Monday, May 6, 2013

Corporate Partner: American Airlines

You may recall from the July 2012 Excelsior! all of the tremendous ways that American Airlines supports the LGBT community, including the Chamber.  American Airlines' commitment to diversity and inclusiveness continues to grow while the airline undergoes advancements, including a rebranding and merger announcement with US Airways.  

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Timothy J. Ahern, American Airlines' Vice President, New York and International, who explained the basis for American Airlines' commitment to diversity and inclusiveness:   "Our commitment to diversity is not grounded in some sort of financial bottom line.  It is simply the right thing to do. Drawing on the backgrounds of each of our employees helps us better accommodate travelers from every community." 

 Mr. Ahern joined American Airlines 35 years ago as a Reservations Agent.  Having held various positions, including as a Reservations Manager and a Flight Service Director where he flew on competing airlines in an effort to market American Airlines to consumers, in 1996, he became an Operations Planning and Performance Officer.  He later advanced to the airline's Chief Security Officer, a position he held at the time of the September 11 attacks.  "9/11 was, of course, horrific.  But I give tremendous credit to all of our crew members for their hard work and devotion to safety before, during and since the attacks," said Mr. Ahern.  Prior to his current position, which he assumed last year, Mr. Ahern served as Vice President – Airport Services, with responsibility for all airport operations in the United States and Canada. 

As a corporate officer, Mr. Ahern's current position in New York and abroad has deepened his already existing openness to and understanding of the importance of diversity and inclusiveness.  Being one of the initial supporters of the creation of American Airline's current Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), which started in the 1990s when a female employee who had recently became a mother began a conversation about the work-life balance (which morphed into what is now the ERG Women in Aviation), Mr. Ahern quickly realized the great benefits of learning from other people's experiences and backgrounds.  Currently, it is the policy of American Airlines that an officer of the company be involved with each ERG.  "This advisory set-up of the ERGs provides great opportunities for learning, particularly for the corporate officer mentors who often come from different backgrounds than the ERG members.  Often times, the corporate officer becomes the mentee learning from the ERG members."  

Speaking of American Airlines' imminent commencement of service between Dallas and Seoul, Korea, Mr. Ahern was quick to point out the importance of its ERGs.  With the input of its own employees familiar with Korean culture, American Airlines has been able to familiarize itself with certain cultural nuances, such as appropriate food, to implement in order to provide the best possible service to its new customer base that will fly that route.  Given the increase in tourism in New York City from visitors throughout the world, American Airlines, with the ability to draw on various cultures and communities from its own ERGs, is well-positioned to accommodate tourists by providing them with familiar comforts during their travels. 

Likewise, American Airlines continues its efforts to purchase products and services from diverse suppliers, including LGBT-owned businesses.  Having attended in February the Human Rights Campaign's New York City Gala Dinner, of which American Airlines was a sponsor, Mr. Ahern is well aware of the importance of continuing and expanding American Airline's long-standing commitment to inclusiveness within the airline as well as to supplier diversity.  In the wake of its merger announcement with US Airways, American Airlines hopes to incorporate the best of both airlines.  Mr. Ahern confirmed that “the growth of markets that American Airlines will service only underscores the importance of continuing its commitment to diversity and inclusiveness in order to accommodate and provide cultural comforts to all of its travelers.” 

American Airlines is proud to be the Presenting Sponsor of the NGLCC 2013 National Business and Leadership Conference being held July 30 through August 2 in Dallas.  For more information and to register for the conference, please visit

Written by Robert F. Finkelstein, Esq., NGLCCNY Corporate Correspondent, Media Communications Committee. Rob is an attorney practicing commercial litigation, construction law, general corporate, and employment law with JohnE. Osborn P.C. 

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