After one term in Congress, U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele has left office and will be returning to Hawaiian Airlines as a full-time Airbus A330 pilot.
Ex-Congressman Kai Kahele Returns To Full Time Job As A Hawaiian Airlines A330 Pilot
Kahele, a Democrat, challenged Tulsi Gabbard for a seat in Hawaiis’s second Congressional district in 2019, then sailed to victory when she dropped out of the race to run for President of the United States. He became only the second native Hawaiian to serve as part of Hawaii’s Congressional delegation since statehood (after Daniel Akaka).
Flying for Hawaiian Airlines since 2009, Kahele worked out a specially-crafted leave policy with Hawaiian Airlines (with the blessing of his union, the Air Line Pilots Association) that allowed congressman to maintain his flight status, seniority, and longevity with the company while representing Hawaii in Washington, DC. Even while serving in Congress, he earned $29,151.79 while flying for Hawaiian Airlines in 2021 and $2,861.90 in 2022 (flying 14.2 hours). House ethics rules prohibit members of Congress from earning more than $29,895/year from outside employment.
At one point, Kahele explained:
“I would bid the five-day Boston trips. It worked out perfectly. I would leave Monday and land on Tuesday morning, then go straight to DC I could take off my pilot uniform and put on my campaign uniform, then rejoin the crew for the flight home on Friday morning.”
Kahele chose not to run for as second term in Congress, running instead to be Governor of Hawaii and coming in third place in the Democratic primary.
In a farewell press release to constituents, Kahele said:
“It has been my greatest honor to serve as your United States Representative for Hawaii’s 2nd
Congressional District. Just two years ago, I was sworn into office with my wife Maria and our daughters by my side holding the personal bible of Senator Daniel Kahikina Akaka. Two years later, as I leave Washington, I am extremely proud of the work Team Kahele accomplished and the aloha spirit we brought to our nation’s capital.”
The press release noted that at the conclusion of the 117th Congress, Congressman Kahele would immediately return to full time employment as a Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330 Captain and continue his service to Hawaii and the Nation as a Lt Colonel in the Hawaii Air National Guard. He is also currently a graduate student in the United States Army War College at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania.
As Kai Kahele leaves Congress, he will return full-time to Hawaiian Airlines while continuing his education and National Guard service. A special arrangement with his union and Hawaiian Airlines preserved his job and seniority while in Congress, but now Captain Kahele will be spending a lot more time in an A330 cockpit.
image: Office of Kai Kahele