At MIA, American Airlines workers turn club into mask-making hub

Sewing masks for colleagues on the front lines at the airport, in the air

MIAMI, Fla. – Suzanne Peters is usually working with frequent fliers as American Airlines' Premium Guest Service Senior Manager at Miami International Airport (MIA).

Now in the Admirals Club near Gate 30, Peters and other team members are hard at work at sewing machines, making face masks for their fellow employees on the front line.

American Airlines ordered face masks for its team members that work in places where social distancing isn’t always possible, such as those at the airport and others who work aboard flights. The masks are on the way and set to arrive next week, but American team members wanted to help their colleagues asap.

Despite having no sewing experience, MIA’s premium guest services representatives found themselves on a FaceTime video call with one team member’s mother. She was giving them a crash course in sewing.

"I've had a whole team of doers," said Peters.

Before they knew it, the team had formed a production line inside the Admirals Club. They were cutting material, arranging it on ironing boards, and stitching it on sewing machines. It wasn’t long before volunteers from every work group stopped in to support the team’s face mask mission.

“I feel joy to be able to do something like this for my coworkers,” said Premium Guest Service Representative Gislaine Berrios, who only learned to sew a few days ago. “We have to do our best during these uncertain times and this is my way of giving back.”

While Peters’ team set up at Admirals Club, Mercedes Haughton, a cargo manager at MIA, was trying to figure out what she could do to protect her team at the airline’s MIA cargo facility on the other side of the airport.

Haughton transformed her office into a sewing shop, complete with colorful strips of clothing that she cut to make masks. The second production line of face masks at MIA was born.

“She had me sit with her — six feet away — and made me a brand new mask,” said Damaris Torres, cargo operations regional manager at MIA.

Gislaine Berrios, premium guest services representative at Miami International Airport for American Airlines sews face masks for her fellow team members on the frontlines. (Courtesy American Airlines)

Team members at Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), Richmond International Airport (RIC), Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), and Reagan National Airport (DCA) also started team mask-making efforts. The Net Shop at American’s Base Maintenance Facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma, joined in the effort.

Back at MIA, Peters says she is thrilled that her team’s endeavor has spread across the system.

“The collaboration and teamwork, the spirit of helping — that is what MIA is all about,” said Peters.

Juan Carlos Liscano, vice president of American’s MIA hub, is humbled by what the team has done to take care of each other.

“It makes me so proud that they have turned a simple idea into action, keeping their fellow colleagues healthy,” said Liscano.

Across the network, more than 1,300 face masks have been sewn by the American Airlines team in just seven days.

About the Author: