AT COMMUTEAIR, WE HAVE GREAT PEOPLE WITH GREAT STORIES TO SHARE.
As a regional airline and United Express partner, we play an important role in connecting people and communities to the world via United Airlines’ global network, but we’re also a critical step in the careers of those working in the airline industry. Our “Featured Crew” series tells the individual stories of standout members of our team whose hard work makes our organization unique.
We’re taking this opportunity to share a story from one of the standout members of our diverse team: Flight Attendant Cyrene James! One of our passenger’s most beloved Flight Attendants, Cyrene has generated positivity, support, and positive feedback from our passengers throughout her 10 years flying with us!
What first interested you in aviation?
It started in my backyard in the Caribbean (Trinidad and Tobago being my island). I would lay in my hammock looking up at the sky, I’d see the planes moving through the clouds and I would say to myself, “That must be really cool.” Wondering what it would be like to be up there looking down. I knew then that I wanted to experience that one day and make it part of my lifestyle.
Fast forward from then to now – Whenever we are landing, I will still look out the window at the fantastic view below me. It’s such a beautiful scene! I will never get tired of it!
Describe your journey to becoming a Flight Attendant.
I guess it had to be the right timing! Even though flying was my dream job, I didn’t get into aviation right away. When I migrated to the USA I was 30 years old and I met a really phenomenal Real Estate mentor that believed in me, so I decided to take that route first. I was a Title Processor until the market started to fall in 2007. I had been in real estate for 7-8 years and now had to look for something different. I thought, “What am I going to do now? Maybe it’s time to look into flying.” The very first company that popped up for me was CommuteAir! So, my journey began in 2008 and is still ongoing at this very same airline – over 10 years!
What’s your experience being Black in the aviation industry?
It’s been good so far! I come to work and do my job, and I don’t notice my skin color because I have a job to do, and I do it. I always do my best to leave any personal issues or problems at home when I come to work and that helps me make the best of every challenge I face.
Even though it’s been good, it’s not all a bed of roses. I am a very honest person and approach problems whole-heartedly. I had to learn early in my career that you cannot please everyone – Each flight and every passenger are different. I’ve encountered passengers who love the way I do things, others who want to instruct me how to do things their way…and others who just get frustrated!
For me, I love this industry. After I had my daughter, there was a period of time where I thought I was going to leave aviation and go back to Real Estate forever…and did resign! But aviation is difficult to stay away from…it’s like getting bit by the “flight bug.” Sometime later, I was taking a fateful trip back to the Caribbean with my mother and daughter and I ran into a former Captain I had flown with at CommuteAir. As soon as he saw me, we started talking and he encouraged me to come back to CommuteAir…and I did! I would like to stay in this industry – until I’m all old and grey!
Is there a moment in Black History that influenced or shaped your career?
My cousin worked for British West Indies Airways back when they were operating in the Caribbean. She would tell me stories of her experiences in the air and in different places – true stories about her travels and the important people she would meet (like Peter Tosh & Bob Marley), which really stood out to me. Aviation has given me the chance to meet so many influential people. In my travels I’ve met Jesse Jackson, Derek Luke, Rand Paul and Adam Schiff to name a few! To be able to speak with these dignitaries for just a minute is an amazing experience and having the opportunity to have those moments has definitely had an impact on me.
What advice would you give to future aviators of color?
First of all, just get on board! Don’t see skin color, come on board if aviation is something that you love! The earlier the better! I wish I had done it when I was 18 years old or even 21. It feels good to see our airline and others hiring black folks, be it for Flight Attendants, Pilots, Corporate, or Maintenance because we need it in our industry!
The most important thing is to be genuine: If you love people and you’re friendly, clean, and kind then this is a great place for you to be. There are some days you may not want to talk much of course, but it’s a big deal because supporting the passengers is the most important part of your job. It’s hard to fake it in this industry at any level, but if you know it’s a good fit for you, get on board as soon as possible…because you may be the next Bette Nash!