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Hawaiian Airlines’ Mahalo Van delivers sweet treats (and much more) to employees

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 4:43 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 25, 2021 at 4:56 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Several times a week, Hawaiian Airlines rolls out a colorfully painted van loaded with goodies from local vendors.

The treats are handed out to employees as a token of appreciation for their hard work during the pandemic.

The airline calls it the Mahalo Van, a throwback to food trucks that took sweet treats to neighborhoods.

“We have fried saimin from our partners at Zippy’s. We have popcorn. We have Samurai frost cups. We have sodas and juice and li hing mui gummies. It’s small little snacks but its really more about the gesture,” said Alisa Onishi, Hawaiian’s senior director of brand management.

The air carrier started it up last month as a summertime treat, and it caught workers by surprise.

“They really didn’t know what it was. They didn’t know why they were getting all this attention, but they absolutely loved it,” Onishi said.

Ramp supervisor Mana Kanahele drew the big “mahalo” signs that invite employees to visit and get the ono grinds.

“It’s a really great feeling to have,” he said. “We’re all different departments but we’re all still under Hawaiian Airlines. We’re all still one ohana.”

Before it underwent an overhaul, the van was a sheet metal supply vehicle for Hawaiian’s tech ops team. Mechanics added pop-out windows and air conditioning.

A POW! WOW! artist did the paint job.

“Employees can see it as it drives around the ramp,” Onishi said. “They know that the Mahalo Van is coming today, we can go get our goodies and snacks.”

The van is staffed by Hawaiian Air workers who rotate as volunteers and hand out the snack packs. The Mahalo Van has gotten around to just about every corner of Hawaiian’s operation.

“Obviously, we can’t take it to all our stations but we’ve been at our corporate office. We’ve been in our hangar with our mechanics. We’ve been at the cargo facility,” Onishi said.

Hawaiian Air also sent gift boxes from Mana Up to its neighbor island and mainland employees.

This is the last week for the food truck but the airlines promises more pop-ups and a return of the Mahalo Van next summer.

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