In honor of Women in Aviation month, we’re featuring ExpressJet women who have successful careers in aviation and continue to advance the legacy of women in the industry. 

Kristina Serrano 03-15
As an Army brat brought up among supportive military families, Kristina Serrano, manager – Voluntary Safety Programs, was drawn to the aviation industry by its similar close-knit community.

“The familial environment of working for an airline made me feel right at home,” said Kristina.

Kristina’s aviation career began in 1998 by pure chance when a friend announced she needed a roommate to relocate in North Carolina.

“My friend bet me that I wouldn’t move with her and I bet her that I would. And I did.”

She found a classified ad for American Airlines and was hired by their call center. In 2002, her college professor told her Continental Express Airlines was hiring for positions at the Asheville airport and suggested she apply.

“Originally, I applied to finish my internship requirements but the job stuck with me.”

Kristina worked as a cross-utilized agent in Asheville which lead to her current position as manager of ExpressJet’s voluntary reporting programs, such as ASAP and the Fatigue Program.

“I like to say we’re the mortar in the bricks. We take the data that comes from pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, and dispatchers and we help sort through and disseminate that information back to the frontline.”

Back in her early days in aviation, Kristina didn’t find many women pursuing careers in the airline industry as a long-term goal.

“When I first started out, I worked with a good amount of women, but for many, including myself initially, it was just a job. But I was very lucky to go to Newark for a training class and meet the instructor, an incredibly smart woman named Rose Marie Morgan.”

Kristina approached Rose, who still works for ExpressJet, to offer her bilingual skills as a Spanish speaker and Kristina ended up working directly for her in Houston.

“Under her guidance, I learned how to train people and how to conduct new hire classes for employees working in the airports. She was a great influence and I credit her for making me think of my job as a new career,” said Kristina.

Kristina believes there is a lack of awareness of the diverse career opportunities within the industry, especially among those unfamiliar with an airline’s behind-the-scene jobs.

“From the outside looking in, people tend to have a skewed viewpoint of what they can do at an airline. You’re either a pilot or a flight attendant and that’s it. In reality, there are so many careers women could easily accomplish if the knowledge was out there.”

Since 1998, Kristina has witnessed a huge increase in the number of women she interacts with in her job.

“I remember going to industry meetings and when I looked around the room, there were maybe a handful of women. Now, it’s 40 to 45 percent. Of course, it depends on the group but there are more women than ever before.” Kristina encourages others to have passion, persistence, and an open attitude in order to achieve a successful and fulfilling career. She also recognizes the breakthroughs women have made to accomplish their career goals within the industry.

“Everything should always be based on merit and being a woman doesn’t mean you can’t do something,” she said. “But I think that first woman, and every woman to follow her, made a tremendous impact on the others who looked inside and said, ‘Hey, I can do that too.’”

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This week marked ExpressJet’s annual Locks of Love event. Five ExpressJet volunteers chopped off 10 inches of their hair to benefit children with permanent or long-term medical hair loss. Two other employees didn’t make the event, but donated their long locks independently. Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that provides high-quality hairpieces for financially disadvantaged children impacted by hair loss.

Our executive leaders showed their support by making the first cut to each volunteer’s hair before the professional stylists took over.
03-02 Locks Of Love-22 03-02 Locks Of Love-95 03-02 Locks Of Love-118 03-02 Locks Of Love-79 03-02 Locks Of Love-138 03-02 Locks Of Love-161Following their donation, each volunteer received a complimentary makeover at Van Michael’s Salon Midtown in Atlanta, Ga.

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Check out the before and after photos, and a special thank you to our volunteers and Van Michael’s Salon.

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From the team members who worked behind-the-scenes to the crew members operating the flight, ExpressJet is proud to help make the Bert’s Big Adventure trip a lifetime memory for each child and their family. Check out what Alex and a few of our 2015 volunteers had to say about their experience:

Robin Hollums, specialist – Market Planning & Development
I work on the paperwork side of the BBA trip, and even though my part is a very small piece of the overall effort, I love to support the cause. It is such a pleasure to see the children and the families with such joy and smiles on their faces before and after the trip. I also enjoy the preparation for BBA each year because it reminds me of the “heart” of ExpressJet and the ExpressJet people. They care and it shows every day, but on BBA trips the “heart” of ExpressJet becomes visible to others.

