SEATTLE — With much fanfare, Alaska Airlines unveiled an aircraft painted to reflect the diversity of its workforce and the country.
It’s part of an ongoing relationship with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), which helps fund historically Black colleges and universities.
This was the brainchild of the African Americans who work for Alaska.
It turns out one-third of Alaska’s workforce is African American, Indigenous and other people of color, but they only make up 16% of senior managers.
So the company embarked on a listening tour to find out what its employees need to feel included.
Monday, it unveiled the result.
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They danced. They took selfies at every turn.
All of it in celebration of something no one here has seen before, the faces of Black and brown people, as well as children of employees, painted on an Alaska Airlines airplane.
It is the result of a push by Alaska’s African American employees after last summer’s racial reckoning.
“And when we finally saw this,” said John-Antony DuBreuil, a senior IT manager, “We said to the company, ‘We need to listen to our employees. We need to do something to show them that we care, that they matter.’”
Alaska Air Group’s newly minted CEO, Ben Minicucci, agreed.
“What this aircraft does is it’s a commitment” said Minicucci. “A commitment to our journey; a commitment to do better.”
And they chose the United Negro College Fund, already a partner in helping educate young people of color.
But painting a plane?
“Unbelievable,” said Pacific Northwest Area Development Director Linda Thompson-Black, with UNCF. “Only an airline could do this and use that platform to inspire people. And you’re going to inspired by the beauty of the art and the amazing fact that it’s flying through the sky.”
And when it does, the profiles of Alexis and Jonathan DuBreuil will fly through the sky, too.
“That doesn’t just mean it’s me,” said Jonathan DuBreuil. “That means everyone who looks like me, talks like me are on it. I think that’s a beautiful thing.”
It’s something Alexis DuBreuil said she never imagined.
“No,” she said, “especially because it’s going to be in the air long after I graduate. I will be 35 or so, and this will still be in the air. That’s amazing.”
It’s the kind of bold statement of inclusion that could bring a proud father to tears.
“It speaks for itself,” said John-Antony DuBreuil. “It says that the people that are on this plane, Black people can soar.”
Monday’s inaugural flight was expected to last about an hour. But the plane goes into full service on Tuesday morning. It will fly to the other parts of Washington for an unveiling too.
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