United Airlines commemorates Women’s History Month with all-female flight crew

Crew, which came together organically on schedule, flew from Newark to Florida (Sarasota) and back Thursday

In honor of Women’s History Month, United Airlines recognized an all-female crew on Thursday that flew from Newark to Sarasota, Florida — and back — led by Capt. Gabrielle Harding.

First Officer Julia Ewalefo and all the flight attendants, customer service representatives and ramp services employees working the flight were also women. They flew a Boeing 737.

United officials said it was a moment for United and the team at Newark Liberty International Airport to seize the spotlight and show how far the aviation industry has come in increasing women representation.

The all-female flight crew.

Harding was thrilled.

“It was wonderful having an all-women crew, and Julia did a great job, especially it being her first time flying for United,” she said. “It’s important to highlight these occasions to help inspire the next generation of women aviators. I hope any young girl seeing this story believes they can achieve their dreams if they put their mind to it.”

United officials said the best aspect of the flight was this: It was scheduled organically.

Harding is a line check pilot, which means she trains new pilots, such as Ewalefo, who was making her first flights with United in this capacity. When the two were paired for flights 1215 and 2612 to go along with an all-female flight attendant crew, the United team at EWR thought it was appropriate to recognize the accomplishment.

United solicited additional support from the company’s women and Black employee business resource groups, which help spread awareness and created a reception for the departing and returning flights, company officials said.

Harding, who has been flying for 31 years, including 17 years at United, is the second Black woman to be a line check pilot in United’s history, and first for the Boeing fleet. She has a B.S. in flight education from Hampton University and is the only Black woman flying a commercial airline who has graduated from an HBCU pilot program.

The all-female crew at the airport.

She is also part of the “Hampton 6” that consists of all Hampton graduates who are now captains at United.

Mika Tupy, the managing director of alliances and president of BEACON, United’s Black BRG, was happy the event was recognized.

“Capt. Harding continues to pave the way and reach back to help others,” she said. “Today was very special, as she was able to help Julia on her path to achieve her final certification.”

Aviation continues to evolve to be inclusive of people with varying backgrounds.

United officials say the airline is eager to give anyone, regardless of racial/ethnic/gender/sexual background, a chance to work on the flight deck or any other career — providing they complete a stringent training process.