More Than Mothers: These Airline Employees Work With Their Moms

May 12, 2019

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Mothers: they give us life, in more ways than one. Not only do they teach us to walk and talk, they distill a love of travel in us, and teach us to carry our own suitcases. Sometimes they become our favorite travel companions. And in particularly special families, they become co-workers as well.

This Mother’s Day, TPG decided to celebrate just a few of the families who work together in the skies.

Eliana, Katherin and Lizeth — Allegiant Air

After Eliana’s husband passed away several years ago, she found herself looking to Allegiant Air for new horizons. Her daughters, Katherin and Lizeth, were all for it. Both were already successful flight attendants with the airline, and urged their mother to join them so they could use their employee flight benefits to visit Eliana’s parents in Colombia and spend more time together out of the family’s home base in Sanford, Florida.

Katherin and Eliana got to work their first flight together in August 2018, just over a month after Eliana began her job. “I traded my shift with some people to surprise my mom,” Katherin said. “We got to sit together on the same jump seat [on a] flight to Springfield, MO.”

The mother-daughter trio got a Christmas miracle last December when Eliana randomly was assigned to Katherin’s flight after another crew member called in sick. “When the crew saw that, one of them contacted my sister to ask her if she wanted to join us, and she was thrilled,” Katherin said. Since their work schedules wouldn’t coincide until after Christmas was over, the three decided to turn their overnight stay in Louisiana that night into their personal holiday celebration, sharing a special dinner of Spanish tapas before exploring downtown Lafayette and taking “a million pictures” to commemorate the occasion. “It was the best flight I’ve worked so far,” Lizeth agreed.

“I literally get paid to work with my daughters,” Eliana told TPG. “Working with my daughters in Allegiant is my version of the American dream.”

But the one thing Eliana has yet to adapt to? Her daughters not calling her “Mom” when they’re on the job together. “Sometimes they don’t call me Mom because they want to keep it as professional as possible. It is so weird to hear them calling me ‘Eliana.'” Mom or not, their physical resemblance is a dead giveaway: “Every time other crew members or passengers see me, they immediately see how much my daughters look like me,” Eliana said.

Meanwhile, Katherin joked that “mothers can’t just shut down their mom mode” even at work. “My mom always wants to help me. She’ll bring me breakfast, or offer to help me with my work station. It’s not a bad thing, but I’m just not used to that feeling at work because I’m very independent.”

Katherin also told TPG that Eliana is thrilled every time she sees her daughters at the airport. “She starts jumping, screaming, and blowing kisses, then she runs toward us and gives us a big hug,” she said — a response that seems humorously incongruous when her daughters are on the job in their flight attendant uniforms. But Katherin said “She just can’t help it; she has to hug me and kiss me every time. She’s the sweetest mom ever.”

Lizeth, Eliana’s youngest daughter, told TPG that Eliana brings her Colombian breakfast every time the two work together. “The three of us have a very close relationship and working with them only brings joy and happiness to my life,” she said. “I feel so grateful we all get to do what we love but most important, with the people we love.”

Ryan, Becky and Brandon — Southwest Airlines

Brandon’s dedication to family-friendly skies started a couple of generations before he did. “My grandfather had his pilot’s license, and I would talk to him about airplanes whenever I had a chance,” he told TPG. After landing himself a job as a ramp agent for Southwest Airlines in 1996, he worked his way up to his current role as a first officer.

In keeping with Southwest’s reputation as a family airline, Brandon’s not the only employee of the company in his family. His mother, Becky, works for Southwest as a flight attendant, while his brother Ryan is a cargo customer service supervisor for the airline. Even Brandon’s wife Katie is an employee of the LUV carrier.

Becky told TPG she has always wanted to be a flight attendant, and even enrolled in a junior college “stew-hostessing program” back in the day. Becky has shared shifts with both sons on occasion. “When there would be an issue and I would need to get her attention,” Ryan told TPG, “I would pick up the public announcement microphone and say, ‘Hey, Mom!’ That would get a chuckle from the passengers. She, of course, wasn’t in ‘Mom mode’ so I’d then have to say ‘Becky’ to actually get her attention.”

