Flying High with Rola Hoteit, Lebanon’s Only Female Captain

by Aya Khoury

We love meeting inspiring Lebanese women and hearing their stories. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we take to the skies with Captain Rola Hoteit, Middle East Airlines’ only female captain.

Why did you decide to become a pilot?

When I was young, I was never interested in becoming a pilot. I had never even been on a plane! It all started when I was still a student in AUB majoring in mathematics. A friend of mine told me that Middle East Airlines was recruiting pilots. He then mentioned that it was not a job for a woman. As you can imagine, the conversation got intense, so I suggested that we both take the entrance exam. Out of 2,000 applicants, only nine were accepted, and I was one of them. He, on the other hand, failed the exam. So, that’s how it all started.

How does it feel to be MEA’s only female captain?

At the beginning, I was so happy and proud to be the only one. But I soon realized that it wasn’t all that great to be alone, and I felt the urge and the responsibility to encourage young women to enter this field. I started visiting schools, universities and became more active on social media to empower them and show them that a woman can become a pilot. That is when I noticed that a lot of girls were interested, but society had convinced them into thinking that women weren’t smart enough.

What is your motto?

My motto is hope strengthens, fear kills. So as long as the person has hope, they can always succeed. However, if they fear something, they will never be able to achieve it.

What has been your greatest career highlight?

My greatest career highlight was becoming a captain. But, I would like to add that I wasn’t only a captain; I was also a loving and caring mother who raised a beautiful family while finishing my master’s degree in philosophy. This made the highlight even more significant, as I wasn’t only focusing on one goal.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Although I don’t have a lot of free time, my favorite thing is to travel around the cities of Lebanon. I find every single part of this country magical and worth visiting. The love and attachment I have for my country is indescribable. Even though I have had many opportunities to work abroad and earn a higher salary, I insist on staying.

What is your top recommendation for tourists visiting the country?

My recommendation is that tourists actually come to Lebanon, because despite everything that is going on, it is the most beautiful country in the world.

I have had the privilege of visiting many amazing countries, but they always lack something, while Lebanon has it all: the nightlife, people, cuisine, history, nature… everything! Come to Lebanon; trust me you won’t regret it!

What is your dream for Lebanon?

My dream is for every Lebanese person living abroad to come back and live in their country. Every time I see people leaving, my heart aches. It doesn’t get any easier because I know that they want to stay and have a stable life yet they have no other option but to leave.

As for me, I will always be proud to be Lebanese. This is something I’ll never take for granted. I just hope that, one day, Lebanon is the country we dream it can be.


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