An American Airlines flight attendant is celebrating an incredible 55 years with the company.

Cherly Gaymon joined the company in 1967 and has worked there ever since.

She joined at the height of the civil rights movement and, as a black woman, has overcome many barriers to have the amazing career she has had.

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At the time, there were very few black flight attendants because of barriers previously in place at commercial airlines.

She said: “My aunt Carrie took my sister and me to the airport and paid for us to get a helicopter ride to the Pan Am building and back.”

“I saw all these women in uniform and I thought, ‘I want to be one of them’.

“My aunt encouraged me to do it. I saw an ad with American that said ‘Come Fly With Us’ and I applied.”

The President of the airline at the time was C.R Smith and once she graduated, he awarded Cheryl and her flight attendant class with a “stewardess charm.”

This was a gold American Airlines charm engraved with their names.

Cheryl said, “C.R. Smith gave us the charm and $100, then sent us out to conquer.”

She still loves the travel associated with being a flight attendant.

It has allowed her to meet everyone from first-time fliers to various celebrities and world-renowned singers.

Inbetween trips, she even volunteered to fly a Vietnam airlift charter, the first Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) mission American Airlines operated.

Cheryl explained: “We would wait until just about daybreak, fly into Vietnam, board passengers via stairways and take off 15 minutes later, I did about six of those. It was very harrowing.”

Then, many decades later, the most recent CRAF missions have evolved and is now bringing in thousands of evacuees to the U.S from Afghanistan.

Cheryl was also around for the hiring of the very first male flight attendant at American.

She flew with him regularly, and then there was the first big push for more black flight attendants in the 1980s.

Cheryl said: “I was very, very pleased when they had big hiring of black flight attendants, for years, I would be the only Black team member on my trips. It was nice meeting other black women who were pursuing the same dream like mine.”

Cheryl witnessed a decent amount of progress over the years in regard to diversifying the workforce and the way the industry operates.

However, she faced many challenges along the way, including unwelcoming comments about her hair and rooming situations during layovers.

Today, Cheryl is still happily doing the job she loves, but with a lot fewer barriers in her way.

Being one of American Airlines’ first black flight attendants made her a key contributor to the progress made as an airline and the progress the industry has made in diversity and inclusion.

She is proud of her status as a history maker and that many more black Americans are being hired as flight attendants today thanks to the road she helped change.


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