you know what's important to me,

Bryan Murphy 6:07

right? I know a lot of people who are listening to this podcast and who follow Hawaii's Best are from this region in Southern California. So now we have three great airports to choose from, no matter where you're located in southern California, we have now we have long beach, we've had le x and now we have Ontario, thinking back from 2020. And I know Hawaiian air was involved in a lot of community outreach and stuff we'll talk about in a later episode. But when airlines I know Hawaiian has had to cut back to during 2020 we all have right. But when airlines and you know worlds kind of starting back up again, staring down and starting Yeah, we're gonna start new routes. That seems kind of risky. But it also seems very exciting to

Jeff Helfrick - Hawaiian Airlines 6:53

Yeah, there's a few things that we really have to keep our eyes on. One is, you know, as much as we are all ready for the pandemic to be over. It's not right. And as vaccines roll out as people become more confident in travel, and as Hawaii reopens. For that, what we say is travel Pono, which means travel responsibly. Yeah, so it's important for all of our guests, while we're still working through the pandemic, to recognize that we really need everybody to follow all the Safe travels Hawaii information, we need to make sure that everybody wears their masks and socially distanced and more importantly, upon arrival in Hawaii, that they respect all the rules and regulations so that we can continue to see the numbers go down in Hawaii, we can have people responsibly enjoy their time in the islands and help us to regrow, rebuild, and grow back to where we were, as I mentioned, sort of during the pandemic, at the beginning, as we were sort of shrinking in size or number of flights or pausing some of our service, it was important to us to sort of reflect on what we are, and we're Hawaii's airline. And so a big part of that was, even though we know we're not going to make any money, we're going to lose a lot of money. How do we keep a daily service to Los Angeles. So people who need to go between Hawaii and the mainland can do that. People who need to go to the islands, you know, for medical treatment, that doesn't stop just because of a pandemic. And we see it as our as our responsibility to, you know, take care of the people of Hawaii.

Bryan Murphy 8:19

So now what about you maybe a little bit more personal talking about Hawaii, when you travel Hawaiian air? And I know you've probably probably countless times, sure. But what about it for you that you look the most forward to? Or what? What do you love most about it?

Jeff Helfrick - Hawaiian Airlines 8:33

I'm 25 years in the business and I've been with Hawaiian, it'll be five years on the 11th of April, just shy of five years with the company. And I can tell you that I think the thing that is most special about Hawaiian are our people. And almost every one of our employees has either lived in Hawaii or is from Hawaii or has family in Hawaii. So you know, they have sort of been raised on the spirit of hope will keep or hospitality and it comes through. It's tough when we have to wear masks and gloves to show that but for me when I travel and I step up to the ticket counter and I see the agents with a aloha shirt and the flower and the hair and then you get onto the airplane and you know we're pouring Pog and things like that it just makes you feel at home right? And every time when they play the pre departure video. There's this one with Henry kupono singing in the island. Yes, yeah standing audio sandbar, which you can see from my house. And it makes you just feel like oh, my husband and I always say that. Honolulu International Airport is one of our favorite places in the world because it either means we're leaving on a great adventure, or we're coming home to the most perfect place

Bryan Murphy 9:42

on Earth. That's awesome. You're probably here and they're warming up right now. So that's exciting. Love the capture that the moment that we're in right now. So someone's coming to the islands, maybe on this flight today come into a wahoo maybe for the very first time. What advice would you give that person?

Jeff Helfrick - Hawaiian Airlines 10:03

I think my biggest piece of advice is to not consider this like every other vacation. Yeah, step back and let the sort of cultural the islands, the people, the warmth of hospitality sort of sink in, don't go to all the touristy places, go for a walk on the beach drive out to the west side where it's super quiet. Yeah, go up to the north shore and watch the waves a little bit, but soak in the beauty of Hawaii, especially at a time of year when we don't have huge amounts of visitors. You know, one of the other sort of positives in this dark pandemic cloud is that since we were pretty much close to visitors for a very long time, all of our sort of natural beauty has sort of reset. You know, Hanauma Bay has, you know, just come back super strong with fish and coral and things. So just soak that in and enjoy it. And remember, you know, Hawaiians have great hospitality, but they also have great food. Yes. So enjoy some of the local things. Local people really like to talk about Hawaii. For people who want to learn more about the culture. Yeah. And there's just so much to offer.

Bryan Murphy 11:08

It feels like every episode we do, it always goes back to food. Yeah. So what about you? What are some of your maybe top two spots to hit up?

Jeff Helfrick - Hawaiian Airlines 11:17

It's tough to say, I mean, if you would like a muy Thai, any of the Merriman's places have I think, some of the best guys in the world with this lilikoi foam on top, which is just Oh, yeah, makes it amazing. Yeah, yep. monkeypod, or mocha kitchen, those kinds of places. So and then, of course, I have to give a shameless plug to all of our celebrity chefs that we use on the airplane. So our current chefs are from MW restaurant, Michelle and Wade ua, oka who run MW restaurant. Yeah, they've got great food. There's a lot of farm to table in Hawaii. There's a lot of really sustainable food and can't be sidestreet in for a little kimchi fried rice.