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Gail Morgan, Maintenance admin – TYS
It was a pleasure for Knoxville (TYS) maintenance hangar to be a part of Bert’s Big Adventure by writing hand-written notes to the Adventurers. This is such an important event that ExpressJet takes part in each year. TYS has always been very supportive in our community and here at the hangar to all children. We recognize that children are our future and teaching and helping them learn plays such an important role. The employees here truly enjoyed writing a brief note to help start their big adventure to Disney World.

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Meghan Pogue, specialist – Benefits
While I’ve attended the send-off party a few times, this was my first year as a Family Helper. The entire experience is magical and life-affirming. We learned some details about our child a few weeks in advance, and got to work right away planning a few surprises of our own for him. On the day of the departure flight, all of the kids were buzzing with energy, and had these huge smiles on their faces. When it was our turn to walk the red carpet, I challenged my child to high-five “every single person” lining the carpet. He took that challenge seriously! His mom just kept thanking all of us over and over and you could tell she almost didn’t believe that they were in the middle of this experience.

Monday (the return flight) was even better. You would think that everyone would be sad to see the trip come to an end, but it was again all smiles and excitement. The energy at the dance party was amazing. To see these children, who deal with so much on a day-to-day basis, be happy and carefree was just a fantastic experience. I would recommend volunteering, in whatever capacity you can, for Bert’s Big Adventure. Not only are we providing a great memory for these children and their families, we’re having our hearts filled as well.

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Vanessa Anderson, flight attendant – ORD
I had the privilege of being selected as a flight attendant for the departure flight for BBA 2015. I was so very excited from the moment that I was chosen to be part of this great adventure. One of my favorite moments was seeing the mass support at the A-Tech hangar in Atlanta from ExpressJet employees. It warmed my heart! Those who work on the event are so well organized down to the smallest detail. I also loved decorating the aircraft with my fellow crew members in preparation for the kids’ arrival.

It was amazing seeing the excitement of each child as we prepared for takeoff. Lily was bubbling with anticipation! Zailey and Lali were fast friends, and Gabriel was so happy that his brothers were there with him. We pretended that we were on a great big roller coaster at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, and all the families threw their hands up in the air. The crew made each and every child, parent, and BBA staff member feel safe and comfortable during the flight, while getting them excited about their adventure. Dean Murfield, Heather Ragle, and I worked so efficiently it was as if we had worked together every single day. After we landed, it was lovely watching First Officer Gary Shipps and Captain Jennifer Shamsy help every single child down the steps of the aircraft to their awaiting buses. They paid attention to their safety without the passengers even knowing it. Thank you for the adventure, ExpressJet and BBA!

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Heather Ragle, flight attendant – ATL
My crew and I were all hand-picked by BBA from applications we submitted to be part of this special day. It’s an amazing honor to watch these beautiful kids light up at taking their first flight, first limo ride, and the VIP treatment they get. It truly is an adventure that will provide these families memories of a lifetime. When we went back to pick them up on Monday I couldn’t wait to hear what they’d done. They were happy, tired and it was obvious that some of the kids and their parents had made new best friends. I spent time speaking to each of the families. The parents were all thrilled to see their kids smiling and enjoying life. It was a well needed break from reality and five glorious days of bonding for these families. The whole crew and I felt a connection with these kids and the organization, so we have decided to make Peachtree Road Race a fundraiser for BBA. Last year BBA received $83,000 in donations. They are able to do so much for these kids with that, what if they had $100,000? Once we get the fundraising page up we’ll be inviting everyone that is running the race at ExpressJet to participate. It’s truly a worthy cause. Until then, hug a loved one… life’s a gift! Go find your own adventure…

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Alex Marren, COO
Thank you to every ExpressJet team member who worked to make this flight happen. It’s amazing to see how many crew members applied to operate the trip, the hundreds of hand-written notes our people sent in from around the country, and the excitement of our Family Helpers, employees and families at the Bon Voyage and Welcome Home events. I’m very proud of how dedicated our people are to the Bert’s Big Adventure cause.

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Thank you to everyone who supported Bert’s Big Adventure 2015!

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Family Helper with a hand-made sign for her special kids
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Adventurers deplaning as they’re welcomed by ExpressJet employees

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Family Helpers greeting their special kids after their trip

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Family Helpers helping their special child discover goodies in her bin at the Welcome Back event

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ExpressJet crew members with a BBA family

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BBA founder Bert Weiss with two adventurers

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Adventurer hugging Spiderman at the Welcome Back event

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Family Helpers and Bert dancing with the Adventurers at the Welcome Back event

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Family Helpers escorting their families with their luggage

In honor of Black History Month, ExpressJet recognizes the many achievements in aviation by African Americans and celebrates our own contribution to their legacy within the industry.

