SkyTeam member Middle East Airlines was recruiting pilots – including women – in 1993. A friend showed a newspaper column to Rola Hoteit, then completing her degree in Mathematics at the American University of Beirut. It read, “Women cannot drive a car. How will they be able to fly an airplane?”
That piece, declaring that women couldn’t fly, encouraged her to apply. Out of 2000 applicants she was one of 9 accepted into training.
She finally made it to the left seat in 2010. Her maiden flight as a captain was from Beirut to Amman, carrying a former Prime Minister of Lebanon on board. Since she’s paved the way Middle East Airlines has hired four other women as pilots.
Now she’s piloting one of the airline’s 5 widebody aircraft, an Airbus A330-200, on one of the airline’s longest routes Beirut – London Heathrow – landing in crosswinds.
Incidentally Beirut is a fabulous destination, once known as Paris of the Middle East. I had high hopes, then, for the new Netflix show Dollar which is both created and set there and about a viral marketing campaign for a new bank. Sadly the show disappoints (though the Beirut backdrop does hold interest for awhile).