Brief Historical Perspective

African American pilots were initially hired because of a consent decree that resulted from a discrimination lawsuit against United Airlines that began in the 1970s.  As a result, over 200 African American pilots were hired since the late ‘80s, with only a select few successfully gaining management positions.  In recent years, the handful of African American pilots who were in management either hit a glass ceiling or have been edged out of management in favor of hand-picked white male counterparts, who clearly were not as qualified as the African American candidates.  As a result of the keen observations and attention to the facts characteristic of pilot’s mentality of deliberation and logical deduction, a crystal clear pattern of disparate treatment has been identified. African American pilots are no longer welcomed in the management ranks of United Airlines.  Furthermore, United Airlines management rebuffed earnest efforts by African American pilots who, through their loyalty to rank and the good of the overall company, attempted to alert them of the blatant lack of diversity in the management ranks. 

The pilots of color who have joined together to articulate the value of representation of diverse perspectives in operations and management are extremely proud to wear the flight officer uniform, and have endeavored to perform our duties above and beyond the call as United Airlines Flight Officers.  It is our honor and privilege to continue this ethic beyond the cockpit to the boardrooms where policies are made and profits are etched out. We produce the profits of UAL with every trip that we safely and economically deliver people to their business, families, and memories. Therefore, we have front line understanding of what makes this company work.

Because the upward mobility of African American pilots and other personnel has been hindered, all stakeholders in UAL have all been adversely affected—shareholders from lost profitability, employees from lost opportunities to realize their potential, and loyal customers through a reduction in bang for the buck. We employees are all fundamentally united through the collective success or under-performance of this company. In the same spirit, we must unite to defeat the denial of promotional opportunities at this airline by no longer tolerating exclusion—for anyone with a valuable contribution—regardless of ethnicity or sexual orientation; a person trying to break out of the ranks of a particular discipline (flight attendant to management); or any other systematically, institutionally excluded class.  Once again, litigation has become necessary to gain the attention of United Airlines management to address this issue.  Federal civil rights laws provide the opportunity to seek legal remedies to bring about positive changes, henceforth and for future generations.  We have already enjoyed the benefits of this law to the extent it allowed, but the time is now for more action.

Current State of a United Front for Diversity

United Airlines operates globally in markets of diverse cultures, carrying millions of people of color who generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.  Successful, progressive market leaders recognize the need for their workforce to reflect the markets they serve. The pending merger with Continental Airlines, also an international carrier, creates an urgent need to establish firm policies that will not dilute or diminish current management positions presently held by, or future opportunities for, employees of color.  For these reasons and more, there is a dire need for United Airlines management to fully embrace a strong diversity initiative. A strong initiative to include diverse perspectives in operations and management will ensure that employees of color will be promoted into upper level management positions (including vice president, president, director and chief executive officer positions) when their experience level demands preference over less-qualified candidates.

Specific Remedies Recommended

  • We make a serious demand for more promotional opportunities for management-qualified personnel of color.
  • We wholeheartedly urge support from political representatives, civil rights organizations and others who support us in this significant movement toward real change. 
  • We encourage the current leaders of United Airlines to immediately begin to develop policies and procedures that ensure accountability for this demand, and foster a corporate culture change that utilizes the strength of a fully diversified management team and engaged workforce.
  • We envision our efforts will make United Airlines a model of diversity by demonstrating the value prospect diversity initiatives deliver: more innovative business solutions, creative customer service delivery, and calculated strategic risk taking that generates the best returns.
  • We boldly take this stand for all persons of color who will become United Airlines employees, specifically pilots and managers in the years and decades to come.


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