Conservatives Target American Airlines For Being Too Good At Diversity Hiring

Conservative groups have targeted American Airlines over its push for diversity hiring and that’s… a little weird?

The National Center for Public Policy Research and the American Civil Rights Project, are demanding that American Airlines stop considering race while hiring just as the Fort Worth-based carrier has begun evaluating its diversity practices.

American has been trying to increase the representation of people of color in its pilot and executive ranks, two fields that have been overwhelmingly and historically white and male, all while the industry faces a national pilot shortage. As of 2021, more than 80% of American’s pilots were white and 95% were men.

…In January 2021, the company said it set goals around Black representation and retention, met those goals by December. Black representation at the director and above level increased by 50% versus 2020, and the carrier retained at least 90% of these leaders, according to a 2022 DEI progress update.

American Airlines is certainly not turning away qualified white pilots. They don’t have enough pilots, and when you’re short on talent it makes sense to go looking for it in places you hadn’t before.

Five years ago the NAACP issued (an unfair) ‘travel warning’ against American Airlines. The new conservative group letter helps American Airlines because if there’s one thing that will burnish a company’s reputation for diversity it’s being attacked by opponents for trying to hard to achieve diversity.

It’s mostly seemed like talk to me, though. Before promoting Lakshman Amaranayaka as Vice President of Philadelphia, there weren’t any African Americans in an airline role of Vice President or above (i.e. excluding HR). A few years ago a company newsletter featuring Black History Month used photos of employees, not a single one of which was black.

When an American Airlines leader recommended to Doug Parker that he help cement the personal narrative around race ceding the role of Chairman of the airline to one of the carrier’s black board members, the suggestion went unanswered. In the end Greg Smith, former Boeing CFO who joined the airline’s board just last year, replaced Parker as Chairman.

Probably the strangest thing here though is that conservatives used to believe that people – or a company – ought to be able to choose whom to associate with and whom to hire; that it should be up to the company whether or not to pursue diversity goals. Yet here they’re contemplating “a lawsuit” to involve the government in American’s hiring practices. That’s not conservative, at least as it was understood up until the mid-twenty teens.

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, 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. Without knowing more I would assume that critcs don’t like the idea of tags being used as a hiring criteria for a job that has so much safety risk. Possibly the criteria for pilots, mechanics, et al should be their competence and race should not be a factor.

  2. I really don’t care what sex or color American Airlines pilots or other personnel are as long as they are competent and standards are lowered to “fix” some inequity. Ive seen plenty of incompetence in the passenger cabin with snarling attendants. As far as I can tell, since I’ve always been able to walk away from a landing, the pilots are probably okay ;)!

  3. This Conservative could care less what color, sex, sexual orientation or identity, religion, or race my airline crew are.
    BUT I DO CARE that they get me & my family and luggage safely to my destination. This from a person who had my travel plans disrupted by the FAA meltdown in January & my Airline sent me to a Holiday Inn Express that had no room at the Inn. We had to spend $25 to get a taxi after waiting 45 minutes for the shuttle. My Wife & I spent the night in the breakfast area. And had holiday travel plans delayed in December when they didn’t have enough Pilots to fly between hubs.

    Frequent flyer miles are getting to be worthless. I drive any destination that’s less than 600 miles in 2023. I’ve had it with all the major airlines.

  4. @Josh – all pilots still have to meet the same standards, regardless of whether there have been efforts to find non-traditional candidates.

  5. Diversity is a code word for less White people. It is a form of anti White hate and bigotry. No one ever says China, Japan, Haiti, Saudi Arabia, or Kenya aren’t diverse enough. We don’t see calls for quotas and diversity pushes in those countries nor do we see demands that they open their borders and take in foreigners. It’s only White western countries that are targeted for not being diverse enough. The goal is not for proportionate representation but for the total disenfranchisement and subjugation of Whites in their own countries.

    I applaud anyone who criticizes American Airlines management for promoting anti White hate with its programs. Pushing groups into specific positions for diversity’s sake is a recipe for disaster. If we are being honest, we all know who is safest at flying commercial aircraft.

    American Airlines is actually too diverse for fair and equal representation according to the population. Blacks are 13% of the U.S. population. American Airlines should be having programs to encourage hiring of White flight attendants and ground crew to match the demographics.

