Southwest Airlines’ First Black Flight Attendant

CJ Bostic sadly passed away at the age of 73 last month. She was the first Black flight attendant of Southwest Airlines and became an icon for the Texan carrier over the years. In her honor, Bostic’s life was paid tribute by the city of Dallas this week.

A warming presence

Southwest Airlines recently highlighted how revered Bostic was at the airline throughout her wider community. She wore her uniform with pride and displayed outstanding professionalism that inspired her team.

Dallas’ authorities have also been honoring Bostic. The mayor proclaimed that February 11th was to be spent celebrating the flight attendant’s life.

Mayor of Dallas Eric Johnson stated the following about Bostic::

“The City of Dallas is privileged to honor the life and legacy of Charlene Jenkins “CJ” Bostic, an extraordinary woman recognized as the first Black flight attendant employed at Southwest Airlines; Throughout her phenomenal career, she displayed the highest degree of professionalism and care to everyone she met; She was known for her warmth, her compassion, and her spirit of positivity, making a lasting impression to thousands of fellow flight attendants and customers alike; We wish to offer our deepest condolences to the family of CJ Bostic, who departed from this life on January 10, 2022.”

Overcoming the challenges

Bostic was born in Lockhart, Texas, on April 12th, 1948, and after graduating from high school, she relocated to Dallas, where she began working as a model. Southwest hired her in 1972. Notably, this was during the first 12 months of Southwest’s operational history, so Bostic was with the airline in one of its most critical periods.

Mayor Johnson highlighted that as Southwest’s first Black flight attendant, Bostic faced racism from passengers during her shifts. Nevertheless, she maintained a strong attitude and showed resilience despite the challenging conditions. All in all, she demonstrated kindness to all.

As a result of her performance over the years, Bostic received several accolades. Mayor Johnson notes the following awards that were given to her over the decades:

  • 1981 Founders Award
  • 2005 Flight Attendant of the Quarter
  • 2006 Founders Award
  • 2012 Flight Attendant of the Month
  • 2015 Outstanding Crew Award
  • 2016 Customer Service Award


Bostic supported several influential charities and her passing was met with countless tributes. Photo: Southwest Airlines

A lasting legacy

Bostic flew for the last time in May last year. Bostic died after a four-year battle with myeloma cancer, which is a cancer of the plasma cells. She hoped to return to the air, but the global health crisis and her illness made this a challenging task.

Her love for flying never faded. She shared the following in a 2011 blog post:

I love being a Flight Attendant today as much as I did in 1972… Flying is no longer just for the wealthy or the businessmen, and it’s certainly no longer a special occasion in itself. Frankly—for most folks, flying has become just a pain in the “rear.” What hasn’t changed is my love for Southwest and for flying. I mean, after 40 years, if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t keep doing it. To do what we Flight Attendants do on a daily basis, you have to love people—and there are still lots of wonderful people out there to love. And after four decades—I’m still spreading the LUV that Southwest has showered on me.

The icon has left numerous memories that have undoubtedly inspired many within her industry and across the globe. Even though she was met with underserved racial abuse while doing her job, she did not let the negativity win and went on to become a legend in her profession. She is remembered as a kind soul that went above and beyond to help others.

Our thoughts go out to the family and loved ones of CJ Bostic. Let us know what you think of her service and achievements in the comment section.

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