#CYPossible: Alejandra Bonilla, Aviation and Travel Careers

Completing coursework calls for celebration, and we are proud to celebrate with Cypress College’s newest degree- and certificate-holders. By achieving these education goals, graduates and certificate-earners are equipped to continue on their college path or find strong footholds in the career fields they’ve chosen. We’ve taken the journey with these outstanding students, and know that when they look to the horizon, they see what is #CYPossible.

Alejandra Bonilla poses in a JetBlue uniform.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

My name is Alejandra Bonilla Merino. I was born and raised in El Salvador, a country in Central America. I moved to the United States in 2011, at the age of 16, to complete my undergrad education and pursue brand new opportunities.

When I moved to this country, I did not speak English. Regardless of the language barrier and all the challenges, I dedicated myself to learn it and to become an educated professional in this country.

In 2012, I began attending Ventura College. I completed three years of community college at Ventura College and I successfully graduated in Spring 2015. I received my Associate of Arts in Communications Studies. I proudly graduated with honors and I was recognized as a dean’s list student every year.

In August 2015, I moved to Orange County and transferred to California State University, Fullerton. I completed my Bachelors of Art in Communication Studies with an emphasis in Tourism and Travel. I also received a Professional Certification in Spanish to work for Hispanic Media. I graduated from California State University Fullerton in December 2017.

During my undergraduate years at CSUF I collaborated with both the Spanish newscast and English Sports reporting as an editor, writer, and anchor. In addition, for my undergraduate internship I had the opportunity to work with well-recognized companies in the sports, tourism, and entertainment industries in the Los Angeles market, such as the Rose Bowl Stadium. My work experience also includes the Los Angeles Galaxy Football Club and Toshiba Classic Golf Tournament.

In 2020, I decided to enroll at Cypress College to complete three professional certifications in Aviation Management, Airport Operations, and Airlines Customer Service. I successfully completed my professional certification the past spring semester. 

Why did you choose to attend Cypress College and how did being a student here help you find your first position after completion?

I decided to enroll at Cypress College to further expand my career and knowledge in one of the industries that interested me the most during my undergraduate studies: Aviation. During my undergraduate studies I had the opportunity to learn and explore many industries that are part of the Travel and Tourism industry. During my tourism and travel classes, Airlines and Aviation caught my attention the most.

After conducting some research, I realized Cypress College offered a strong curriculum that could help me prepare and immerse myself in the industry. I immediately grew a desire to continue my education. It was that desire that motivated me to enroll at Cypress College. I give credit for this to my family because I was raised in an environment where education has always been a strong priority and my family always motivated me to continue learning and preparing myself.

Where are you now?

I currently work at LAX Airport for JetBlue Airways as an Airport Operations Crewmember. I started working for the company in 2021 after graduating from JetBlue University in June. This is my first job in the industry. I received the position while working on completing my professional certificates at Cypress College.

My job duties on a daily basis are to rotate through all Airport Operations related functions (gate, ticket counter, international terminal, baggage service office, customer service help desk). I also serve as Spanish translator and interpreter when needed for customers and supervisors. My job includes providing a check-in process for customers, booking, selling, and verifying flight reservations. I also meet flights upon arrival. My favorite part of my job is to prepare, work, and coordinate flights for customer boarding and departures.

I enjoy working as an Airport Operations Crewmember because it allows me to put into practice all the educational knowledge that I received with my courses at Cypress College. Many of the courses I completed mirror my position perfectly, and that has allowed me to put my educational background into practice on a daily basis while performing my job.

What are your long-term goals?

My aspiration is to work positions that would help me gain valuable experience within the airline industry and subsequently move up to headquarter/support center positions. I have always been interested in the behind-the-scenes components of the airline industry. I want to learn how everything happens far away from where the customers and the general public can see.

In addition I am also interested in acquiring positions related to client relationships, customer satisfaction, premium, and VIP services. I am also open to opportunities to work with other stations outside the country and help manage their operations in touristic destinations such as Costa Rica, Mexico, or the Caribbean.

What do you aspire to?

I am currently in the process of training for a new department with JetBlue Airways. This month, I will begin my training with the operations department, which is the behind-the-scenes department in charge of communicating with the airport for assigning gates, talking to pilots, crew members, cabin crew, ground operations, supervisors, and more. With this new opportunity I would be able to have hands-on experience in different departments within the company.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am very passionate about my education. Moving to the United States from another country and learning the language was definitely a big challenge because I had to enroll in school without knowing the language. I am passionate about my education because I always continue aspiring to learn more and better prepare myself. I am passionate about my education and the importance of school because that’s where I dedicated eight years of preparation and hard work.

What are you most proud of?

I am personally proud of so many things I have accomplished since I first moved to this country in 2011. Leaving home, all my family, and friends behind was not easy since I only moved to the United States with my twin sister.

For instance, I am very proud of myself for completing a total of eight years of professional education in this country. I am proud of all the effort I put into completing every single one of my courses. I am proud of myself for completing my education in a different language and breaking a language barrier. I am proud to be an immigrant from El Salvador with the passion of exceeding a professional career in a different country.

Lastly, I am very proud of growing up in a family where education was always a top priority and not an option.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I always had an interest in having a job as a flight attendant. I love how much they get to explore new places and travel to new cities every week. I wish I could have tried working as a cabin crew for VIP flights and private jets. Throughout the years, however, I have gained so much interest in the behind-the-scenes aspect of airlines and airports and that is what I am pursuing.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

The advice that I would give to Cypress College students is to network. Speak to your instructors, mentors, and counselors after class. Spend those extra 10 minutes with them at the end of class and make sure they get to know you and your goals.

The ATC department at Cypress College is established with instructors that have worked and currently work with leading airlines and companies in the aviation industry. Do not hesitate to ask for help with your courses, help with your resume, interview tips, career advice, tips, and support. My instructors at Cypress College were key components that helped me be where I am today. My instructors became mentors that motivate me and push me to bring out the best version of myself.

Look out for student resources. Cypress College provided me with all the necessary tools to complete my course work – even during a pandemic!

If you have a passion to further advance in the industry, continue your education, network, prepare your resume, build your LinkedIn profile, and always brand yourself for the best opportunities! 

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