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On Feb. 12, 2009, ExpressJet (then ASA) made history when Captain Rachelle Jones, First Officer Stephanie Grant, and flight attendants Diana Galloway and Robin Rogers (pictured) flew the first commercial flight operated by an all-female African American crew. A round-trip from Atlanta to Nashville, the flight happened by pure chance when a first officer became ill and First Officer Grant was called to fill in.

The historic nature of the flight was made possible by the brave men and women who broke through the walls of discrimination and took the aviation industry to new heights. In celebration of Black History Month, we remember these courageous individuals and their extraordinary contributions which paved the way for countless other aviation professionals.

1912: Emory Conrad Malick becomes the first African American pilot

1921: Bessie Coleman becomes the first African American female pilot

1931: The Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical School provides instruction in aircraft mechanics to its first African American class

1938: Cornelius Coffey becomes the first African American to establish an aeronautical school

1940: C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson, often called the “Father of Black Aviation,” is hired as the chief flight instructor for the WWII Tuskegee Airmen at the Tuskegee Institute

1956: Perry Young becomes the first African American commercial airline pilot, hired by regional carrier New York Airways

1958: Ruth Carol Taylor becomes the first African American flight attendant, hired by Mohawk Airlines

1963: By way of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Marlon Green becomes the first African American pilot hired by a major commercial airline, Continental Airlines

1978: Jill E. Brown Hiltz becomes the first African American female pilot hired by a major commercial airline

2009: The first all-female African American crew to operate a commercial flight

ExpressJet is dedicated to fostering a work environment that respects, celebrates, and promotes diversity, and we are incredibly proud to have added to the long history of African American success in aviation.

We’re committed to continuing our partnership with groups who share these values, such as the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP). OBAP’s mission is to enhance, advance and promote educational opportunities in aviation and aerospace. Their goals are to motivate youth in becoming educationally prepared for careers and life, and increasing minority participation and representation in aviation and aerospace through exposure, training, mentoring and scholarships. ExpressJet is proud to support OBAP and other groups who share a passion for aviation and are dedicated to attracting the best talent and improving the industry.

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ExpressJet has partnered with Atlanta-based charity Bert’s Big Adventure since it started 13 years ago. BBA takes children with chronic and terminal illnesses and their families on an all-expenses-paid, once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disney World, and providing the flight is a special honor to our ExpressJet team members.

Our crews volunteer to operate the flight; team members serve as Family Helpers where they treat their special family like VIPs; hundreds of ExpressJet people sent in hand-written notes to the Adventurers from our maintenance and crew bases across the country; and dozens of employees and their families gathered in the chilly hangar for the annual Bon Voyage event today.

For many of the BBA families, this is their first flight, first trip to Disney or even their first family vacation, and ExpressJet people are proud to make it extra special for these deserving kids. Check out some photos from today’s Bon Voyage event:

02-19 BBA Outgoing-113BBA Crew and Disney characters welcome an Adventurer onto the plane

IMG_1255ExpressJet COO Alex Marren (second from right) with Trey, Cynthia and Sharon – three of the many ExpressJet team members who help make BBA happen

02-19 BBA Outgoing-552015 BBA Flight Attendant Vanessa greets an Adventurer

02-19 BBA Outgoing-292Disney characters join the celebration

02-19 BBA Outgoing-66Captain Jeff helps an Adventurer onto the plane

02-19 BBA Outgoing-280ExpressJet crew members with Bert and Stacey – the founders of Bert’s Big Adventure

02-19 BBA Outgoing-176ExpressJet crew members and Family Helpers with an Adventurer

IMG_1231Family Helpers waiting for their special family

IMG_1245ExpressJet team members and their families cheer on the Adventurers

IMG_1218Family Helpers meet their special Adventurer

02-19 BBA Outgoing-22ExpressJet team members with Disney characters

IMG_1225Family Helpers with their special Adventurer

IMG_1246ExpressJet family cheering on the Adventurers

IMG_1219Family Helpers wait for their special family

02-19 BBA Outgoing-1842015 BBA First Officer Dean poses with an Adventurer

02-19 BBA Outgoing-312015 BBA Flight Attendant Vanessa talks with an Adventurer

IMG_1221Family Helpers meet their special Adventurer

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