Feature

American Airlines soars above and beyond for our nation’s heroes

"We are unapologetic in our support of the military."
Crystal Kupper Avatar
American Airlines Salute to the Troops. Photo courtesy American Airlines.

Of the nearly 1,000 jets in American Airlines’ fleet, Cedric Rockamore’s favorite may be one very special Airbus 321 dubbed “Flagship Valor.” The airplane, wrapped in patriotic colors, has the words “Medal of Honor” emblazoned on the side and depictions of the United States military’s highest decoration. 

“We get a lot of requests from different communities, but we found it fitting at American to do Flagship Valor as a tribute for our men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Rockamore, American Airlines’s Chief Diversity Officer, to We Are The Mighty. “I thought it was amazing when we took that airplane and paid tribute to the men and women who have served.” 

Flagship Valor. Photo courtesy American Airlines.

Mark it down as par for the patriotic course for American Airlines, the largest airline in the nation by fleet size and passengers carried. Its list of more than 10,000 current employees who are veterans or still serving in the National Guard or Reserves includes Rockamore, a former sailor, and also David Seymour, its Chief Operating Officer and Army veteran. 

More Than Free Baggage 

“I think this overall ethos of supporting veterans and the military community is built into our DNA,” said Rockamore, a 10-year Navy veteran. “You’ll see a large number of folks here whose parents served or someone they know, so it’s just part of the airline’s ecosystem.”  

Like many airlines, American offers perks for active-duty military members like priority boarding and free bags. However, it also has at least a half-dozen specialized programs that show a higher level of honor and respect for those who have served or are currently serving. 

In Seats for Heroes, American Airlines partners with professional sports teams like the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks to bring hundreds of wounded or ill service members in San Antonio on chartered flights to home games. Through Salute to the Troops, the airline transports 20 military families facing a cancer diagnosis from the nation’s capital to Disney World for a VIP experience. On May 31 of this year, American will fly 70 World War II veterans to Normandy, France, for the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings. 

Rockamore’s favorite military-focused program is the Snowball Express. That’s where American Airlines partners with the Gary Sinise Foundation to take more than 3,000 Gold Star family members — kids and spouses of fallen service members — to Disney World each December. 

“I have a special place in my heart for the Gary Sinise Foundation,” he said. “That work he does with Snowball Express, I don’t know how that can’t touch you.”

Left: Actor/humanitarian Gary Sinise (R) meets with Gold Star families at the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Snowball Express Send-Off Celebration at LAX Airport on December 8, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images). Right: Gary Sinise poses with American Airlines crew members at the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Snowball Express Send-Off Celebration. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)

Sinise is quick to reciprocate the appreciation.

“I have a great relationship with American Airlines,” Sinise, a world-famous actor, musician, and philanthropist, told We Are The Mighty. “These trips with The Lt. Dan Band to multiple military bases in one weekend are made possible because of them.” 

Continuing to Care 

Rockamore noticed American Airlines’ military-friendly culture almost immediately upon becoming an employee over a decade ago. His first mentor in the business was a Purple Heart recipient who bonded with Rockamore over their shared military experiences. 

“I knew immediately the respect this company has for people who have served,” he said. “If you spend any time in our organization, it will be clear that American Airlines respects and values veterans.” 

Through its Soaring Valor program, American pairs World War II veterans with high school students on trips to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. The company charters one of its aircraft to facilitate “living history lessons” from one generation to the next. American also offers discount vacations for active-duty military, veterans, and military families through WeSalute+. 

 “For those of us who have served or are actively serving, it feels good to know that people recognize your sacrifice,” Rockamore said. “That’s the spirit of American Airlines. We are unapologetic in our support of the military.” 

American Airlines military benefits include:

American takes pride in honoring its commitments to military service members traveling on the airline, including:

  • Government or military fares, where available.
  • Free checked bag allotment for active U.S. military members traveling on orders and leisure travel and for dependents when traveling on orders.
  • Offering active-duty military priority boarding.
  • Complimentary access to Admirals Club® lounge locations to current U.S. military personnel in uniform during the day of travel on an American Airlines-operated flight, when space is available.
  • Waived pet charges for trained active military dogs traveling in the cabin if on official duty.
  • Discounted vacations for U.S. active-duty military, veterans, and their families through WeSalute+.

Learn more about American’s commitment to honoring military heroes at aa.com/letgoodtakeflight.