  6. @John Arton – you want white quotas? You do realize that white people are *overrepresented* in many parts of the company and your preferred “fair and equal representation according to the population” would require dismissing white people right?

  7. What nonsense Gary… It’s a valid concern anyone can have. Hiring someone for “diversity” or whatever the current trend is scares a lot of people (not just conservatives). No one will feel better as a plane crashes due to inexperienced pilots because the cockpit has DEI employees.

    Be better Gary… lots of people jump on you for nonsense, but this isn’t one of those occasions.

    You wouldn’t want a surgeon to be the the one who is where they are due to some politically correct outcome based driven agenda, right?

  8. I agree with the others. I am as conservative as they come and I do not care about the color of a person’s skin who serves me on AA or anywhere else. Diversity hiring is often reverse discrimination and designed to divide not unite.

  9. Well Gary, can’t say you didn’t know the Pandora’s Box of bigotry you’d be opening on this one.

  10. If there is a pilot shortage and we presume the airlines are hiring every qualified pilot out there, where would these “non-traditional” candidates be coming from? Are there a bunch of “non-traditional” pilots sitting at home that need to be coaxed to send in their resumes? Is AA sending people to flight school and they’re heading down to the local urban high school to look for students? Or is this all just PR? Because in an environment where there is supposed to be a shortage, I’m not seeing where the new supply is coming from.

  11. Wow – full on racism on display in so many of these posts. The baseless assumptions people are making is crystal clear. “I don’t care what color someone’s skin is . . .” and then followed by various ways of saying that of course someone of color hired was due to their skin color . . .

    People seem to think as they as they just say the words “I’m not racist” that makes it so. Clearly many people here have been brainwashed by the Fox fueled lies about how companies have sought to fight historical discrimination which has created few opportunities for minorities. They have no understanding of this and this is all tied into the rights current push to ensure that people don’t learn about it either.

  12. Why does skin color matter? Does height matter? Hair color? Eye color? Gender? Nope.

    Hire the best employees possible regardless of skin color, gender etc etc. It’s discrimination to hire or not hire based upon skin color or gender. The first and only thing that should matter here is the ability to do the job extraordinarily. I don’t care who is flying my plane as long as they are really good at their job.

    Signed–an actual conservative who believes like MLK that we should judge people not on the color of their skin, but the content of their character. Or in this case, also their piloting ability.

  13. David – I assuming you’re referring to the discrimination against Asians by elite US universities. Yes, that really is shocking how blatantly one can discriminate against a minority population who has be historically oppressed. I appreciate your outrage and look forward to you celebrating the upcoming outlawing of such a shameful practice by the Supreme Court.

  14. “We all know who is safest at flying commercial aircraft”. That quote alone is an example of the ire some folks feel who think Black people have no right to be in spaces they occupy or frequent. That belief is then justified by always equating diversity to being unqualified. The Tuskegee Airmen valiantly & successfully disproved that theory a long time ago.

  15. How racist is this whole post, judging people according to racial groups rather than individual traits. Nevrrmind it’s probably very illegal.

    Who runs this website and allows racist articles like this. And I’m a minority! I don’t want to be judged on my race.

  16. @David, I think you might have triggered @Courtney

    What kills me is the hypocrisy. Conservatives ruthlessly attack those who tell corporations what do as “woke” and then they turn around and try to tell corporations what to do. And when you point out the flaw in the logic / data / whatever, the response is usually mature, classy, the usual.

    Too many people look at diversity, equity and inclusion efforts as being a zero-sum game. If group “x” gets something, it means I lose something. Or as an issue of power. If group “x” becomes more self-sustainable they gain more power and my power is diluted. Interestingly, history has proven that to be a fallacy over and over and over again.

    But, hey, let’s attack AA for trying to help create opportunities for everyone. Let’s attack AA for believing every human is of equal worth and deserving of respect. Let’s get back to the time when white, heterosexual, male, property-owning, Christians had all the power. Because, hey, we don’t want to offend them or have them thinking we’re ignorant.

  17. I want the most qualified doctor. Period. I want the most qualified tax preparer. Period. I want the most qualified pilot. Period. If you think the shade of their skin should be a deciding factor whether to hire someone or not, YOU’RE the one with the problem. Not me.

