It was 1986 when Scott Brown met Mary Jo Conklin in American Airlines’ flight attendant training program in Dallas. They would pass each other in the hallways and often spot one another at lunch…but that was about the extent of their interactions.
After graduating from training school, however, Mary Jo and Scott were both placed in New York — and, coincidentally, both moved into the same apartment building where their friendship blossomed.
Soon after, they split ways — with one moving to Los Angeles and the other to Dallas. But two years later in 1989, they both ended up back in Texas, where Mary Jo and Scott became roommates. They remained just friends, despite traveling together and visiting each other on layovers between flights.
“Our first five years of flying, we were just best buddies,” Mary Jo said. But it wasn’t until they took a trip to New Zealand that they learned their friendship was so much more.
“The stars aligned,” Mary Jo said. “We went on that trip to New Zealand and came back engaged basically.”
After five years of friendship, their relationship became romantic and just three months later, Mary Jo and Scott married in 1991.
But the story doesn’t end there.
The year after they married, Mary Jo and Scott welcomed a daughter, Rylee, followed by a son, Jake, in 1995. In the early days, Mary Jo and Scott said it was difficult to work a flight attendant’s schedule around raising two children.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” Mary Jo said. “We [would] go days, sometimes a week, without seeing each other.”
But they made it work. They would maneuver their flight schedules so that there was at least one parent home at all times. When they couldn’t make their schedules work, Mary Jo and Scott would just take the children with them across the world. Once, Rylee missed a day of school because she went on a short trip to Japan with Mary Jo.
Nearly three decades later, Mary Jo and Scott are still married, and still flying the skies together. But it gets even more interesting. Their two children — Rylee, who is now 26, and Jake, 23 — have both become flight attendants themselves.
Rylee caught the travel bug early. “I got to go to crazy places like London, Paris, and Japan before I was even in high school,” Rylee said. So it didn’t surprise her parents when she told them she applied to be a flight attendant in 2014 behind their backs, despite going to school to become a teacher.
“I was thrilled because I really love my job,” Mary Jo said. “I was thrilled just knowing that she would be able to enjoy the job as much as I do.”
“We were excited but not surprised when she came to that decision,” Scott said.
A few years later, Jake surprised his parents when he said he wanted to forgo his plans to work in the business world and instead join the rest of his family in the air.
“I was in my sophomore year when I realized how great my parents had it and how great their lifestyle was, so I realized my calling was in the flight industry,” Jake said, explaining he would eventually like to become a pilot. “I grew up in the flight industry, so it was natural, and it wasn’t anything strange to me. The ‘normal world’ was so foreign and strange to me that I couldn’t imagine working a nine to five job.”
“Normal” for the Brown family is working together to ensure the safety and comfort of passengers. It’s the norm for Mary Jo, Scott, and Rylee to work the same flights together as a family, but that doesn’t mean everyone is totally comfortable with it. In fact, Rylee likes to keep the fact that they’re all a family on “the down low,” while Mary Jo loves to tell anyone who will listen.
“I’m happy to be flying with my family,” Mary Jo said. Now, she has one more thing to be happy about as Jake — who just graduated from flight attendant school in June — gets ready to join them in the skies.
“There’s a whole world out there to see, and you learn something from every single place you go,” Scott said. “I think this job [of being a flight attendant] offers a wonderful education.”