Southwest Airlines unveiled its newest special livery airplane Friday during an event at Long Beach Airport (LGB), celebrating the fourth anniversary of its first commercial flight to Hawaii.
The new Boeing 737 MAX 8 is dubbed Imua One (after the rallying cry in the native Hawaiian language), and it’s the airline’s 14th state-themed paint job (including America’s plane Freedom One, which is draped in the U.S. flag). However, it stands out as the first one with a design not centered around the state’s flag.
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Instead, the airline worked with Honolulu-based Osaki Creative Group and local Indigenous artist Herman Pi’ikea Clark to develop a comprehensive design incorporating various aspects of Hawaiian culture and values blended with Southwest’s branding.
At an event with employees, media and officials from the city and airport, the airplane flew above the runway, circled around and landed to rounds of applause. Then, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan gave a presentation.
Hawaiian minister Kordell C. L. Kekoa performed a blessing and dedication, and airline employees and other dignitaries placed an oversized traditional lei over the aircraft’s nose for a photo.
The design centers around eight elements that “represent concepts in Hawaiian culture that also align with Southwest values,” the airline said in a press release.
According to the airline, the concepts are largely conceptual and abstract in their representation. They include:
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- Ohana (family).
- Honu (turtle).
- Aina (land).
- Ama (support).
- Hoku (star).
- Kai (ocean).
- Lokahi (unity).
- Imua (forward).
The symbols are arranged in bands spanning the aircraft over a color gradient that Southwest says is meant to evoke images of sunset — blending from yellow to red to blue. It also incorporates Southwest’s branding.
Imua One, with the tail number N8710M, is also the first aircraft in Southwest’s fleet to feature its new cabin design, including power ports at every seat and larger overhead bins.
Following the Long Beach event, the airline will fly the new aircraft to Honolulu. It will visit each island to throw a celebration for staff members — a major morale booster as the airline continues to shake off the brand damage it incurred during a holiday season meltdown.
The airline’s 737 MAX fleet is particularly well equipped for the Hawaii routes, although Southwest uses its older, reliable 737 workhorses as well. In fact, the airline grew the service during the 2019 and 2020 grounding of the newer MAX.
It took time for Southwest’s Hawaii service to fully mature, with interruptions caused by the MAX grounding and the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline currently flies to airports in five Hawaiian destinations: Honolulu, Maui, Kona, Hilo and Lihue. Flights leave from eight mainland cities:
- Long Beach, California.
- Oakland, California.
- San Jose, California.
- Los Angeles.
- San Diego.
- Las Vegas.
Unlike other mainland airlines that fly to Hawaii, Southwest also offers interisland service. As of April, Southwest was operating 90 departures a day. Sixty of these were interisland departures, putting renewed pressure on Hawaiian Airlines.