Moonlighting Airline Pilot-Congressman Rumored To Be Stepping Down To Run For Governor

Update: The member of Congress moonlighting as a pilot (or, since he never seems to actually show up to votes, perhaps it’s the other way around) is rumored to be running for Governor. (HT: @crucker)

Update: the Congressman claims it’s not his working as an active pilot for Hawaiian Airlines that’s kept him from voting in person over the last three months. It’s fear of catching Covid. He’ll spend time in airports and on planes, but he’s afraid of flying to D.C. Yeah, ok.



Hawaii Congressman Kai Kahele rarely visits Washington DC. He hasn’t cast an in-person vote since January. Kahele, who took Tulsi Gabbard’s seat in the House of Representatives, is busy flying around his home state as a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines.

In 2020, before coming to Congress, he earned $120,000 flying for the Aloha state’s largest airline. Now he’s permitted only $29,000 in outside income and, according to the Congressman’s office, flies “occasional flights to maintain his certification.”

The congressman is not making $120,000. He is fully in compliance with Ethics,” Ahn said. “He is an active member of the airline union, the ALPA Pilots Union, and is a certified commercial pilot and active member of Hawaiian Airlines. He does fly occasional flights to maintain his certification.

Hawaiian Airlines, for their part, confirms that Kahele is an active employee of the airline. Surely that’s not a conflict of interest when called upon to vote on subsidies for, or matters affecting, the airline industry?

Of course aviation is highly political, and it’s nothing new for the airline industry to have influence in high places. The King of the Netherlands is a pilot for KLM. He used to fly Fokkers but when those were retired he transitioned to the Boeing 737.

Thailand’s Queen is a former Thai Airways flight attendant, and the King’s Royal Consort is a fighter pilot.

Meanwhile Mandy Moore’s father was a pilot for American Airlines, retiring at the end of 2021.

(HT: Paul H)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Most of Congress has massive conflicts of interest. They exempt themselves from the rules that the non-ruling class are required to follow. Insider trading ? Sure, no problem. Kids getting checks for no show jobs while getting billions form Congress? Why not, Hunter?

    Congress is totally broken. They (BOTH parties) have a lower approval rating that getting a colonoscopy.

  2. They need to end proxy voting, but a potted plant is still better than having Tulsi Gabbard, a Russian asset, in Congress.

  3. A politician that is actually a productive member of society? Will wonders never cease.

  4. Thailand’s King is rated for 737s and has a fleet at his disposal which he will fly to maintain his licenses. Also, he has a house at the RTAF Don Muang base opposite the passenger terminals.

  5. @Thing 1 – I sure hope so. If he’s not in Washington, he probably isn’t screwing things up! Keep him in office.

  6. @RJB The exemption Congress gives itself from most laws is primarily to avoid conflicts between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. As you could imagine, an executive branch which could arrest members of Congress of the other party would put the judicial branch between them. Congress can and does make rules members must follow, but penalties are related to their office. Unfortunately, not every law is reflected in rules, and it’s not always easy to enforce penalties.

  7. Bring back Tulsi!

    And the yo yo who claims here she is a “Russian asset” was apparently rejected by the former KGB for being a potted plant and the propensity of diarrhea in the mouth.

  8. A heads up to those clicking the link, it downloaded a Daily Mail app automatically to my laptop – as if the Daily Mail couldn’t get more spammy.

  9. With no term limits and folks getting rich being in congress it’s a wonder that this is even surprising.

  10. If you did not show up on a regular basis with any other job you would be fired. Politicians have there own set of rules. Yet another individual using COVID as an excuse not to go to work.

  11. I don’t get the fake outrage here. When Covid hit, the House implemented new rules to allow remote voting or voting by proxy. He doesn’t have to be psychically present to vote, and he hasn’t missed casting his vote once this year. Having a professional pilot on T&I should provide some useful balance to all the airline lobbyists you are constantly criticizing.

    He’s not taking more pay from the airline than is permissible, he’s voting by proxy, and he’s able to consistently interact with his constituents in Hawaii instead of constantly taking really long flights between HNL and DC. This really seems like a good situation for everyone.

  12. Good for him. Seems he found a job that pays as much more than an airline co-pilot and does much less. Surprised he’s a Democrat?

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