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Business

February 10, 2013

Flight attendant grounds herself after 54 years with American Airlines

When Carole DiSalvo began working as an American Airlines Inc. stewardess, she thought she might stay a couple of years. Maybe that long.

“I was 20 when I went with American,” DiSalvo recalled. “And two years was truly the maximum. You couldn’t be married. Back then, people were getting married a lot younger than they are now. So two years was truly about the maximum that you would expect to fly. Never would you expect to go five years or 10 years.”

More than 54 years later, DiSalvo, 75, has finally grounded herself.

She worked her last assignments in mid-January, on a flight from Chicago to Shanghai, and then a flight back to Chicago. Last week, she ended a career that touched seven decades, 11 U.S. presidential administrations, numerous management changes, industry deregulation and the economic turbulence that has shaken the industry.

She arrived at American a few months before its first jet, the Boeing 707, began service. She began work more than two years before American’s current chairman and chief executive, Tom Horton, was born.

She retires as American’s most senior flight attendant on active duty. A woman hired a month before her in 1958 retired in December but had been on medical leave for some time and had not been flying.

DiSalvo’s last official duties were Jan. 28, when she spoke to American’s first class of new-hire flight attendants in 12 years, a group that gave her a standing ovation after her presentation. The following day, she talked to The Dallas Morning News about her career.

“As a matter of fact, after today, it’s going to be all over _ and it’s going to be one of the saddest days of my life,” she said as the interview neared its end, her voice cracking. But with a smile, she quickly instructed herself, “Stop it.”

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