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One of the things I love about the airline business is the role we get to play in the special moments of our customers’ lives. For example, every May, millions of people take to the skies to attend the graduation of someone they care about.

The transition from one level of education to the next — whether that next level is high school, college, or the “real world” — is an exciting time. But it can also be a confusing, even scary time. Graduation speakers invariably encourage young people to “follow their hearts” and “do what they love.” That’s great advice, but for most people it’s easier said than done. Lucky for me, I realized early in life that I had a passion for the airline business. Once I had finished my formal education, I jumped in with both feet and never looked back.

For most people, finding their passion takes a little longer. I daresay some of the men and women graduating this month may not even know where to look. My advice: Look everywhere. I know that’s a convenient suggestion coming from an airline CEO, but I promise that the more you see and experience of the world around you, the more you will discover about yourself and your true interests. You might say the prize is worth the search, because the ultimate prize is you.

Of course, for many grads, the desire to travel is there, but the means are not. What’s more, many well-wishers are not inclined to spring for an entire trip, even at today’s low fares. Fortunately, at American ­Airlines, we offer many creative and affordable ways for friends, family members, and loved ones to pitch in. For example, AA Gift Cards are now available, in $50 and $100 denominations, for purchase and redemption at AA.com. Recipients can use up to eight Gift Cards at one time toward the purchase of a ticket to hundreds of destinations around the world. You can buy Gift Cards at AA.com, at any Admirals Club in the United States, or by calling (800) 677-9555. If Gift Cards aren’t your style, we also have the GiftAAmiles program — whereby AAdvantage members can purchase up to 40,000 AAdvantage miles per calendar year as gifts to other AAdvantage­ members — and the ShareAAmiles program, which enables members to transfer, from their existing miles balance, up to 60,000 miles, 15,000 miles per individual, per calendar year.

While the first step to finding your passion is to get out and look for it, new graduates exploring the world for the first time often gain a renewed appreciation for the place they started. It has been said that we travel the world searching for what we need and ultimately return home to find it. On behalf of everyone at American Airlines, I want to congratulate all of this month’s graduates and wish them the best of luck in their search. Wherever your heart takes you, whether it’s near or far, we’re here to help. And wherever you’re going today, thanks for flying with us.

Picture of Gerard Arpey

Chairman & CEO
American Airlines