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Love is in the air: Airline employees on what it's like working with their partners

Feb. 14, 2020
13 min read
Photo courtesy of American Airlines featuring Bradley and Cherie Cook
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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work with your significant other? Just in time for Valentine's Day, these airline employees from American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest and United tell us what it's like to share a life and a living in the commercial aviation industry.

American Airlines — Bradley and Cherie

Photo courtesy of American Airlines featuring Bradley and Cherie Cook.
Photo courtesy of American Airlines featuring Bradley and Cherie Cook.

Brad and Cherie are one of the 2,246 couples who work together at American Airlines — roughly 3.5% of the total employee population, according to the airline.

Cherie is a senior administrator in emergency planning & response (EP&R) who has worked at American Airlines for 31 years, while Bradley is a 20-year AA veteran, currently working as a product manager in learning administration.

In Bradley's words:

When I started, I became great friends with Michelle. Michelle later became my 'work wife,' and included me in after-work activities: Happy hour, dinners and celebrations. Michelle and I moved on in our roles at AA, but remained friends; and Michelle began working with Cherie in the Emergency Planning & Response department. After including me in several of the after-work activities, it was announced that I had an entire department of ‘sister wives’ and they all claimed me as the work husband for the department in early 2015.

After a few years, I finally got up the nerve to ask Cherie on a date, alone, without any of the other wives knowing (cue the dramatic music). Our first date was in August 2017, and we quickly knew that we would spend our lives together. I hatched a plan to propose to Cherie in Destin, Florida, on the beach in November 2017. I was joined by Michelle and her husband, along with many other close American Airlines friends, on this trip. Michelle took the picture of us on the beach when Cherie accepted my proposal. We decided to continue our life’s journey together, and at the American Airlines CR Smith Museum on Feb. 24, 2018, Michelle performed our marriage ceremony under the nose of the aircraft. We followed up our wedding with a trip to Okinawa, Japan — Cherie’s birthplace — where we were surprised by her aunt and treated to traditional Japanese wedding photos. Since then, we have been on several trips together, and look forward to traveling the world together with all of our American Airlines family.

Delta Air Lines — Javier and Constance

Image courtesy of Constance Chase and Javier Del Sol Plaza / Delta Air Lines.

Constance and Javier are flight attendants based out of Atlanta who began their jobs on the same day in May 2018.

In Constance's words:

Javi and I were teachers, but we were always counting the days until the next break so we could travel together. He’s from Madrid, and I met him there when I was teaching English. When we moved to the U.S. for my Spanish teacher position, I couldn’t shake the feeling there was something else for me.
In my free time, I couldn’t stop reminiscing about my travels in Europe and began to Google “jobs that allow you to travel”, which naturally led me to the flight attendant career. When I shared with Javi what I’d learned about the flexible nature of the job and the opportunities for travel, he also became interested, and we secured interviews just a few days apart. We were both hired by Delta on the same day, and cried and hugged. Delta took a chance on Javi, who was still improving his English. Delta truly gives everyone an equal chance for success and we are so grateful for that; it changed both of our lives!
We couldn’t have found a better job to do together as an international couple with a love for travel, learning about other cultures and getting to know different people. From the minute we interviewed in Atlanta, we knew we had found a lifelong career and community. I get to use Spanish as a designated speaker on international routes and Javi gets to practice his English every day! Through the two years we have been working in this career, we’ve become more flexible, patient and resourceful people. I love watching Javi interact with passengers and seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they’re unexpectedly greeted by a 6’4 Spaniard with a huge heart.
Our advice for any couple out there considering entering this profession together would be to make sure both of your passions and goals are aligned and focused towards travel and mobility. This job has presented us with some incredible opportunities we could have never imagined for ourselves. We love that we can transfer to any major city in the U.S. and start a life while maintaining the same job. We’ve already lived in Minneapolis, Los Angeles and now Atlanta. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll even be living in Madrid again, and commuting to the U.S. for work!

Frontier Airlines — Leila and Kyle

Leila joined Frontier as a flight attendant in October 2017 after leaving a similar position in Doha, Qatar, while Kyle began his first officer training in December 2016, 12 years after he first entered the airline industry.

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Leila and Kyle quickly connected over a team dinner in Raleigh, N.C. during a multi-day trip. They immediately hit it off, and made plans to meet up again soon afterward: New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas. Instead of joining the crowds on the lively Las Vegas Strip, the two spent the night at a local establishment, and Kyle taught Leila how to play video poker. From that night, their relationship grew quickly and flourished, leading to a quick and simple wedding, "on our sole day off together that week," in July 2018.

"Both of us having jobs within the flight operations departments doesn’t come without unique challenges," the couple said. "But working together does come with its great advantages as well."

Increased seniority, coupled with phenomenal benefits such as travel and scheduling flexibility, has allowed Leila and Kyle to make some incredible memories together. One such experience was their “baby-moon” trip to Hawaii: While Leila worked throughout her pregnancy, she was able to find time to take one last personal trip before motherhood began. Thanks to inter-airline agreements, the couple not only was able to take a much-deserved vacation, but even got to meet Leila's 93-year-old grandmother and hear some of her family history straight from the source.

Kyle and Leila credit their shared understanding of each other's professions for strengthening their relationship. With non-standard schedules and many nights spent away from home, many couples could not be able to withstand the hiccups of this industry. “If I could go back and give myself one piece of advice before meeting Leila, it would be [that] the most important value for our relationship in this industry is trust: A core value to our marriage," Kyle said. "I am forever grateful for the trust Leila has in us to foster a successful marriage in such a dynamic environment."

