Here’s How American’s CEO Brightened A Southwest Flight Attendant’s Day

Doug Parker, the CEO of American Airlines, made one Southwest Airlines flight attendant’s day after an inflight chat. A few days ago, Doug Parker flew Southwest Airlines on a trip. Onboard, he met a flight attendant and struck a conversation about race and set an optimistic tone for the future.

AMerican and southest
The CEO of American Airlines and a flight attendant on Southwest had a heartwarming encounter on a flight. Photo: Getty Images

A book leads to a memorable conversation

Southwest flight attendant JacqueRae posted about the encounter on her personal Facebook page. In it, she described going to work one day feeling heavy about current events. However, on her first flight, everything changed.

During boarding, she saw a man holding a book entitled “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism.” Midflight, after her service duties had completed, she went to the man and spoke about the book. At the end of their conversation, Doug Parker introduced himself to JacqueRae. It turns out that JacqueRae’s mother works for American Airlines out of Washington, D.C. The two had a discussion, and both felt they walked away with a great experience. At the end of the flight, Mr. Parker left a handwritten note for JacqueRae, and the two took a picture during deplaning.

The full account is linked below:

So my heart has been heavy as I’m sure most of you feel the same. I was on social media before preparing to go to work…

Posted by JacqueRae S. Hill on Saturday, 30 May 2020

Why this matters now

In the last few days, the United States has been forced into a reckoning on race and power within bureaucratic and law enforcement systems. For many people, it has incited passionate emotions, including fear, sadness, and anger. It seems that for this flight attendant, those and perhaps other concerns were weighing heavily on her mind when she had this conversation.

The aviation industry in the United States has also been affected by this. Delta CEO, Ed Bastian, released a statement on the events unfolding in Minnesota and pushed Delta to champion diversity, equity, and inclusion. The president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), Sara Nelson, also released a statement pushing for more diversity and inclusion.

Doug Parker
Doug Parker greets American Airlines employees in Chicago. Photo: Getty Images

Flying has a strange effect. It can bring out the best and the worst in people. But at the end of the day, aviation connects people and culture. This interaction between Doug Parker and JacqueRae just goes to show how much people can be brought together.

The airline industry does have a ways to go in improving diversity– especially across airline executive offices. However, some people are highly recognized in their field. New trailblazers have made themselves known in the industry, including Vasu Raja, Rahul Samant, Brett Hart, Oscar Munoz, and Tammy Romo are just a few of the people who have worked for airlines and built up their profiles although there is room for improvement.

Why was Doug Parker flying Southwest?

For some people, reading about the CEO of one of the largest airlines in the world flying a rival carrier could be a little jarring. While it is not clear what exactly led to Mr. Parker flying on Southwest, he was likely flying somewhere on personal business– perhaps a place where American Airlines has received a service exemption that Southwest flew nonstop.

Southwest Airlines plane
Southwest is structured differently than American with its free bags and no advanced seat selection. Photo: Getty Images

While some of us avgeeks may recognize Doug Parker on the spot, he does not seem to travel with much of an entourage or presence. Instead, it appears that he was just trying to fly like an average person.

How has aviation helped you have new, eye-opening conversations and experiences? Let us know in the comments!