DALLAS – CJ Bostic, Southwest Airlines’ (WN) first black flight attendant, passed away on Monday at 73, four years after being diagnosed with cancer. She was recruited in the airline’s first year of operations.

Bostic was in WN’s third flight attendant training class when she became the airline’s first black flight attendant in 1972, just under a year after the company’s inaugural flight. CJ Bostic stood out from other flight attendants even in the initial periods of WN’s go-go boots and 10-minute turns.

Melanie Brown, a flight attendant that served closely with Bostic at WN from 1977 until 2020 and considers Bostic her closest friend, stated, “During Easter time, she would make businessmen dressed in their suits bounce onboard the plane like rabbits. And they’d all do it with a smile on their faces.”

“CJ has been nothing short of an icon at Southwest Airlines, and the dedication she demonstrated to the flight attendant field was motivating to all of us,” said Sonya LaCore, WN’s vice-president of inflight operations, who manages the airline’s flight attendants.

Brown said that Bostic was well known among WN crew members over her 49-year career, and she was frequently approached by other flight attendants who wanted a photo with her. During Southwest’s early years, Bostic was frequently called to lead recruit training.

As the airline’s first black flight attendant, Bostic encountered her fair share of racist remarks from passengers, but she seemed to always shrug them off, according to Brown. Bostic admitted to breaking ground, but she never made a big deal out of it.

CJ Bostic. Photo courtesy: the family of CJ Bostic/Southwest Airlines

A Model Flight Attendant

Brown described her as “simply the model flight attendant.”Bostic was born on April 12, 1948, in Lockhart, Texas, and lived her youth as the daughter of a career Air Force veteran traveling around the country. She told the Southwest Airlines flight magazine in 2016 that she attended college in New Jersey and subsequently worked as a model for Neiman Marcus and Rothschild’s.

When Bostic was 23, she was in Lockhart visiting her aunt when she learned that Southwest was seeking flight attendants. Beginning in April 1972, less than a year after WN’s maiden flight, Bostic was a member of the third class of flight attendants.

As the airline attempted to break through in a period of airline consolidation, bankruptcy, and turbulence, the beginnings of flight attendants were both glamorous and nerve-wracking.

In 1973, Bostic and a colleague flight attendant, Deborah Franklin, were featured on the popular television show The Dating Game. She climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with Brown, traveled the world, and served at Southwest Airlines with legendary figures like co-founder Herb Kelleher and senior executive Colleen Barrett.

The Dallas Morning News reported that Bostic flew her final flight on May 7, 2021, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two years prior, she had been diagnosed with myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells. She had intended to return to flying and continue working as a flight attendant, but the pandemic and her diagnosis made it hard for her to resume her work in the cabin.

“She was a friend and mentor to hundreds of her colleagues over the years, and she treasured serving Southwest passengers with her spirit of warmth and fun,” Lacore said. “We are all better because CJ shared her life with Southwest Airlines, and we will all remember and miss her.” Bostic is survived by her father, brother, and sister.

A WN senior advisor told Airways, “CJ was so much more than just our first African American Flight Attendant…Her departure leaves a void in our Heart; her influence guides us into the next 50 years! I’ll see her smile forever when I think of her.”

Southwest Airlines N463WN Boeing 737-7H4. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Comments from Southwest Airlines

The airline remembers the flight attendant, saying, “CJ Bostic was one of our original Flight Attendants and a beloved member of the Southwest Team since April 1972. She was dedicated, passionate, timeless, and a shining example to us all, and we are very saddened upon her passing. CJ loved being a Southwest Flight Attendant, and her first award at the airline was Hostess of the Month in 1973. Since, she won countless awards and recognitions throughout her tenure and became a legend loved throughout our Company.” 

Sonya Lacore, Southwest’s Vice President of Inflight Operations shares:

“CJ was nothing short of an icon at Southwest Airlines, and the passion she displayed for the Flight Attendant profession was inspirational to all of us. She loved serving Southwest Customers with her sense of warmth and fun and was a mentor and friend to thousands of her fellow Flight Attendants throughout the decades. We are better because CJ shared her life with Southwest Airlines, and she will be remembered, and greatly missed, by all of us.”

CJ Bostic. Photo courtesy: the family of CJ Bostic/Southwest Airlines

Featured image: A 2016 photo of CJ Bostic, who was Southwest Airlines’ first black flight attendant and started working there less than a year after the Dallas-based carrier started service. Photo: Southwest: Magazine, June 2016 issue. Article source: The Dallas Morning News