35-Year-Old Black Woman Runs The World's Largest Black-Owned Airline

Photo: Western Air

A Black woman running the world's largest Black-owned and operated airline is looking to change up the aviation industry. A Travel Noire profile details the meteoric rise of 35-year-old Sherrexcia “Rexy” Rolle, Esq. and her family's Bahamas-based airline Western Air.

Rolle, who's now the company's first female President and CEO, said her parents conceived the idea for an airline business during a family trip to Florida. Pilot Rex Rolle and Shandrice Woodside-Rolle, an international businesswoman, launched Western Air in 2000. Rexy's father served as the President and CEO of their airline through the end of 2023, while her mother was the Vice President and COO.

Their daughter attended college with a focus on aviation and business law to prepare herself for the family business. Rexy served as Western Air's vice president of operations and general counsel for nine years before she succeeded her father, who remains with the company for guidance.

Her 15 years of experience fueled the rapid expansion of the airline, including launching the first routes into the United States and rebuilding the brand after COVID-19 and Hurricane Dorian. She was instrumental in Western Air hitting massive milestones, employing over 230 people, and growing into the largest privately-owned airline in the Bahamas, according to the article.

“I thank God and I thank our hard working, talented team for their commitment to the service we provide," Rolle said in a news release announcing her new role as CEO. "Each person plays a part. And as a family business, it’s truly an honor to step into the role that my Dad served for so long."

Another motivation for Rolle is to diversify the aviation industry and open more doors for both racial minorities and women. In a 2018 interview with Essence, she detailed the various challenges and "apprehension" she faced from industry executives -- concerns she echoed while speaking with Travel Noire.

“I immediately understood that there was some curiosity about me being there. It wasn’t until you [I] start speaking to people that they understand, ‘she’s not just somebody’s assistant, she’s actually involved in the industry,'” Rexy recounted. “I definitely find there are some preconceived notions to what an airline executive should be [because] I think they’ve always looked a certain way… So it’s about combatting that, and understanding that your work must speak for itself."

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