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Business Profile: The Rainbow TeAAm Flying High
by Ross Forman
2006-12-06

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George Carrancho and Betty Young run American Airlines' Rainbow TeAAm.

________

It's not just a job for Betty Young and George Carrancho but, rather, a perfect mix of their personal lives with a profession.

Young and Carrancho run American Airlines' Rainbow TeAAm, the company's highly successul gay and lesbian national marketing and sales force. Young, 36, a lifelong Texas resident, is lesbian; Carrancho, 40, also a Texas native, is gay.

'I love my job,' said Young, part of the Rainbow TeAAm for two years. Added Carrancho: 'With our jobs, we're able to make a difference in the GLBT community. Clearly, one of the most rewarding parts of this job is that I can make a difference.'

That's because American Airlines has been a pioneer in implementing fair-minded policies and practices for its LGBT customers and employees. Just consider:

— It's the first major airline to implement same-sex domestic partner benefits ( 2000 ) , offering equal health, pension and travel benefits to same-sex partners of gay and lesbian employees.

— It's the first major airline to implement both sexual orientation and gender identity ( 2001 ) in its workplace nondiscrimination policies.

— It's the first major airline to have a recognized GLBT employee resource group—in this case, GLEAM ( Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Employees of AMR ) . Formed in 1994, GLEAM's mission is to work with management and to reach out to allies and other employee groups to embrace the principles of fairness, acceptance and diversity in all company policies and programs.

— It's the first major airline to launch a GLBT-specific site, www.aavacations.com/rainbow, for booking leisure and vacation travel to gay-welcoming destinations.

— The airline's airport clubs, known as Admirals Club, state that members are eligible to purchase 'spousal' memberships for their domestic partners on an equal basis with heterosexual married couples.

So, it was no surprise American Airlines was a corporate global sponsor this summer of the Gay Games in Chicago—or that American invests at least $1 million annually into the LGBT community.

'We want to be involved with the gay community because we feel it is the right thing to do because American is involved with many different communities in the markets that we serve,' Young said. 'Internally, the company has always been very supportive of the gay community and in support of our jobs, encouraging us to be out in the community.

'The LGBT community has been a long-term goal of American's for years, not just now because it's culturally being more accepted. American was one of the first Fortune 100 companies to be out there asking for the LGBT community's business and [ to be ] giving back to the community. We're not just out there asking for your business; we support the community and we give back to it.'

That it sure does. American sponsors numerous domestic non-profit organizations, such as HRC, GLAAD and several local community centers ( Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Miami ) . American also supports literally hundreds of other LGBT-related events. The airline, for instance, is a sponsor of the International Women's Flag Football Association, the Gay Softball World Series, the Gay Super Bowl, GLAAD Media Awards, Olivia Cruises and more.

During the spring, Young and Carrancho are on the road about 80 percent of the time, promoting American at various LGBT events. 'You have to be on the road, telling people who you are, that you're dedicated to the GLBT community,' Carrancho said. 'One of the main things we hope to accomplish is [ to ] further penetrate the market. A lot of the research that has been done shows that the LGBT [ community ] is a vibrant market with extra disposable income—money that can be can be used for travel.'

American's Rainbow TeAAM has been in existence for 12 years, and American is the only airline with a dedicated marketing and sales team for the LGBT community.

'A lot of other major corporations are realizing how big the GLBT community is, such as IBM, Wells-Fargo and others. We've known that,' Carrancho said.

Added Young: 'One aspect of our jobs is to educate the LGBT community that American Airlines is here for you. That's what we were doing.'

American had a booth at the Gay Games Expo, where they gave away discount travel certificates. They also do community service within the LGBT community and work with numerous area resource agencies, such as the Dallas AIDS Resource Center. 'We want to support those companies that support the gay community,' Young said.

Chicago is a major city for American, serving as the company's second-largest hub. American will have a role supporting the new Center on Halsted, which is slated to open soon.

'With so many daily flights in and out of Chicago, the Gay Games was a natural fit for American Airlines,' Carrancho said. 'Our preliminary numbers show that the expo and the Games overall were a very successful sponsorship for American.'

American's Tim Kincaid, the corporate communications manager and editor of the airline's Flagship News, was present 12 years ago when Rick Cirillo pitched the idea for a Rainbow TeAAm to the vice president of sales. It's no surprise the Rainbow TeAAm is as strong as ever, Kincaid said.

'I definitely envisioned that it would still be around 12 years later. It's a real credit to some smart business decisions,' Kincaid said. 'Everyone just had a hunch, a feeling that this was the right thing to do. Ultimately, it was a very shrewd business move on management's part to listen to Rick. Our plan early on was to talk to and support organizations that were important to the community. And we're still doing that.'

American Airlines outreach has certainly been noticed, with the company garnering many honors from the LGBT community:

— The company won the PlanetOut Travel Award for Airline of the Year in 2006.

— The original Rainbow TeAAm sales group was inducted into the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association ( IGLTA ) Hall of Fame in 2006.

— American scored 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index—the highest number possible. It is also the only airline to achieve this distinction for five years in a row ( 2001-present ) .

— It received the Dallas Voice Readers Award for Best Airline ( 2006 ) .

— OUT Traveler Magazine 2005 Readers' Choice Awards ranked American Airlines as Best Airline and the gold-standard U.S. carrier for hospitality and service.

— It won the Out & About Editor's Choice Award for Best Airline ( 1995 and 1996 ) .

— American won AIDS Action Foundation's 'Community Service Award 1998.'

— It won the San Francisco AIDS Foundation Corporate Leadership Award ( 1998 ) .


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