“Our flight deck should reflect the diverse group of people on board our planes every day,” the airline said in a tweet.
While some social media users praised the goal, others protested — and some high-profile conservative media personalities described the goal as “wokeness” run amok.
A spokesman for United declined to address the pushback. The airline responded to one user in a tweet, saying that all “highly qualified candidates” who are accepted into the academy “will have met or exceeded the standards we set for admittance.”
“Our commitment to diversity is about recruiting from the deepest pool possible of exceptional and qualified candidates who want to pursue a career as a commercial airline pilot, particularly those who otherwise may not have attempted to do so due to a variety of factors, primarily financial barriers,” said United spokesman Charles Hobart. “We believe that we’re going to be a better, strong airline because of this and we also understand that our pilot group needs to better reflect the communities that we serve.”
United and its credit card partner, JPMorgan Chase, have dedicated $2.4 million in scholarship money to the goal. The airline is partnering with groups including the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, Sisters of the Skies, the Latino Pilots Association and the Professional Asian Pilots Association, which will identify applicants for the scholarships and help direct potential students to the United Aviate Academy.
“It’s about recruiting from the deepest pool possible and ensuring that we’re able to bring more qualified candidates into the pilot pipeline,” Hobart said. “By looking everywhere for talent, particularly within communities that have traditionally been underserved while also upholding our high standards, we’ll be a better airline for it.”
Joel Webley, chair of the board of directors of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, said in a statement that the group plans to form a consortium of nonprofits to provide additional support for scholarship recipients including mentorship, career development resources and financial help. He called the United goal “an ambitious and public affirmation of not only the value of diversity, but the business benefits of it.”
“It’s a bold statement, and United Airlines should be applauded for having the courage to state it so publicly,” Webley said. “Over the years, many companies have dedicated resources and dollars to solving these challenges, but rarely with this level of direct investment for students. We hope Aviate will serve as a model for other companies in the future.”
United says it expects to hire more than 10,000 pilots total over the next decade, roughly double the amount it plans to train. For those who take the United Aviate Academy path, the flight training school’s website lays out the years-long process to become a United pilot, including training, building flight hours and flying for a regional carrier.
“We will be sure that all safety standards are met and will continue to be met,” said Capt.