Bryan Murphy 11:57

Alright, so coming up next is Austin. Hawaiian air is coming for Austin in April. Yes, super excited. It's already been a huge, what do we quarter one? Just the end of it?

Jeff Helfrick - Hawaiian Airlines 12:07

Yeah, you know, I'm kind of a simple ops guy. So I just keep going to airports and doing our best to fill up airplanes and make people have a great, great experience. So

Bryan Murphy 12:16

I mean, I want to ask like, what's next. But there's already been so much this year.

Jeff Helfrick - Hawaiian Airlines 12:20

Yeah. So by the time we get to Austin, on April 21, is our inaugural service from Honolulu. We'll be you know, past spring break past Easter, we'll be getting ready for summer, right, we're getting ready to announce some additional service between existing cities in our network for the summer season. So you'll see more of that more opportunity to bring people to Hawaii, we're really hopeful that as the year progresses, we'll see more sort of progress with vaccinations and things and some of our international destinations. As you know, Asia and the South Pacific are a big market for people to come to Hawaii. So we're we're hopeful that that'll open up later this year. And we'll continue to grow

Bryan Murphy 12:59

great when we checked in, it was pretty cool. Because we you know, we already had our QR code, we're ready to go we're expecting once we land in the plane, we'll have to wait in line and and do what we usually do get cleared there at the airport in Honolulu. But I've heard about this pre clear. And I didn't know it was already in Ontario, right, and I got my wristband ready to go. So as soon as we land, we can go ahead and get our bags and go,

Jeff Helfrick - Hawaiian Airlines 13:25

yeah, you know, people traveling to Hawaii typically are so excited to go to Hawaii that they get to the airport early, which we highly encourage. And so when they're here early, we want to fill the time and not waste it. So we partner with the State of Hawaii. And we use the same technology that they do. And we'll check after you go to travel.hawaii.gov. And you upload all your information to safe travels, you upload your negative COVID tests from a trusted travel partner. And please make sure it's a trusted travel partner. Once that's all in there, we can give you a wristband so upon arrival, there's no way you go straight to baggage claim and you'll be on the beach within moments, right? We don't want people to arrive after a flight and have any anxiety about what it's going to be like let's get it out of the way before you leave California and any of our US gateways now. It just helps speed people along and really give them peace of mind to relax on the flight and sort of soak in the experience. Right.

Bryan Murphy 14:18

So we'll link all that in the show notes. We did a couple podcasts about safe travels Hawaii will link all that and more information about preclear through Hawaiian air. Well Jeff This is exciting and I know we got to get over to the gate but I appreciate your time and and really offering this new route. I mean for me personally for my family and I we live 10 minutes awesome. This is incredible. Yeah,

Jeff Helfrick - Hawaiian Airlines 14:42

you know it's an easy in easy out airport. You know, we're flying in a 321 neo here. It's a great airplane. It's great for this market. And you know, I think a great as we pointed out at the beginning of the podcast, there's if you're in Southern California, you have lots of choices to go to lots of places on Hawaiian and If you're gonna go to Hawaii, we want you to come on us. Well, there's really no other other choice. Let's go.

Bryan Murphy 15:04

Appreciate you. And thank you so much for your time. Mahalo. Thank

Jeff Helfrick - Hawaiian Airlines 15:07

you. We really appreciate it. I hope you hope to see the island soon. All right, let's

Bryan Murphy 15:11

go. Well, a big Mahalo to Jeff and the team at Hawaiian Airlines for taking care of me and my wife. We had an amazing time being part of this historic event. And for more information about Hawaiians new routes and how to safely travel to Hawaii right now go to Hawaii's Best travel, comm slash Episode 54. And while you're listening to this, too, chances are you've made it this far into the episode and you love Hawaii, you're thinking about traveling Hawaii, maybe you have traveled to Hawaii, I just want to encourage you and ask you to please go ahead and subscribe. rate this podcast. Honestly, that would mean the world that helps other people who love Hawaii just as much as you be able to find this conversation and all this information. So thank you so much for tuning in today. And looking forward to 2021 and traveling more. So stay safe out there be well and until next time, Aloha.

Hawaii's Best 16:10

Thanks for listening to Hawaii's Best podcasts. To stay up to date on future episodes. Be sure to subscribe. For more information to help you plan your next trip to Hawaii visit Hawaii's Best travel calm

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Bryan Murphy
Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy, owner of Hawaii’s Best Travel, is a certified Hawaii destination expert from the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. He actively participates in the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau as a member and has a strong educational background focused on local culture and sustainability. As the host of “Hawaii’s Best Travel,” a top-30 US travel podcast, Bryan combines his years of experience with valuable insights. He connects with a broad online community, reaching nearly half a million people, and offers a richer, more responsible way to experience Hawaii.