This year’s NGPA Winter Warm-Up Conference in Palm Springs was a new beginning for the event, and for the organization itself. Held at the newly renovated Riviera hotel, the space was a welcoming refreshment compared to previous years, and in a way the new, sophisticated location was perfect for bringing in 2020 and the new decade.
Overall, some of the messages and themes remained the same, but the mood of the conference had an increased sense of confidence signaling that, in its 30 years of existence, the NGPA is making remarkable headway in fulfilling its mission of increasing inclusion of the LGBTQ community within the airline industry.
As all the exhibitors, presentations, galas and contests provided a ton of activity, the conference kept its sharp focus on ultra-inclusivity, educating the masses about LGBTQ issues, and utilizing the outpour of support from sponsors like Envoy.
Our Company’s Commitment
With the shared goal of hiring enthusiastic pilots and employees into the aviation industry, Envoy and the NGPA collaborated on many occasions throughout the conference. Beyond our Diamond Elite sponsorship level, Envoy also contributed a $6,000 Advanced Flight Training scholarship won by Embry-Riddle alumnus Angie Dickerson.
For the many student pilots in attendance, Envoy held a special luncheon where we offered career advice, handed out a backpack full of high-quality swag to every attendee, and honored our hard-working Cadets who have taken advantage of Envoy’s career path to flying for American Airlines.
In addition, Envoy’s very own First Officer Swayne Martin gave a presentation highlighting his meteoric rise to success on YouTube, where he has over 133,000 subscribers. Like the consummate young professional he is, Swayne offered personal advice to the LGBTQ community about navigating a career as a gay pilot in today’s climate on social media, as well as shared his unique aviation story and his future goals.
Swayne, along with Envoy, are proud to be so heavily involved in the NGPA – our Partnerships and Outreach Manager Martin Rottler and First Officer Alex Kenning currently sit on the board of directors, and First Officer Scott Lebovitz co-chairs the Allies Committee. It all comes down to supporting those in the LGBTQ community, and pitching in to help make the aviation industry a more inclusive place.
“Part of something bigger”
NGPA Operations Manager Luke Schneider said that apart from garnering over $150,000 in scholarships for aviation students, the organization’s main focus is to create a diverse and inclusive environment within the airlines. In turn, this increases safety on the flight deck by educating others about the inclusive language needed to accomplish this goal.
Luke, who is not a pilot but an airplane enthusiast, notes the important social impact the NGPA has on the industry.
“We want our LGBTQ pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, and whoever else to feel like they’re not alone, but rather that they’re a part of something bigger,” Luke said. “That way we’re all aware and inclusive of all demographics, especially minorities.”
During the Women’s Committee breakout session, a common theme that kept coming up was the idea of putting themselves in a box in order to conform to society. Part of what the Winter Warm-Up and NGPA provide for those feeling like they can’t be their true selves, is the support and courage to overcome isolation and enter themselves into the world.
“The NGPA is here to make life better through the beauty of community,” said former NGPA Vice President Jan Anderson, an American Airlines Captain. “We want to create a safe environment for people to get out of their box, and bring positivity back into their lives.”
“Listen and grow”
Alyssa Ciardiello, a 22-year-old Flight Instructor, agrees with Jan that the fundamental purpose of the NGPA is to help people be themselves, especially in the workplace. That’s why she started the NGPA chapter at Embry-Riddle University in Daytona, where her dedication earned the David Charlebois Memorial Scholarship.
“It’s important for people to feel comfortable at work,” Alyssa said. “When people are happier in life, they become better employees, so it’s in the company’s interest as well to be inclusive of minorities and the LGBTQ community.”
Everyone deserves to feel comfortable in their own skin, and to be given the opportunity to succeed in their career – those don’t have to be mutually exclusive. That’s how organizations like the NGPA benefit everyone, not just the LGBTQ community.
It gives the industry a chance to view life through other people’s eyes, and realize that, in this industry, we’re all connected by our love of air travel.
“It starts with listening to one another,” said Alyssa. “Everyone has a unique story, and if you listen to them to understand where they’re coming from – include them in the conversation – the more you grow as a person. Even when you think you don’t have anything in common, you just have to look harder and find out that you have more similarities than you thought.”