  18. Those darn conservatives. Judging a person by the content of a person’s character and actual qualifications instead of by the shade of a person’s skin. They should be ashamed.

  19. All I can say is no comment here! American Airlines just continuing to hire more and more people that have no clue what they are doing just to fill some sort of “quota”! Going to ruin this once great airline! It’s already too late unfortunately!

  20. I’ll consider paying attention to John Arton when he learns grammatical English. The first sentence in his post is “Diversity is a code word for less White people.”

    If he were literate, he would know to type “Diversity is a code word for fewer White people.”

  21. LOL – America is so F’ed. Seriously, and it’s only going to get worse. Get a back up plan for yourself if you are under 60 or care about your kids future. Smart South Africans moved out of their country to Australia 10-20 years ago. USA You’ve got about 20-30 years max Until you are like South Africa is today.

  22. @SOBE ER DOC – Please tell me you’re not a real doctor. If you are, please let me know which hospital, so I’ll not to head to the real Gray Sloan. Because you have no clue how that economic theory, comparative advantage, works. If you’re that bad at economics, yet think yourself an expert, I can only imagine what you do to patients, an area you’re supposed to know.

  23. “We all know who is safest at flying commercial aircraft”. That quote from earlier in this thread is an example of the ire from some who really do not Black people should exist in spaces they occupy. And that is justified by always equating diversity with being unqualified. The Tuskegee Airmen disproved that inferiority theory a long time ago.

  24. I believe most people will take lower cost over quality and hope government rules will give the quality they claim they need. Besides they (or their surviving relatives) can sue if quality is lacking.

    Several times as a manager, I was asked to hire a friend or relative of an executive which I did. Were they the most qualified, no, but this was a company so I did which was requested.

    At some point when you are flying, you will get a pilot doing his first commercial flight. Are they more qualified then a pilot with 20000 hours under his belt, probably not, but they meet the minimum rules set by the FAA.

  25. Race, religion, sex, ethnicity, and sexual orientation should have no role in any hiring decision. Period. It’s an easy and obvious standard. No one should have any “goals,” “quotas,” whatever to hire from any group. And no one should ever not be hired because they are in a certain group. This isn’t hard.

  26. Hiring anyone – in any industry – should be based on competence and skills only. Race should never be a factor. Judge a person by the content of his or her character not the color of his or her skin. To do so other wise is racist. Period.

  27. @C_M I actually am a doctor and if my politics offend you and you somehow believe they are a reflect of my quality as a physician you are more than welcome to haul your intolerant self to a dovtor who ares more about making money then ensuring people receive care that is equitable. There are enough people out there that appreciate, value and benefit from what I do that I do not need waste my time on narrow-minded individuals full of entitlement, privilege and rage.

    Oh, and according to a 2022 post on Fox Business (you know Fox Business, the company owned by the company that owns the news channel with hosts that didn’t even believe what they were saying on air – the top ten states for healthcare are CA, MA, HI, MN, MD, VT, CO, CT, ME, IA. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE STATES are led by people like me who you think are incompetent to deliver healthcare because we believe in equality.

    So, @C_M you do you and you keep frequenting businesses and people who do not see the inherent worth in everyone. Now, if you’d like me to present data in how your interpretation of economic theory and competitive advantage are just flat out wrong (leveraging data and my other advanced degrees) I’m happy to do so. Study after study after study have proven that equality boost economic mobility which boost the overall economy. But you;re probably waiting for trickle-down economics to do its thing.

  28. Diversity means a manner in which a particular group can be used as pawns for political purposes without that group actually receiving any tangible benefit. When this happens, all other criteria for determining qualifications (aka experience and training) is thrown out the window resulting in a lower quality workforce. This doesn’t mean any particular group can not have adequate qualifications for a particular job, but those adequate qualifications are completely disregarded as the “diverse” standard is the ONLY one sought out, as their only goal is quota.

