The American Airlines CEO Took A Southwest Flight Attendant To Dinner To Talk About Race

In late May American Airlines CEO Doug Parker had a personal interaction with a Southwest Airlines flight attendant over race that went viral after he flew the airline and was carrying the book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism which had been recommended by a board member months earlier, but that he’d put aside distracted by the coronavirus crisis.

Days after George Floyd was killed Parker was on Southwest Airlines because, according to an internal employee communication, he “needed to get to Panama City, FL and all of [American’s] eats were sold out” and he chose not to bump a passenger. This flight attendant noticed the book he was reading. They talked about it. The flight attendant cried. They hugged.

Fast forward nearly four months and Parker shared on LinkedIn that he and his wife had dinner with this flight attendant to continue the conversation,

This weekend, my wife Gwen and I had the pleasure of having dinner with JacqueRae Hill and her fiancée, Rashard Sullivan. JacqueRae is the Southwest flight attendant that took the initiative back in June to talk to me inflight about racism in America.

That conversation was incredibly special to me and JacqueRae’s account of it — and her amazing spirit and energy — have inspired people all over the United States. She and I are connected for life now and I am blessed to have her as a friend. We have another connection, because JacqueRae’s mother, works for American in DCA.

Much of our dinner focused on how the national conversation on race has become more divisive of late after some very important unifying progress this summer. We can’t let that happen as a country. As JacqueRae taught us all so well, having the courage to start conversations on race can change the world. Conversations lead to education, and education leads to action and transformational change.

We are committed to leading such change at American Airlines and nothing will slow us down. Thank you, JacqueRae and Rashard for reinforcing our resolve.


Credit: Doug Parker On LinkedIn

On American Airlines flights Parker always talks to cabin crew in the galley. He’s clearly a good sport as well, whether a flight attendant spills a tray of drinks on him or dressing up and dancing for Halloween. I guess he’s a good sport out of the office too because Parker and his wife didn’t need to have this dinner.

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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Comments

  1. The best thing Parker has done since taking over AA. Thanks for covering it Gary.

    He is clearly motivated and committed to go to those lengths.

  2. I don’t think much of his ability to run a global airline but it’s nice to see that he’s a good person in certain ways.

  3. Appreciate the post and interesting story.That being said
    Its hard to know what’s in his heart vs whats in his PR media campaign
    Though it appears to be genuine.
    After all this is the man that ruined my favorite airline and FF program in America
    Mr Parker has ruined morale of team members and customers.
    Created hostile customer service policies and a FF program certain to discourage loyalty with outrageous redemption costs even during a pandemic with empty seats going up in smoke
    They are horrible at recovering from their own internal failures and their customers misery as a result .
    He may be learning what is to support equality/equal rights now which is lovely by it doesn’t erase all his past sins and he is late to the table IMHO to be learning now as a CEO with a highly diverse company and the others hes worked for previously
    I wouldn’t be surprised to see AA fail again due to his highly flawed leadership

  4. People should laugh at him because he followed the Mike Pence rule. No dinner alone with just the Southwest Airlines flight attendant.

  5. I just had a very bad experience on an AA!!! I was in first class for the first time in my life! The flight attendants werent offering us even water and they stood in the little space in front of my seat EATING and drinking water the whole flight!!@ never walked thru and asked if we wanted even water and just stood their together with NO MASK because the ate and drank the entire flight!! I wrote to customer service and was told they are under no obligation to serve us anything including water!!! Terrible!

  6. I don’t get it? AA doesn’t have enough Black Flight Attendants of thier own to ask? That’s just weird.

  7. This is clearly a PR moment and Parker is exploiting her. I dont understand why she’s allowed it and no one recognizes it! The chatter died down since the first encounter so he stirs the pot and gets the convo going again. Time for Parker to step down so someone with some sense can save this airline.

  8. Awe the CEO is mingling with the little people, and little people of COLOR at that. I’m sure he must feel so enlightened, progressive, and virtuous as he curls up in bed at night with his garbage literature.

  9. So Doug Parker takes a tough issue head on, develops what appears to be an honest to goodness friendship with a black woman flight attendant on a competitor airline and brings our racial issues to the fore…and honestly makes this world a better place with open discussion, not to mention a unique friendship.

    And he gets ripped for it in this forum? Come on people, take goodness for what it is…at whatever level.

    Good on ya JacquaRae and Doug, thank you!

  10. American has been in the news a number of times due to racism from white flight attendants. Many people I know personally will avoid flying American and will fly Southwest because of the prejudice and racism they have experienced.. Me included… It’s quite different now after many exposures …thanks to social media…
    Many in this season will publicly do good deeds…hopefully its sincere…Many voices are now being heard throughout the land …Unfortunately too many have already died crucial deaths, mistreated. lied on. persecuted and dispised… all because you are just a black person.
    There has to be a change
    Top corporations are now forced to listen and being watched how they respond..

  11. I really hate this. It just never ends. I’m neither white nor black, and from my perspective this “discussion” on race is actually the cause of a lot of racial conflicts as it only stokes the flames. Let’s follow Morgan Freeman’s advice and stop talking about it. It will be much better for the world.

    The worst thing we’ve done to black people is to convince them that anything bad that happens to them, anyone who is rude to them, anytime they don’t get what they want is all because of racism.

  12. Good for him. A for effort. Also to the person sYing no service in first. It’s is request only on some flights based on the mileage. Ring your call button and request. They have it in the announcements

  13. Purely and truly BS times horse shit = smoke mirrors
    Anyone that buys into this shallow crap deserves to be fried by these con artists
    He’s just doing it for a PR bull shit stunt
    He really got on south west to learn from what south west was doing so well that he may learn a thing or two
    This guy looks every bit of a right wing cock sucker there is, makes a ton of DOE for being in the right place at the right time and has the IQ of frozen yogurt

  14. It’s not about any substance. I feel like I just got off a short flight. Unfortunately I’ve lived in two of the three major inner-cities of America for 50 years and know & understand too much about race.

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