GET TO KNOW THE PRESIDENT AND CEO OF HAWAIIAN AIRLINES

Hawaiian Airlines CEO Mark Dunkerley isn’t taken to flights of fancy when he travels. As an executive for a major carrier, he does have VIP privileges on business trips, but leisure travel is another scenario. Even with hundreds of thousands of frequent flier miles on his account, he and his wife, Marilia, are not about perks and upgrades.

That’s because when they choose a destination, they are eager to experience and discover the “soul” of a place. Dunkerley claims there is only one way to get that insight, and that’s to interact with people in a genuine realm.

While in Mumbai, India, he walked through the slums. He backpacked through the hills of Northern Laos and recalls their modest accommodations. “There were two room rates – standard at $1 a night, and deluxe for $1.50,” he says.

What was the difference? We ask. “There was none,” he laughs.

That quest to see humanity in its diversity around the world has taken Dunkerley to every continent except the polar regions. But give him time. With 24 long-range Airbuses on order, who knows where Hawaiian Airlines will be headed next?

With this broader view of the world, what, we wondered, has Dunkerley learned about our global society?

“People are the same the world over,” he replies. “It’s not as different as you think it might be. A parent getting a child ready for school is the same moment that’s played out, whether it’s at Trump Tower in Manhattan or the slums of Mumbai.

“It creates within me a sense of optimism about life and a sense of responsibility to do things that will help the most disadvantaged people around the world. Some people might find it depressing and shy away from it. I get the opposite feeling.”

Dunkerley was born in England and was sent to school in the eastern U.S. as a kid. A frequent traveler from a young age, his perspectives are enhanced by a keen interest in world history. There are three to four books on the subject on his nightstand for daily reading.

“Someone once described history as ‘one damn thing after another,” he reflects. “I find it fascinating to read about the way people confront circumstances that they don’t perfectly control, and how they make decisions to work their way through them.”

It’s sort of like steering a struggling airline out of bankruptcy. Dunkerley knows a thing or two about doing this.

WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING?

The Dark Valley, a Panorama of the 1930s. The Perfect Summer: Dancing Into Shadow in 1911. Ataturk: A Biography of Mustafa Kemel, Father of Modern Turkey. Seven Ages of Paris that traces the history of Paris beginning in the 12th century and ending with the death of Charles de Gaulle in 1969.

WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE OVER FOR DINNER?

Nelson Mandela, the president of South Africa. “He has the most extraordinary capacity, and I want to understand where it came from … to spend 27 years of life at hard labor and to be a uniting influence in the prime of life. Then, to step down and not push it to the end. These are supreme qualities.”

WHERE WOULD YOU PUT THE UNITED STATES IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE?

All empires arise and recede. (In my view) we are at the actual point where the tide is beginning to recede. The country is struggling with that new reality. The politics of ancient Greeks and Spartans are similar to the political environment we find ourselves in today. The old saw that history repeats itself is absolutely right.”