Honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
May 4, 2021
In 1992, May was designated to be Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI) as a way to shine the spotlight on these remarkable people, their unique cultures, achievements and contributions to the success of not only our airline but also of our diverse nation.
As a Union, AFA in partnership with our greater Union, CWA, continues to champion inclusion while advocating for the continued support of the AAPI community working with the leadership of our Union to ensure the unique representational needs of this community of individuals.
We continue to focus on the accomplishments and dedicated actions of our sisters and brothers in the AAPI communities as well as on the work still to be done within our greater society. Within the United community, we need look no further than within two Pacific locations which both have a rich, long history; not only of our airline, but also of the AAPI communities and their accomplishments which have contributed to our collective success. These communities are in HNL and GUM.
United service began in Honolulu on May 1, 1947. When United Air Lines Inaugurated Stratocruiser service from Hawaii to the mainland in 1950, Honolulu was linked directly with 87 mainland cities. At the end of 1949, United hired eight men, the first men to fly in the cabin for United, all from Hawaii, to serve as stewards on United flights between Hawaii and the U.S. Mainland.
The first eight were chosen to represent the “8” main islands in the Hawaiian chain. They begin service on January 14, 1950. The level of hospitality, pride and professionalism these gentlemen exemplified continues to not only resonate through the HNL base today, but their examples also set a standard of accomplishment envied by other carriers. The contribution of the Pacific Islanders of Hawaii is very much an important part of why United has been a successful airline.
On a more recent path, in May of 1968, Continental Airlines and other investors founded Air Micronesia to serve the U.S. island territories of Micronesia. The initial fleet consisted of a B727-100 and a DC-6, with two other amphibious aircraft that were used to provide air service to destinations without airports. As many Pacific territories reorganized and gained more autonomy during this time, air traffic increased, and the airline moved its headquarters from the island of Saipan to Guam. In the early 1980’s the airline began its first flights between Guam and Japan and started Continental Micronesia.
“Air Mike”, as it became known, had the distinction of flying the only scheduled service between Guam and Hawaii. The airline, as was the case with its sister island of Hawaii, became known for its friendly, warm, and inviting spirit. The Flight Attendants based there knew each other and some called one another family. With the merger of our three airlines in 2010, we joined with our flying partners at “Air Mike” forming a new and much larger family. And while the name may have changed, the pride and distinctive role our flying partners in Guam play in our success in the Pacific continues.
These are but two examples of how the contributions of our AAPI colleagues contribute to our collective diversity and success while representing a small percentage of our larger collective; they are, in fact, integrated into the very fabric of our collective culture and we have learned much from their contributions.
As we recognize the heritage of this distinct group of sisters and brothers, we are reminded by some of our AAPI flying partners of the difficulty many faces in the wake of recent events. While the pervasiveness of the anti-Asian sentiment has been prevalent in the U.S. for some time, the COVID-19 pandemic has given the level of intolerance new fuel. With the nature of our work being that we interact with a diversity of the public every day, it is unacceptable for anyone to feel fearful to come to work or live their daily lives. As a Union and as a community of Flight Attendants, we understand and value this and have always worked to be inclusive; we must advocate for our communities and society to take a likewise enlightened approach.
While we live in an imperfect world, it is our shared responsibility, every day, to be aware of these undercurrents and take-action to change that part of the world over which we have influence. We are a nation of immigrants and an airline of diverse, amazing cultures and a heritage that together give us our unique and special place in aviation. Our success is in our diversity.