Charting a Course to Create and Sustain Meaningful Change

Thursday, June 18, 2020, 8:00 PM

In the wake demonstrations calling for justice and reform that highlight the urgent need for systemic change, American Airlines has undertaken deepened discussions with black team members and members of our Black Professional Network EBRG to hear their pain and frustration about the impact systemic racism has in their daily lives. After listening and taking suggestions from across the company, the airline’s senior leadership team issued a letter to all team members outlining the next steps to increase its focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.

The tragic deaths of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery have ignited an overdue reckoning with the brutality and racism that black Americans have dealt with for far too long. Their deaths are not isolated events. The past weeks of demonstrations calling for justice and reform highlight the urgent need for systemic change, because Black Lives Matter.

We cannot allow the events of the past few weeks to result in nothing more than outrage, remorse and protests. We must take the energy and awareness created from these tragedies and convert it into meaningful and sustainable change. We must use these events to bring us closer together as a society, not pull us further apart.

We recognize these are global problems that have particularly plagued the United States for more than 400 years. We believe very strongly that those who are privileged with leadership have a responsibility to break down barriers to success for those less privileged. Our primary collective responsibility is to ensure that it is the case here at American Airlines. But we also need to use our voices within the business community to encourage and support corporate efforts to eliminate systemic racism in America.

As to American Airlines, over the past three years, we’ve taken a number of important steps to increase our focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, including hiring our first Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer. Additionally, we established the company’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to ensure we implement best practices across our business. We’ve delivered implicit bias training for more than 100,000 of our team members and created a specialized customer relations team to listen to, resolve and learn from any customer complaints of discrimination.

We’ve been proud of that work, but it’s not enough. Over the past few weeks, we have deepened our discussions with our black team members, including members of our Black Professional Network EBRG, and our customers. Those conversations have led to a series of important suggestions and recommendations in addition to the work that is already underway. Those additional efforts will begin by focusing on three areas.

Continued listening and relationships

In order to move forward, we must begin by taking the time to listen to each other, particularly to our black colleagues and customers. We need both introspection and learning from the experiences of others with open hearts and minds. Trust and relationships are required to both bring communities together and to confront systemic racism.

  • Listening sessions and Town Halls: In the coming months, we will be hosting numerous gatherings and listening sessions about race with our team members and the communities across our network. We can’t rely on these important interactions and learnings to take place on their own; we need to provide the forums for them to take place.
  • Community Council: In an effort to better serve our customers, we will establish a Community Council, which will be sponsored by President Robert Isom. This newly formed council will be made up of our company’s senior executives and a cross-section of black community leaders who will provide feedback on a variety of company initiatives with a focus on issues impacting the customer travel experience. These community leaders will make recommendations and provide perspectives on the challenges that our black customers face.
  • Advocacy efforts: We commit to join, lead and support efforts by the business community to address the systemic causes of injustice in the communities we serve and in Washington, D.C.

Continued learning and aligned values

We must provide an inclusive workplace for current and future team members. To that end, we are recommitting ourselves to supporting a culture where all team members are valued and respected. Any incidents of conscious or unconscious bias toward our customers and team members is unacceptable and will be addressed appropriately. Each one of us is accountable for ensuring that our actions — and those of our fellow team members — support a culture of inclusion and respect.

  • Phase 2 of implicit bias training and education: It is incumbent upon us to provide additional learning opportunities and implicit bias training to establish cultural expectations for our team members, as well as our leaders. We will continue to provide industry-leading implicit bias training, both in-person and peer-led, as well as through online platforms, and we will seek out new opportunities to bring team members together to learn from each other.
  • Enhancing our policies: We will continue to directly address acts of bias and racism whether in social media or our workplace. In the coming days, we will roll out strengthened policies to provide all team members clear guidance on conduct and consequences for discriminatory and racially biased behavior in the workplace and online.

Intentional recruitment and advancement

The representation of black professionals in our senior leadership is insufficient, and we will do more to change this reality. We acknowledge that a stated aspiration without a goal is ineffective. While our hiring and advancement practices are impacted in the short term by an industry financial crisis, our commitment to diversifying our leadership team over the long term has not changed. We will establish specific objectives and lay out a plan to achieve them.

  • Focused talent management: We’ll accomplish this through enhanced recruiting, development and mentorship. We must become a model company in the way we assess equitable treatment for all employees with regard to pay, advancement, access to development and recognition.
  • Access for all: We also will assist black youth in developing job skills and expanding access to well-paying careers as part of our overall strategy to expand opportunities in our hub cities and Tulsa. We will establish talent pipelines and apprenticeship programs with community-based organizations. As we return to growing our airline and hiring again, we will do all we can to ensure that young people in communities that have been historically underserved have every opportunity to join our team.

As an airline, creating connections is our business, and we exist to bring the world and people closer together. The next phase of our journey begins with specific steps to achieve our aspirations. Rest assured, our commitment to be better — and to do better — will be measured by consistent action and progress. The communities and people we serve should expect nothing less from us.