Lebanon’s First Female Captain Landing at London Heathrow in Crosswinds

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).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Have you been to Beirut? I know it was amazing until the civil war, and certainly has had a fair bit of violence since. I’d love to hear about it from a blogger who’s traveled a lot. So many other views are really skewed that it’s tough to know what to believe. Having read a vast number of your reviews, it’d be fairly easy to put Beirut in perspective.

  2. Christian , Lebanon is an amazing place to visit .. its skewed by the fact that it doesn’t reflect a total Arabian picture , steeped in history , with remarkable features dating back to Phoenician times , embracing Greek , and Roman en route it has a wealth of archeological places to visit and explore .It has the additional aspect of embracing east & western cultures , with the widest variety of eateries , with the benefit & Bonus of their own amazing cuisine .The Lebanese are open to tourists , with warmth and affection wherever you visit , added to by having an excellent range of local wines with international recognition .The country is so small its makes for an ideal 1 week break ( longer will simply offer a wider scope of interests ) with only 3 hours to travel the length of the Nation and the same from sea level to her mountain peaks ,,and their famous Cedar Forests ,that become a visual winter wonderland during the heavy snowfall and including additional sites across the high ground and mountain resorts .Safety has long been a debate , as a British foreigner,resident for over 20 years i can add that it is far safer than a great deal of British resorts .at all times of the day & night , The night life, if that is what you seek , is immense ,and very upmarket , with bars pubs and bistros punctuating the city center and surrounding suburbs , Beach clubs and water sports are amongst the best , traffic is an issue during the day ,and driving conditions are extraordinarily bad , however tour buses , taxis and hire cars are available …you will not see camels , donkeys ,and wild Arab stallions , what you will see is an amazing array of cultural clashes , and a snapshot of Gods special acre .. a virtual paradise .

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