Becky’s favorite aspect of the job is being able to fly her family members to different places to spend quality time together. Ryan has also taken advantage of the airline’s employee standby flight privileges. One year when Becky took her sisters and mother to Hunting Beach for Mother’s Day, Ryan flew himself and his kids out to surprise Grandma and the great-aunts. “It’s nice to be able to jump on a plane last minute as long as there are seats available,” he said.

Becky and her sons all agreed that they love the experiences they’ve gotten to share by working together at Southwest. “I think we all share a sense of pride,” they told TPG. “We know it takes a special person to be hired with Southwest Airlines and we are proud to wear the uniform. It can be tough to get days off together, but with some creative planning, it can be done. And when we all do get together at times, we will all speak of our experiences we have had working for Southwest. It is the best airline to work for!”

Tracy and Maddie — American Airlines

Maddie’s love of planes, aviation and travel comes from her mother Tracy, who also works for American Airlines. “If it wasn’t for my mom’s profession, I’m not sure what I would be doing, and if I would be happy doing it,” Maddie told TPG. “I love being a flight attendant. It’s the best, worst, hardest, easiest job in the world.”

Since Tracy and Maddie have only shared Chicago as an airport base for six months, they haven’t yet gotten to work a flight together. However, the mother-daughter duo have been able to see each other in the airport a few times, sometimes even in different states. The chance encounters are “always a pleasant surprise,” Tracy said. “We often try to coordinate when we will both be at the airport at the same time, and get together there to catch up on things we might have missed on the phone.”

Their jobs have also opened up opportunities for them to explore a number of beautiful destinations around the world together with their other family members. Tracy credits her husband for pitching in his share toward the lifestyle their family has been able to enjoy. “I have been very fortunate to have such a supporting and accommodating husband,” she said. “We were always able to coordinate our schedules to best fit both our social and family responsibilities. When I couldn’t be there, he was there, and vise versa. When it came to family vacations we would joke and say that, ‘I’ve got the flight, if he gets the hotel.'”

Karen, Sabir and Samadm — Delta Air Lines

Commercial aviation is a career industry in this family. Karen’s father retired from Atlantic Aviation of New Castle Delaware many years ago, and Karen has worked for Delta since 2007 in many capacities as a gate agent, lead of airport experience and now as an operations service manager among several other roles. “Initially, my decision to work for the industry was for the travel benefits,” Karen told TPG. But “I must say that working for Delta Air Lines has been very rewarding. It’s an awesome company to work for. My family has benefited greatly in so many ways. Delta Air Lines affords flexibility in your schedule to meet your obligations, something that is hard to find in most industries. Thanks to great leaders, as a single mom, I have always been able to make my family the priority and meet the needs of my family.”

Having grown up around airports all their lives, it may have been a no-brainer that two of Karen’s four children, Sabir and Samadm, both ended up working for Delta as well. Although Samadm recently left the airline to attend law school, Sabir has worked for Delta since 2009 and currently works as an operations service manager, just like Mom, in New York’s JFK airport.

“We currently hold the same title in different airports for Delta Air Lines,” Karen told TPG, “so it allows us to understand the challenges of the job as well as … have a direct contact to another station when quick action is needed to provide [our guests with] the exceptional customer service Delta is known for.” Sabir agreed, saying, “The best thing about sharing a job is the understanding we have when we speak about what’s going on at work.”

For Karen, getting to share an employer with her children is nothing but positive. “I love hearing what an awesome person he is, or that I have raised a respectful, talented young man.” She did admit that Sabir probably doesn’t enjoy hearing “I know your mom!” on the job.

Sabir mentioned a concern that “when you work at the same place as a parent, people might think you got where you are because of them.” But Sabir is quick to give credit where it’s due. “I probably knew more about the opportunities in aviation because of my mom,” he told TPG. “I love the flight benefits, as I’ve been able to travel to see my family as well as for recreation and weddings with my college friends.”

Featured photo courtesy of Becky Handel. 

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