Majority of former Aloha employees still looking for jobs

Paul Phillips
Paul Phillips

By Leland Kim - bio | email

KAILUA (KHNL) - Six months after Aloha Airlines abruptly filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protecting, the majority of its 1,900 employees are still looking for work. The economic slowdown has impacted their quest to find new jobs.

About a third of pilots found jobs flying, and the rest are looking on the mainland and even internationally. So for many former Aloha employees, the future is still uncertain.

Since Aloha Airlines abruptly shut down six month ago, the airport looks almost the same.

After a tearful aloha, its former employees had to face life without jobs, folks like Paul and Lea Phillips, a husband and wife couple who worked as a pilot and flight attendant, respectively.

"I don't sleep well," said Paul Phillips, who flew for Aloha for almost two decades. "I wake up in the middle of the night going, how am I going to pay that mortgage? Where is that next meal coming from? Because we're at that point where the bank accounts are now empty."

Also empty is the terminal.

What used to be Aloha have now become Hawaiian ticket counters. Even six months after its shutdown, signs of its former life remains.

"Aloha died," said Phillips tearfully. "That was the hardest part."

Aloha's fall signaled the beginning of an economic slowdown, with other established companies crumbling.

"We struggle. There's frustration at home," said Phillips. "We're hearing more and more about that as people are at the six month point and they're not finding jobs."

At one of the final meetings, an Aloha executive told the employees, it's not personal, it's only business.

"It's personal and the guy that lost his house, you tell him it's not personal," said Phillips.

He says his family keeps him going.

"The kids are resilient," said Phillips. "When you watch a soccer game or a basketball game or you go to the beach, you listen to the laughter, you see them smiling, you realize that's what mattered anyway."

Phillips hopes to reconnect with his Aloha ohana soon.

"I look forward to the day we'll see each other again and talk about the new jobs and what the families are doing," he said.

Hope for a better future for themselves and other former Aloha employees.

Phillips is looking at accepting a job offer, flying for a Saudi Arabia oil company, but that means being separated from his family 10 weeks at a time. Other former Aloha pilots have accepted jobs working in Hawaii, Mainland U.S., Japan, Korea, and India. Still about two-thirds still have not found jobs.