Out of the many lessons on this job together, Kyle and Leila say the best lesson so far is going with the flow. "Bases open, airlines grow, and seniority ebbs and flows," they told TPG. While their careers with Frontier are unquestionably one of the most important aspects of their lives, family will always come first for this couple, who make sure to relax and take full advantage of the incredible opportunities provided through Frontier. In this supportive environment, Kyle and Leila said, "family-oriented values have a home to flourish."

Southwest Airlines — Dean and Terri

Image courtesy of Dean and Terri Hanson/Southwest Airlines.

Dean and Terri Hanson both work as flight attendants for Southwest, having begun their careers in operations and customer service, respectively.

Dean joined Southwest in April 1987, thanks to a serendipitous encounter in his apartment complex. "I certainly hadn't intended to make it a career," Dean told TPG. "I was attending Arizona State University and was looking for 'just a job' while I was going to school — and maybe do a little traveling as well. A serendipitous twist of fate led me to Southwest, thanks to my brother Doug getting to know a Southwest customer service agent while soaking up the sun at the pool at my apartment. Little did I know how this moment would change my life forever."

Terri joined Southwest 13 years later. "I was at a point in my life where I felt the desire to change career paths," she said. "It was important for me to be a part of a respected and beloved company such as Southwest Airlines. When I initially began my career at Southwest Airlines, I didn’t realize then as I do now how perfect of a fit this would be."

Terri didn't just find career fulfillment in her new customer service job; she found the love of her life — Dean, who worked in operations out of Sacramento. "We met in July 2000 on a flight to training in Dallas," the Hansons told TPG. The rest, as they say, is history.

Dean said he relies on Terri giving her best to those around her each and every day. "She is an amazing team player and lends a calmness and confidence in difficult situations," he told TPG. "Plus, I love that other flight crew members really enjoy working with her." Terri has similar words of LUV: "I know I can count on Dean to set a compassionate and positive tone for our customers and crew. I love that he enjoys making them feel cared about and welcomed. He also provides the perfect amount of comedic relief."

But it hasn't always been smooth sailing throughout: Every relationship has its moments of turbulence. "We have learned that for some flight attendants, working with a married couple may be a challenge," the Hansons said. "We strive to always work as a team and socialize as a team. We want our fellow crew members to feel like part of our family. We have also learned to trust each other’s intuition and utilize each other’s strengths and skills when facing adverse situations."

Dean and Terri shared some of their insights from working together over the years, saying, "Don’t sweat the small stuff. Respect each other’s needs and wishes. Don’t hesitate to take a break from working together if needed. Sometimes you need a balance and a little time apart to appreciate each other even more. Also, leave any tension or disagreements at home. Our customers deserve 100% of our lovin'."

"Southwest Airlines is deeply embedded in our heart and soul," the Hansons told TPG. "We are extremely grateful for the opportunities this airline of LUV has provided us. We are very lucky people to have found each other and to have met at this wonderful company."

United Airlines — Joanne and Zoe

Joanne and Zoe competed at the Aerospace Maintenance Competition. Both are members of United's Chix Fix team, which is the only all-female team of commercial aviation technicians.

Joanne and Zoe are aircraft technicians who have 57 years of combined experience with United Airlines.

In Joanne's words:

My name is Joanne, and I met my wife Zoe at church in 1993. My job moved to Houston in 1994 and Zoe, always up for an adventure, packed her bags as well and began working out of IAH as a cargo agent.
Houston served as a hub for us to fly all over the country together. "Where should we go this weekend?" We did dinner in Miami, a ballgame in San Francisco, Mexico for the weekend, cruises in Orlando, and trips to visit friends and family.
During one trip we had planned to Cancun, it became obvious that no standby employees were getting on the packed flight. We looked two gates down and saw a flight to Cozumel had 20 people in the boarding area, so off to Cozumel we went. Eventually our travel was curtailed when Zoe moved over to full-time work in the maintenance tool room and started school [to earn her Airframe and/or Powerplant (A&P) certification]. I really admired her tenacity in sticking to that grueling schedule, but Zoe will tell you it was worth every minute.
As an avionics tech, I work the radios, flight instruments, autopilot and wiring. Zoe works everything else! Her focus is on engines, hydraulics, tires, brakes and gear. In other words, she gets dirty and I try to stay clean. We work very well together because we complement each other's skills. She thinks outside the box to tackle a problem and readily rolls up her sleeves. I create a plan and work methodically toward the solution. She's able to explain the mechanical functions of a system to me and I help with troubleshooting the wiring to components. We both respect each other's skill, approach and high level of professionalism.
The upside of working and living together is sharing the commute (crucial for LA's killer traffic), traveling, shifts and days off. That much face-time does require a healthy dose of patience and giving each other space when needed. We are strict about leaving work at work. During a particularly stressful stretch of time at work, we would set up coffee dates. Every Friday we'd go to the local coffee shop, have two cups of joe and vent. When we left, we left work behind us until the next Friday. That really helped us through the tough times. We both agree that spending 24/7 together would be impossible if it weren't for our sense of humor. We can get pretty silly and laugh to the point of tears sometimes. The ability to laugh at life, at work, and sometimes at yourself is the ultimate key.
I have 32 years with United; Zoe has 25. We both highly recommend a career in aviation. It's very rewarding, and full of challenge and adventure. If you can, work with your spouse. It doesn't get any better than that.
Featured image by Photo courtesy of American Airlines featuring Bradley and Cherie Cook.