  29. @SOE ER DOC – Equity and equality are not the same thing and you know it. Yet you interchange the terms with impunity, confusing your audience who are unaware that two words that sound the same have very different implications. Equality says we treat people with the same symptoms the same, regardless of who they are without regard to race, ethnicity, origin, or religion (unless those factors somehow impact treatment). Equity says we do treat consider race, ethnicity, origin, or religion in treatment so those groups have equal outcomes. Equity is the policy that lead to the initial Covid vaccine allotments being set aside for certain ethnic groups, regardless of risks to actual patients, over things like age or pre-exisitng condition. That meant that a healthy 26 year-old black male had priority over a 65 year-old obese white female, when we knew that obesity and being 65 were the risk factors that counted, not being black. It wouldn’t take me too long to find articles from media outlets you like that defended that. (And for the record, I don’t watch cable news, unless something interesting is happening. If I see anything from Fox, it’s just because it happens to be the best source at the moment. I’ll also click on the NYT, WSJ, CBS, ABC, NBC, or dozens of others to get a fuller picture.)

    Yes, economic mobility does increase overall economic performance – but only when equality is being enforced, not equity. Equity works no more than it’s opposite, discrimination, because both substitute factors that are irrelevant to success for political goals. If we’re talking about pilots, I want the best pilots out there to be pilots. Whatever factors that make a good pilot, perhaps like reflexes, coordination, spatial orientation, discipline, math skills, mental stability, and interest in being a pilot are what we should be be selecting for, not race, economic class, sex/gender. Why would we be demanding 50% female/50% male pilots if the breakdown for the best skills that count is 80/20? How does 50/50 increase the overall economy, when that’s just a poor allocation of resources. Same with race or economic class. Unless you believe that the skills that make up good pilots are equally distributed across all groups, which they are almost certainly not – but equity doesn’t care. It insists they are, even when reality says they’re not, because they must be. It’s a precondition of the ideology. Equality says we’re going to play it how it lies and go from there. Equity, at it’s extremes, says all patients have an equal chance of having prostate cancer. Tell me how that isn’t a waste of resources?

    As for your rankings of healthcare – it really depends on what you’re measuring, doesn’t it? If “equity” is one of your measures, well, those states that practice “equity” are going to measure high. But you know what I want as a patient? To be cured! I don’t give two craps about the patient down the hall, fix me! Fix my parent or my child or my friend or my spouse. And if we’re talking about a limited resource, like transplant organs, I want clear, transparent, and fair criteria set up that allocate that resource in the way that provides the best outcome for the most people in total. Transplants ARE a zero-sum game, when someone wins, someone else loses, so we should pick the patient that has the best chance of survival for the longest time with the highest quality of life, regardless of factors like race, religion, economic class, or ethnicity. If the factors that lead to success say the next six kidneys that come up happen to go to six black patients, so be it, same for six male patients if that’s where the factors say they should go. I really don’t want someone with their finger on the scale saying “The last five kidneys went to south Asians, and the model says the best candidate for this one is also south Asian, but we haven’t had a Jewish woman in awhile. She’s not a very good match, she’ll probably reject it, but that’s what equity dictates, so let’s give it to her.”

    And speaking of equity, 15% of doctors are Jewish, yet Jews only make up 2% of the US population. So tell me, are you going to get to decide the 13 doctors out of 100 that are going to be fired or are we merely going to ban Jewish admission to medical schools until we can get the numbers to work out? Because that’s what you’re advocating for when you say “equity”. Nothing more, nothing less.

  30. Passenger and public safety is compromised when hiring is based on identity politics instead of merit and capabilities. Hiring should be race and gender blind and strictly based on qualifications. Period.

  31. I am constantly amazed by the level of binary thinking and raw emotions spewed on an aviation blog. Avoid anyone who repeats numbers without putting them into context, and please don’t repeat soundbites you heard elsewhere here – keep the conversation more on what’s happening in the industry.

    Many of these emotionally-charged commentators remind me of fishes in the water clamoring to get a bite of the shiny fishing lure. I always wondered why any living creature would swallow something so artificial and clearly made to grab attention but I guess we aren’t t much better off when it comes to sensationalized topics and attention-seeking soundbites.

    In a world where a 3 year old seems to have longer attention spam than most adults around them, it’s no surprise that people are so easily swayed by click-baiters and agenda-driven politicians who constantly seek attention by punching “hot button” issues to charge up everyone’s emotions in their seek for a piece of the daily news cycle and 5 minutes of fame….

    Gary, please don’t get too caught up in all the silliness and continue your great work reporting on everything aviation. I would much rather play the mileage game and learn more about what’s happening in the industry.

