Casey Grant, among first Black flight attendants, pushes for more representation in aviation

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Friday, February 16, 2024
Flight attendant reflects on Black Aviation Professionals Day.
Casey Grant, one of the first Black flight attendants for Delta Airlines, speaks about her experience on Black Aviation Professionals Day.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Casey Grant was one of the first Black women to become a flight attendant, and she is still working to get more Black representation in the air.

"It was a turbulent time because it was racism. I as I like to say we were fighting our civil rights in the air, because Martin Luther King was fighting on the ground for equal rights for everyone," said Grant, who is also the creator of International Black Aviation Day.

Grant is an Illinois native, and was hired by Delta in 1971, a little more than 50 years ago.

"I was faced with passengers not wanting to talk to me, didn't want me to serve them," she said. "The pilots not responding to us and telling us that we couldn't serve them. So it was a very turbulent time, but it was also sprinkled in with a lot of wonderful time, because we were seeing the world we were traveling all over."

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At the time, flight attendants couldn't weigh more than 120 lbs. grant said she and her fellow Black colleagues also couldn't wear their hair in Afro-centric styles.

"Had they weighed me that day that I finished my exam, I wouldn't have been a flight attendant," Grant said. "People don't understand the trials and tribulations that we had to go through the end denied access on the airplane, hotels. Being called the n-word to our faces. And we had to tolerate that."

According to a 2021 U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics report, only 3.9% of aircraft pilots and flight engineers were Black. Less than 15% of flight attendants were Black.

Grant said statistics like that are the reason she created International Black Aviation Day.

"I want people to be aware of all of the Black contributions that we have made, the pioneers that aren't recognized," she said.

She and other advocates are pushing for airlines to recruit more Black pilots, flight attendants, air traffic controllers and more.

"We are qualified. We're just not a lot of times offered those opportunities," said Grant.

Grant's International Black Aviation Day is included on the website for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington D.C.

Grant has also started an academy to train young African Americans to consider careers in the aviation industry.