Former Hawaiian Airlines CEO Paul Finazzo died Oct. 29 in Miami from complications following hip surgery. He was 79.
He began his career in 1956 in the air cargo field as a sales executive with the old Flying Tiger Line and became president and CEO of Airlift International, an all-cargo airline, in 1972.
Ten years later he joined Hawaiian as president and COO and became CEO in 1984. At the time, the airline was in dire financial straits and facing heavy competition from low-fare upstart Mid-Pacific Airlines.
To revive Hawaiian, Finazzo threatened to file for bankruptcy in order to win wage and work-rule concessions from employees. He then launched an ambitious expansion plan for the interisland carrier, acquiring widebody aircraft for service to the South Pacific and the U.S. mainland.
He stepped down in 1989 when Hawaiian was acquired by a private equity group but remained active in Hawaii business and community affairs. He served as commissioner for the first Aloha State Games, an Olympic-style competition for Hawaiian athletes. He also served as chairman of Hawaii's publicly traded Dollar Rent a Car franchise.
He retired to Miami in 1993 but came out of retirement for three years in 1995 to serve as CEO of Tradewinds, an all-cargo carrier based in North Carolina.
He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Joann; two brothers; four children; and 11 grandchildren.