In Flight with Rexy Rolle of Western Air, a Bahamian Airline

Photo Courtesy of  Rexy Rolle

Photo Courtesy of Rexy Rolle

Brains and beauty!! At age 30, Sherrexcia “Rexy” Rolle is making a name for herself in a MAJOR way! She serves as Vice President of Operations and General Counsel of Western Air Limited, a family owned company and the largest privately-owned airline in the Bahamas. Serving in this role comes with balancing many duties. Rexy happily serves in any position needed within the company and believes that it is her duty to freely give of herself to help support the needs of her family’s airline. As an executive, she is truly taking the airline to new heights and changing the game in the aviation industry.

I had the recent opportunity of sharing in a call with Rexy. She is truly a vibrant good spirit with great vibes… island girl vibes if you will. 😉 Share in her story and get to know this AMAZING woman at WERK!

Rexy R., let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.

There’s definitely a lot to do! I like to say that we’re a BIG little company. Western Air was started by my parents and when I was just 12 years old. Like many kids who grew up in a family business you tend to either find a passion for it or you absolutely hate it and luckily I found a passion for it. I’ve grown up in the industry since I was a child, so now as an adult I have real adult responsibilities in regards to the day-to-to day operations of how we operate our fleet, where we’re going, times, acquiring new fleets, our routes, community outreach, handling legal matters, and preventing legal issues, compliance and implementing procedures and systems to make for a more efficient operations.

Photo Courtesy of  Western Air

Photo Courtesy of Western Air

Western Air is based out of the Bahamas. Our headquarters is actually in San Andros, Bahamas. Nassau is the most popular destination in the Bahamas for tourists as well as Bahamians. That is where the majority of the population is and where the majority of our flights leave from. We go to most of the major destinations throughout the Bahamas. So if you have any plans of visiting the Bahamas it’s becoming more and more common that people don’t want to just stay on the main island, which is Nassau. They’re interested in exploring the other islands. So what we do is we fly between Nassau, Freeport, Grand Bahama, and Exuma. We offer flights for people interested in enjoying our island excursions with the convenience of flying in the morning and returning same day. We also offer flights to Cat Island, Bimini, Abaco, Congo Town, etc. as well as on demand charters throughout the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Central and South America. Western Air has been around for 18 years, however, we have been expanding in recent days. We are completing our licensing to be able to offer flights from the Bahamas to Jamaica as well as the Bahamas to the Dominican Republic and Cuba. We’re working on flights between Freeport and Nassau to the southern region of Florida and are also taking a look at Georgia. So there is a lot of excitement that’s around. Our core base of customers are Bahamians, but we’ve noticed a significant increase in international passengers which is awesome!

Photo Courtesy of  Western Air

Photo Courtesy of Western Air

Has it been a smooth road for you?

Being in more contact with our American friends who kind of understand the struggle of what’s its like to really build a business as a black woman or as a black family. I’ve found myself seeking to be more educated on other black businesses, because we know the challenges. It’s just a great thing to have more sensibility and awareness of it. Unfortunately there’s just a lot of things that you simply can’t get because there may not be a black business providing that product or service. Our setbacks have generally come as a result of trying to be the ones to do something first. The Bahamas has a growing aviation industry and we’re highly dependent on the U.S. FAA for a lot of guidance and various things. So when we actually started, the department that actually gave airline operating certificates, at that time, was still developing. You can imagine that it was a lot of ‘pull and take.’ There were a number of challenges in which we had to explain why we were necessary because for a long time there was not an airline that was operating in a way that was similar to a national air carrier.

Even in regards to getting new aircrafts, on two occasions we have been the airline that has brought in aircrafts that have never been registered in the Bahamas aircraft registry. So that in itself causes a very long, detailed certification process with heightened scrutiny. I honestly wouldn’t call it a setback, it’s just been very challenging. In fact, over time as civil aviation has grown and as people have gotten more comfortable with the idea of choice, we still have endured issues where we’ve had aircrafts grounded, not permitted to fly revenue flights, simply because of slow processing times. You can imagine the stress and financial burden of when you make such an investment, you’re counting on it to turn over as soon as possible and assist in producing cash flow. And even in terms of me specifically when we wanted to open up the passenger terminal it was the only one of its kind and we’re essentially looking to act as our own airport on an airport. That in itself was met with quite a bit of opposition with a lot of legal red tape to fight through even 4 years later. We certainly have been met with different challenges, but I always say that you have to have something greater that moves you and motivates you to continue. It can’t just be material things or money. It has to be a passion with a sense of responsibility. We at Western Air really take the responsibility that we have been provided seriously. Our passengers are so loyal and for me and my family personally, we have a commitment to them. It gives us the energy to keep pushing even when we’re presented with challenges.

Western Air Milestones:
(-) First airline to be approved to operate under the Flight Standards Inspectorate
(-) First airline to operate the Metro IIIs in the Bahamas
(-) First airline to operate Saab 340As
(-) First airline in the Caribbean to operate the Embraer 145 jets
(-) First airline to operate as a passenger terminal facility inclusive of its own security screening

Photo Courtesy of  Rexy Rolle

Photo Courtesy of Rexy Rolle

Please tell us about your WERK:

I am the Vice President of Operations & General Counsel for Western Air. On the operations side, I oversee the daily structure of the flights, crew, and movement of passengers to ensure that we are operating the aircraft and servicing our routes in a way that is most efficient to passengers, but also to time and costs. As General Counsel, I’m responsible for all major contracts, negotiations, acquisition/financial agreements and transactions, large purchases, certifications and regulatory compliance with Aviation Authorities, as well as advising and prepping external counsel for any legal matters about the airline.

At Western Air we’re all coming together to work toward the general good of this operation and to provide great quality to our passengers. One of the phrases that I absolutely hate to hear is ‘that’s not my job’ because I never say that. It’s one of the things that gives me the most joy is cleaning the inside of the aircraft because it drives me nuts every time I walk into a plane and its dirty. I could sit there in that plane and clean all day if I had the time because I don't care about the ‘that’s not my job’ we’re all in this together!

Photo Courtesy of  Western Air

Photo Courtesy of Western Air

Please share any words of wisdom sister to sister. 

It’s kind of staggering when you hear the statistics in which company’s are lacking women executives or top executives. It’s pretty alarming. I definitely understand a great weight of responsibility to show that women are just as qualified and can be just as successful in the aviation industry which tends to have this idea of a ‘good ole boy’ mentality. And women are great organizers who know how to multitask. So it is actually incredibly fitting that we be in such a technical and chaotic type of environment because we’re really good at setting people apart and devising a plan while balancing a lot. I would LOVE to see more women in executive roles in the airline industry and I believe that as more people are aware my story the it will help to normalize that.

I want to completely fight against the myth that women cannot work well together. It starts with understanding that another woman is your ally regardless of whether you know her or not. And even if you’re met with an attitude still come in with your own positive and welcoming attitude each time. So if you have a natural instinct to believe that someone is going to be friendly then you naturally should be friendly. That will automatically blend the lines. I just feel like we are so much stronger when we are united. Another woman’s success is triumphant for us all.

Connect with Rexy

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