Flight Attendant Reunites with Airline CEO with Whom She Unknowingly Had Moving Conversation
Southwest Airlines flight attendant JacqueRae Hill and American Airlines CEO Doug Parker have stayed in touch following a chance encounter that changed both of their lives.
Hill, who is Black, first met Parker, who is white, in late May, while she was working a flight to Florida. In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers on May 25, Hill had gone to work with a heavy heart, when she saw one of her passengers holding a book called White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, which she had been meaning to read.
She approached the man once her duties were done near the end of the flight and the pair had an emotional discussion about racism in America and the impact that it has had on Hill as a woman of color. The man apologized to her for what he felt were the shotcomings of his own race and the ways in which the nation has failed to right systemic oppression. Hill was moved to tears.
Little did she know at the time that the man was Parker, who was flying Southwest because American Airlines flights were sold out. Her Facebook post detailing the encounter went viral soon after, and recieved a huge response from others encouraged to keep their ears and hearts open.
Now, several months later, Parker shared a heartwarming post to LinkedIn, writing that he and Hill had reunited, and that he and his wife Gwen “had the pleasure of having dinner with JacqueRae Hill and her fiancée, Rashard Sullivan.”
“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,” Parker wrote alongside a series of photos. “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.”
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The CEO praised Hill for pushing him to do better in his own company. “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,” he wrote.
He also shared that he and Hill “are connected for life now” and that he is “blessed to have her as a friend.” The pair are also connected through Hill’s mother, who is an American Airlines customer service manager at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C.
In her original Facebook post on May 30, Hill wrote, “As I was driving to work I had to really go to God with my thoughts because it would make it hard to smile with everything going on … I have been so sad every day and I just want to understand and be understood so we can begin to fix it.”
The flight attendant of 14 years shared that she is certain her discussion with Parker that day was an answer to her prayers, and that she would continue having discussions about what’s right.
“There are so many different ways to effect change in the world. I stand with anyone who wants to make a difference no matter if it is how I would do it or not,” she wrote. “Doug Parker said that the premise of the book [White Fragility] is that we need to have these conversations so here I am. My heart is open and my ears are open as well.”