Hawaiian Airlines boss Mark Dunkerley is certain about one thing he'll be doing after his retirement from the airline next March.

"The first thing I'm going to do is visit New Zealand for my customary March trip, fly rod in hand," he said.

Dunkerley's departure will end 15 years of leadership during which the company dramatically turned around. Leaving was heart-wrenching, he said.

"I have boundless affection for my colleagues and the company we have built from the dark days of bankruptcy."

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Since December 2002 Hawaiian has doubled the number of passengers flown annually, to 11 million. Over the same period the company's gross revenues have increased four-fold, to US$2.64 billion and its head count has doubled, to 6600. Its share price has risen from a 52-week low of 29c in 2003 to a high of $60.90 over the past 52-week period.

During that time it embarked on an aggressive Asia-Pacific growth strategy, adding services to Tokyo, Osaka and Sapporo, Japan; Seoul, South Korea; and Beijing, China as well as new routes to Sydney and Brisbane, New York City and Auckland.

The airline has been flying to New Zealand for nearly five years and around the time Dunkerley leaves, it will increase frequency from three times a week to five times a week.

Intense competition with Air New Zealand, which is boosting capacity next winter, has already resulted in several rounds of cut price fares from both carriers.

Dunkerley has long had an affection for this country and its trout streams, which he may be able to get back to more frequently following his retirement.

He's in his mid-50s and told the Herald he's still figuring out what will come next.

"At this stage, I truly have no idea what will emerge beyond the certainty that whatever it is, it will leave time for me to visit New Zealand much as I've been fortunate enough to do in years past."

Dunkerley said the airline's decision to fly the Auckland route — with Airbus A330s — wasn't that much of a risk.

"Any airline has to be prepared to enter new markets and take the time needed to establish itself."

The idea came from the airline's network planners and he said he was more than happy to embrace it.

He will be replaced as president and chief executive by Peter Ingram who is currently executive vice-president and chief commercial officer.

Dunkerley was an accomplished aerobatics pilot and one of the perks of the Hawaiian job was flying select guests in the airline's vintage original aircraft, a Bellanca Pacemaker.

"Seeing how much our employees and their families enjoy experiencing a flight in this venerable aircraft reinforces just how lucky we are to be able to do this," he said.