Air Canada takes to the skies for Black History Month

Air Canada's CHRO says the mission was a great way to celebrate their Black employees

Air Canada takes to the skies for Black History Month

Air Canada launched their inaugural Black History celebratory flight on Friday to recognise the contributions of Black employees to the airline. With the support of its Black managers and employees on the ground and behind the scenes, the flag carrier launched Flight AC914 from Toronto to Fort Lauderdale and return flight AC917 while being manned by a Black crew of two pilots and eight flight attendants.

Air Canada executive vice-president Arielle Meloul-Wechsler, also its chief human resources officer and public affairs, said the company's Black employees suggested the idea of the celebratory flight.

"We salute and acknowledge the achievements and contributions of Air Canada's Black employees who brought forward their idea of operating today's Black History celebratory flight," she said. "We are very pleased to champion their identity, pride, and enthusiasm for this special, inaugural flight to commemorate Black History Month at our airline."

According to Meloul-Wechsler, Air Canada's biggest strength is its people, and it aims to provide employees a workplace where can proudly say they belong to it.

"We strive to create a workplace that employees feel proud to belong to by leaning in and listening, learning and working collaboratively to continually advance shared initiatives," she said.

Air Canada has a total of 387 Black employees, according to an internal company survey. Some belong to leadership and management roles, and others work as pilots, flight attendants, customer service agents, maintenance technicians, and ground support crews.

Read more: #MeToo, BLM: How are social movements changing workplaces?

Celebrating Black History Month

Research from KPMG recently found that 68% of Black Canadians have made progress on enhancing their diversity, equity, and inclusion programmes, with 58% saying that their companies are making an effort to promote them into leadership roles.

"These results show that many Canadian organisations have made real and sustained efforts to tackle racial bias in their organisations," said Rob Davis, chief inclusion & diversity officer at KPMG in Canada.

Air Canada's historic flight on Friday is just one of the examples of how Black employees can be heard and recognised in their recommendations to the workplace. And while other companies can't fly planes to the skies to mark such an important occasion, HR leaders are still urged to initiate company-wide programmes that where participation of all staff members are encouraged.

"As HR professionals, it's up to you to get your employees to engage and hopefully participate. Have them cultivate content to post for Black History month. Let them present concepts, tools, and  -resources to you and to the greater organisation," Tamisha Parris, founder of diversity consulting firm Parris Consulting, told HRD.

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