  32. @C_M Equity is not about taking something away from someone. I’m sorry that you don’t see that. We’ll just have to agree to disagree. With respect, we are so far apart on this topic that further I don’t see further responses as leading to any increased understanding or discussion that is germane to the original topic.

    Enjoy your day.

  33. AA’s number one stated goal for DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) per its website is as follows:

    “Hiring, engaging and retaining the best and brightest talent for growth”

    Ironically, even some of the most strident “conservative” commentators herein agree with that statement.

    So, first off, they are arguing against their own limited perceptions of DEI, not AA’s position on the matter.

    They are predictably triggered (yet again) by a Gary Leff DRWA troll-baiting article (despite the fact we supposedly had all moved on to focus on our shared experiences frequent travellers).

    Second off – you can’ get the best if whole groupings of society are clearly under represented in the aviation industry. Consider women – approximately 50% of the population, but hovering around 5% of pilots globally (data differ from airline to airline etc).

    Does that really mean that woman are typically worse pilots than men?! That only 1 in 20 have the aptitude for that career?! One can but hope then even the most retrograde conservatives herein would recognise that other factors lead to under representation, and that by failing to address such you are removing a huge potential talent pool, in this case 45% of the population (50% are women minus 5% currently women pilots).

    With an expanding (not contracting) industry where talent is in demand, surely you need to be fostering greater participation from groups who traditionally (i.e.from a “conservative” position), for whatever reason, have not been encouraged or welcomed into that industry? And in such a context the argument that some are being pushed aside has zero merit.

  34. I am thinking of heading off to flight training. I am a 70 year old female with a handicap. I think I deserve the opportunity to become a pilot. And oh, by the way, I lose my balance a lot and avoid merry go rounds and roller coasters because they make me nauseous.

  35. Just found this. It’s interesting, but doesn’t fit the narrative. Never mind it’s written by someone who is a member of the group they’ve been trying to hire for 40 years and she was a pilot.

    As they’ve discovered in Sweden, when you give women the most equal society in the world, with freedom to do whatever they want, they just don’t make the same choices as men. And that drives progressives nuts – so they have to come up with excuses like “systemic discrimination”. As if women are too stupid to make the choices they’re supposed to make in the New Utopia. Now who’s being paternalistic?

  36. It’s just racist. People should be hired on skill and willingness to work as the job requires.

  37. To be hired as an airline pilot (in the United States), you generally need at least 1,500 hours, an ATP rating, a first class medical, and pass an HR and separate technical interviews. Some commenters seem to think that airlines are ‘lowering’ standards to hire certain candidates. While it is true that some discretionary standards were higher when there wasn’t a pilot shortage (nice to have but not required), that’s not the case now. Airlines are simply using all the tools available to bring qualified pilots into their workforce so your next flight is properly staffed and they don’t have to park airplanes. Those qualified pilots include women, minorities and people who may not have been on the flight deck in the past, but nevertheless will get you safely to your destination. To suggest they somehow shouldn’t be there is not defensible in my view since they have passed all the same check rides, paid their dues building time and are just as qualified as anyone else working in the profession.

  38. AA rejected me for a pilot job. White guy here, perfect training record and check all of the education boxes.. plenty of jet experience at other airlines. I personally know people of a different race with several checkride failures, no degree, no PIC time and they got the job I was turned away from. They certainly are turning away qualified candidates because of them being too white and too male.

  39. Private companies do have the right to hire who ever they want – and after another hard landing or worse the public will decide whether they feel safe in the planes of those companies. Conservatives absolutely believe in merit over ideology … ask Thomas Sowell, Shelby & Eli Steele, Condeleeza Rice, Ayan Hirsi Ali and many other great Americans. And for those who don’t know who them please look them up and learn about diversity of thought.

  40. I’ve been in HR in an extremely large American company around for decades and can tell you that every time we focus on a “diversity hire” need, be it gender, race, or other, all other qualifications go out the window. We don’t even ensure the candidates meeting the diversity criteria have any other qualifications whatsoever. It always comes back to bite, because we then have a lot of unexperienced people to cull out. There’s plenty of candidates who meet the diversity goal and also have experience, but they rarely get in due to the rush to ONLY check the diversity box. Critical qualifications are irrelevant and ignored. It destroys companies from within.

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