Spreading the Wings of Compassion – Airways Magazine

DALLAS – The thrill of travel often manifests itself as soon as we arrive at a new destination. Our senses are wired to take in new sights, sounds, and even smells. The fascinating screenplay of life that unfolds as one leaves the airport and begins their onward journey, can also show humanity at its most vulnerable and weakest. One flight attendant noticed and took action.

Nancy Rivard is the founder of Airline Ambassadors International (AAI), a 501 (C) 3 charity she created in 1997. She is an aviation veteran, having worked for American Airlines (AA) for 37 years. Equipped with an MBA, she began her AA career in management and then transitioned to a flight attendant supervisor before finally becoming a flight attendant. A career that went in the opposite direction of what we’re used to seeing on the corporate ladder.

She explained that her father’s untimely death gave her a new perspective on life, and she resolved to travel more and follow her intuition. This inspired her to create a way to combine her love of travel with a growing desire to help those in need. Her inspiration of lei became Airline Ambassadors International, founded with the mantra of ‘Traveling to make a difference’.

Rivard was featured on the front page of AAir Mail in 2001. Photo: Nancy Rivard

Focus Points


The organization is focused on three main areas:

First and foremost: service to those less fortunate through the Humanitarian Missions Program. AAI began by bringing groups of airline personnel to orphanages to give them much-needed donations, whilst sharing care and compassion. In the beginning, airline employees could travel ‘space available’ fairly easily and bring as many bags of donations as they wanted, at no extra cost. With this benefit, AAI ‘angels’ were able to bring desperately needed shoes, clothing, school supplies, and more to many orphanages around the world.

As such, AAI was even more needed in times of disaster, as it brought in critical supplies and helped nations rebuild, as they did after the earthquakes in Haiti, Thailand, El Salvador, and Japan.


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Featured image: Rivard is pictured in front of a Douglas DC-3 operated by the charity Remote Area Medical. Image: Nancy Rivard.

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