Flight attendant career sets Guinness record

HONOLULU — A flight attendant is landing in the Guinness World Records book after spending 63 years moving about the cabin.

Ron Akana, 83, worked his last route over the weekend on a United Airlines flight from Denver to Kauai, ending his career in the state where it began.

Hawaii, however, wasn’t his final stop. His destination was retirement in Boulder, Colo., where he has been living since 2002 to be closer to his grandchildren. He spent his first few days of retirement writing thank-you notes to well-wishers.

“I wasn’t expecting this much attention,” he said Tuesday.

Akana joined the airline while a student at the University of Hawaii in 1949, when friends spotted a newspaper ad. “We didn’t even know what a flight steward was,” he recalled. “But it meant getting to the mainland, which was a huge deal in those days.

“It seemed pretty exciting and it proved to be more than that,” he said.

And so he became one of United’s first male flight attendants. “We just liked working with girls,” he said.

The Korean War took him away from his job for two years when he was drafted in 1951. Akana said his most memorable moments included meeting the cast of the 1953 movie “From Here to Eternity,” — mentioning Frank Sinatra and Deborah Kerr by name — and going from propeller planes to jets, which cut travel time in half.

Over the years, he’s seen it all. Passengers would dress up, not down. Think suits, not flip-flops. Smoking was no big deal, not a federal offense.

Over time, though, things changed. The meal service became better. No more smoke. In-flight movies, which he said started to be shown seven or eight years after he began his career. And, of course, tight security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Guinness World Records came calling a few months ago and later sent him a plaque recognizing him as the longest-serving flight attendant. He’s been told he’ll appear in the record book in October.

To get a sense of how long he’s been in the air, consider that if his 200 million miles counted toward United’s frequent flyer program, he could treat the entire town of Big Rock, Ill., population 1,138, to a first class trip from Chicago to Honolulu and back — then once a month for the next 12 years, he’d still have enough miles to travel with his wife, Elizabeth, anywhere they want in the continental U.S.

Akana decided to retire after he was offered a buyout. But he admits being tempted to hang on for the arrival of the next super jet, the Boeing 787. “I shall have to watch from the sidelines,” he said.

While he’s now retired, Akana is not done flying. From now on, his wife will be joining him.

“I got terrific travel privileges,” he said, adding: “There’s a lot to be seen.”

Article with photos at The New York Times:

More in Local News

These little piggies stay home

Norman, who was spotted last week in Everett, is part of a trio kept as pets by the “pig whisperer.”

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Stanwood man, 33, killed in crash near Marysville

Speed may have been a factor, the sheriff’s department said.

Street-legal ATVs approved for some roads near Sultan

Supporters foresee tourism benefits. Opponents are concerned about injury and pollution risks.

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Merger would make Providence part of health care behemoth

Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension Health are said to be talking. Swedish would also be affected.

5 teens in custody in drug-robbery shooting death

They range in age from 15 to 17. One allegedly fatally shot a 54-year-old mother, whose son was wounded.

Most Read