American Airlines inducted 100 of its top team members to the new Circle of Excellence at a recognition experience in Dallas-Fort Worth in November.
Circle of Excellence honourees are team members with a career-long history of exemplary customer service, commitment to their teams and American’s operation.
Formerly known as the Chairman’s Award, the Circle of Excellence was renamed in 2023 to purposefully put the focus on the recipient. The award continues to be the highest honour and gratitude awarded to the airline’s team members for their career achievements.
More than 1,600 peer nominations were submitted this year from around the world. A panel of former recipients reviews each submission and deliberates on the nominees in partnership with senior leaders in the organisation, including CEO Robert Isom.
This year’s honourees have a combined 2,543 years of service with American Airlines and its legacy carriers, and an average of 25 years of service. Honourees represent the vast global network American serves, living in Argentina, Australia, England, Israel, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos and the US.
Isom said: “Our Circle of Excellence honourees are the true power behind American’s success. They repeatedly go beyond their responsibilities to take care of our team, customers and operation.
“We owe our honourees a great debt of gratitude for all the ways their talent and contributions have helped make American the greatest airline in the world.”
Winners represent workgroups throughout the airline, some working through unique crises, others dedicated to fostering a workplace of inclusivity, and some challenging the status quo to move across the airline career playground.
Racheli Vardi, general manager at Tel Aviv, restarted service to the airport during the coronavirus pandemic, which presented a unique set of challenges. She was nominated for the Circle of Excellence by her peers and leadership team because of her unwavering commitment to maintaining a safe and sound operation in a turbulent region.
The airline said Vardi is a servant leader, putting the team and customers before herself, especially in times of crises, and has worked diligently to lead a successful station.
She said: “One of the key factors in running a reliable operation is to have a very good and established team. We are like a small, tight family. We care for the customers, the crews and we are very close with each other.”
In 2021, just a few days following the opening of the Tel Aviv station, Vardi and her team moved swiftly to evacuate all crew, team members and customers following some attacks in the area.
Vardi added: “The geopolitical situation that we have in the country makes people very aware of safety and security. I also learned during my military service to lead by example.
“I felt a sense of responsibility not only to my team that is working with me, but also for the crews and other team members that remained in the country that are not used to all kinds of political conflicts and emergency situations. I felt responsible for them, for their well-being and safety.”
The general manager has repeatedly successfully evacuated customers, her team, team members visiting the country and crews.
Kevaughn Hammond, a New York-based first officer, started his career at American as an aviation maintenance technician while pursuing his requirements to serve as a military pilot.
He is passionate about aviation and has inspired many of his peers to pursue careers as pilots, and personally mentors them on their journeys.
The first officer said: “For every person interested in becoming a pilot, don’t be afraid of failure. It’s a part of the journey.
“Always focus on your dreams. Write them down and hold yourself accountable,” he explained when asked what he tells mentees.
Hammond builds and maintains relationships with team members in all areas he’s supported. Nominated by an AMT he worked with at the start of his career, he couldn’t believe his team put him up for the Circle of Excellence.
He added: “I was astonished when I received the Circle of Excellence award – I didn’t expect it at all. I was just coming off a flight and I was told by our director of flight in the Northeast that I was awarded it.
“It meant so much to me. That’s what American Airlines is all about. We’re all family and we all take care of each other.”
In November, American treated its honourees and their guests to a two-day experience celebrating their achievements, including exclusive brunch and tour on the Robert L. Crandall Campus in Fort Worth, Texas, and ending with an evening gala at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas. Honourees receive a special pin, trophy and $10,000.