After the war, Kennedy returned to Hawai‘i and continued the family tradition by taking a job at Hawaiian Airlines in 1946. In spite of his Yale degree – and his rank of Lieutenant Commander at the end of the war – Kennedy’s first job was Mechanic’s Helper Third Class, with a salary of thirty-seven cents an hour. He took that opportunity to learn the business inside out and within two years he was licensed as both a pilot and mechanic.
In his twenty six years at Hawaiian, Kennedy had a variety of positions, eventually becoming Vice President of Marketing. He promoted Hawai‘i tirelessly and coined the phrase “You haven’t lived ‘til you’ve seen all of Hawai‘i.”
In 1971, Kennedy was lured away from Hawaiian by Continental Airlines to become Vice President of its Pacific operations and director of Air Micronesia. Kennedy managed Continental’s operations when growth in Hawai‘i and the Pacific exploded. He expanded Continental’s presence in the Pacific and supported the development of Hawai‘i tourism until he retired in 1985.
Among his many achievements in business and the community, Kennedy was particularly proud of his role in founding the Pacific Aerospace Museum.