At SkyWest, we recognize, embrace and celebrate the differences that make each of our 14,000 aviation professionals unique. We are proud of our inclusive work environment and know we are stronger together because of our diversity.
This month, several employees from across the system submitted stories about their SkyWest journey and what Pride Month means to them. Here’s what they had to say:
Wynn Gunter – Flight Attendant, PDX
Growing up in Mississippi, I found it hard being able to accept and appreciate the person I was behind my skin. I had no other friends growing up who were LGBTQ+. I felt alone a lot of the time and felt like I had to keep it a secret. I lived behind a lot of lies because I was ashamed. My mom had no idea that I was gay and I came out to her when I was 18 years old. It wasn’t all butterflies and rainbows from that point, as it was a challenge for my mom at first.
A couple of years later and I joined SkyWest at the ripe age of 22. I had no intention of becoming a flight attendant, however, working at SkyWest has been one of the best things that has happened to me. Before I came to SkyWest, I was working at a hotel near the Portland Airport (PDX). While there, I met SkyWest crews, including the fabulous Beverly Mendez who told me about the InFlight hiring events that were taking place. She told me, “I better see you there!” So, I found a cheap ticket to fly down to SJC for a hiring event and the rest was history.
Since joining SkyWest, I found a community that I felt like I was truly a part of and have met some of my best friends at the PDX base. I also met my partner of four years through the airlines. Since then we have traveled to Greece, Amsterdam, Belgium, New York City, and countless trips to theme parks across the country. We are huge rollercoaster nerds.
I feel like I owe a lot of who I am today to SkyWest. I finally felt like I found a community that I could be a part of where I could be comfortable with the person who I am regardless of my sexuality. The airline industry is a huge part of our lives now and we are forever grateful for the experience. Being part of a company where you feel recognized and supported for the person you are is a huge key to success. Happy Pride!
Stevie Russell – Flight Attendant, ORD
For Stevie Russell, a Chicago-based flight attendant, SkyWest was the perfect fit for her. Having wanted to be a flight attendant for quite some time, Stevie started researching different air carriers and quickly realized that she wanted to be at SkyWest.
“I did my research and found SkyWest to be very open, accepting, and an awesome place to work. It was a no-brainer for me and knew that SkyWest was the perfect fit for me. Immediately, I felt very welcomed and accepted.”
For Stevie, Pride Month holds a special place in her heart and is an opportunity to recognize and reflect on the contributions of those – both past and present – who have made difference.
“It’s a time to promote love, equality, self-affirmation, recognition and to educate,” she said. “I am able to be who I am today because they were brave enough to have fought and rallied before me.”
When asked what advice she has for those who want to be an ally for the LGBTQ+ community, Stevie asks that everyone has an open heart and mind and to research and ask questions to someone that you know is a part of the community.
“There are so many different sexual orientations out there; learning what you can about them really helps to understand the people within the community and what it really means to be an ally.”
Justin Shurtz – Maintenance Control, HDQ
My story at SkyWest begins in 2017. I had done corporate aviation until then but decided for a change. What I didn’t expect to find is a SkyWest family. No matter where I go and whenever I meet other SkyWest employees, it’s almost like we are instant friends.
As a gay mechanic, it’s not always easy. When I first started in Salt Lake (SLC), I was terrified about people finding out. But when the time came, I was surprised by what I had found. Everyone in SLC welcomed me with open arms. Fast forward to today, and I’m now in Maintenance Control.
I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. My partner and I have been on many amazing journeys that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. The possibilities are endless. The professionalism and respect that I have found at SkyWest just can’t be put into words.
SkyWest may be one of the largest airlines in the world, but we definitely have that small company feeling. As I move forward with my career and with my flight training, I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. I’m excited to see what the future brings and super excited to be a part of the journey.
Michael Lanzaro Fisher – Flight Attendant, ORD
Growing up, Michael Lanzaro Fisher, a Chicago-based flight attendant, always felt he was different.
“I wasn’t sure how different I was until I was much older,” he said.
Michael describes coming out as gay was a relief that gave him a chance to refocus on his goals for the future. Reveling in his newfound clarity, he flew home to share the special time with his family. It was onboard the aircraft home he noticed the flight attendants’ kindness and professionalism.
“They had such poise and grace,” said Michael. “I admired how they seemed so happy while at work.”
From that point on, Michael felt like aviation was the place for him.
“I don’t know exactly what it was,” said Michael. “Aviation calls to people. It’s not something you just go and pick; it’s inside of you.”
Michael researched how to become a flight attendant and began applying for jobs. He applied for the flight attendant position at several airlines, including SkyWest. After a positive interview experience at SkyWest, he knew it was the place for him.
“I put all the other airlines on the back burner; I wanted to be at SkyWest,” said Michael.
Michael joined the SkyWest team as a flight attendant in 2018. After negative experiences at other jobs, he was nervous about how he would fit in with his coworkers. However, from the beginning, Michael says he was greeted with open arms.
“I’m forever grateful I’m a flight attendant at SkyWest,” said Michael. “My coworkers are very accepting. No one seems to care about your differences; they never put you down — they just treat you as a human being.”
Making an effort to embrace the differences of those around him and to model inclusive behavior with everyone he meets, Michael’s actions are mirrored by countless others at SkyWest thanks to a culture of respect and teamwork that has been built over the last 49 years.
In February 2021, Michael was promoted to lead flight instructor. It was not Michael’s plan to go for a promotion so quickly, but after encouragement from his co-workers, he decided to go for it and is enjoying his new role in Chicago. Michael hopes that in the future people won’t need to come out and that respect and inclusion will be commonplace everywhere. Until then, Michael is grateful for the way his SkyWest team has welcomed him.