In your own words, tell us, who is Kerwin McKenzie?
I’m an ex-airline employee who has visited 125 countries and flown 180 airlines. I’m super passionate about aviation and airplanes. I’m also an author of two books for airline employees, the creator of several websites and two podcasts and a conference speaker. My family has the gift of gab and I continue that tradition. Plus, I love people.
Can you tell us about your journey?
I was born in Jamaica, the first country visited was Martinique in the Caribbean in 1980 as a French exchange student, have been to several Caribbean islands since then including Barbados where I started University in 1986. I started my aviation career in the airline industry in 1994 with Delta Air Lines and left in 2011 to start my travel blogging business.
What or who inspired you to work in the travel industry?
As a young boy growing up in Jamaica, I always wanted to be a pilot. I was fascinated by airplanes. But my family couldn’t afford to send me to flight school, so that didn’t happen. However, my love for aviation did not wane. And in 1994 I started working in the airline industry. I think I got the travel bug from my grandmother as she was always traveling places when I was growing up. Plus, I was a curious child, always wondering where people are going and why. I’ve not changed much.
As an Author, Speaker, Airline Travel Resource & Consultant, and after working for several airlines in the past, is there anything else you aspire to do?
Oddly enough I’ve always wanted to get a Ph.D. I could have been done with it by now, had I stated, but we will see. And I think I’d love to take a crack at acting.
What encouraged you to start your podcast, What's Happening in Travel?
The main news media doesn’t understand aviation and oftentimes gets important details wrong. They call the airplanes incorrectly which is annoying. I’d like to change that, so What’s Happening in Travel is my fellow aviation geek and I talking about the weekly aviation news in a way that normal people can understand and digest it. And adding background for fellow aviation geeks.
In 2020, there continues to be a lack of diversity and inclusion in travel, how has that impacted you personally or professionally?
This is weird, really, weird. I’ve approached brands several times and told no and then my fellow non-Black content creators are being paid to do the jobs for which I was told they have no budget. Something is wrong with that. Brands will have press trips and have zero diversity on them. Conferences will have a full line up and zero diversity. It is even more annoying when the topic is diversity! Travel brands won’t even have diverse staff, so how can they create diverse content and attract diverse customers. One major conference had an Award and there was zero diversity in the judging. I asked them what was up with that and they said, they will get their PR agency to take a look at it. Thankfully the next year they hired one Black lady on the team. But it just never occurred to them this was an issue. The brochures rarely show any diversity either.
The senior people at the travel brands are not diverse at all when there is qualified talent in the marketplace who are just never given the opportunity. The frontline is the major place you see minority faces, hardly ever in management. Brands want our opinions for free but will offer to pay our non-Black counterparts. This kind of stuff happens day after day. After a while, it just becomes tiresome.
What have been the challenges that you have experienced in the travel industry?
I’ve always had to work three times harder for some reason. I’m sometimes treated differently when I sit in the business or first-class cabin of an airplane, when I stand on the First Class line to check-in for a flight, when I show up in an airport lounge and when I check-in at the Elite desk in hotels. I constantly have to smile even when being treated badly, knowing that if I blow my top and the authorities arrive, I’ll be the one they think is wrong. Sometimes it’s a lot of avoidance when I travel. I’ve gotten used to it now.
How can we as a team, community, and the public be more supportive and amplify your voice as a Black travel expert, writer, and creator?
I think people can say something when they are present in meetings and decisions are being made that they know are wrong. Also, introduce us to decision-makers as well as share our content. We are not stupid, we just get overlooked a lot.
What advice would you tell your younger self?
I’m pretty laid back, so maybe to be a little more aggressive, not too much, but don’t wait so long to say something.
What is your hope for the future?
That the travel space will open its arms and realize that there are many different faces out there. That my nephews won’t have the same experiences I have.
Anything else you want to share?
To help with the lack of diversity in the travel industry, I and a group of other content creators created the Black Travel Alliance. Our purpose is to support Black content creators around the world and increase their representation in the travel industry, including but not limited to employment, conferences, and media. This is really important so that the travel industry can’t say they don’t know where to find us; as that’s what’s being said now. Also, so that they don’t just use the same voices over and over. Our voices should be heard.
Where can the audience find out more about you?
Website: www.Passrider.com for airline employees, their families, and friends.
Website: www.Cruisinaltitude.com for airline travel information
Website: www.UnfamiliarDestinations.com where you can find information on 365 places you should visit, but have perhaps never heard of. Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/loyaltytravels Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/loyaltytravels Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/passrider Podcast: What’s Happening in Travel; it’s on Spotify, Apple Podcast and at https://passrider.buzzsprout.com