A long overdue ‘Thank You’ to Southwest Airlines for NOT hiring me at the Flight Attendant interview

I owe Southwest Airlines a long overdue ‘Thank you.’ I need to thank that company for completely changing my life trajectory, direction, and flight path. What is considered the ‘Best Airline,’ with the happiest employees and most LUVing crews once rejected me to be one of their flight attendant ‘new hires.’ I had never done so well in a flight attendant interview, up to that point, or had never had so much fun in one, and yet, a week or so later, I received the email. “I’m sorry. We’ve decided to go with other candidates.” I don’t know why. I don’t know what happened. It seems strange, but I don’t really care about the reasons or what went into the decision. Because now, it feels like a miracle and all I care to say is, “Thank you Southwest Airlines for NOT picking me. Thank you so much! For, if you had picked me, I would have missed out on my best, most crazy, cool, challenging, awe-inspiring, and blessed adventure I have experienced yet.”

Begin thanking God now for the ‘No. We/I don’t want yous.’ The, ‘you missed this one.’ Your not the choice. This WILL turn out. Right now, you cannot even fathom the incredible destinations that will arrive soon in your life. The painful rejections and stinging disappointments you have faced are creating for you a richer life story. Your dreams are greater and more far-reaching than you can currently envision. You will have better— even better than what you believe to be the best. Even better than “Southwest Airlines.”

It was the Southwest Airlines rejection that was the catalyst for my pivot into private aviation. It happened at a time when I had already left Norwegian Airlines as an International Cabin Crew Member, so I needed a job. I did want to be a corporate flight attendant, but not as much as I liked the surety and perceived employee happiness at companies like Southwest or Alaska Airlines. I thought I was an ‘Airline Girl’— completely. Benefits. Schedules. Decent pay scale (at those two companies). West Coast bases. I thought that I could have been happy at either company, and I probably could have, but Someone (God, The Universe, Infinite Love…whatever you want to call it) had an unbelievable story just waiting for me to be co-writer in it. That narrative is the unbelievable story that I have been living— all started due to rejection.

I just spent the last nine days in Bora Bora, French Polynesia as a contract corporate flight attendant. I floated around on a Unicorn pool float, feeling like I had a ‘Unicorn’ job, while on the ‘Unicorn’ of private jet trips. I would stare at the bright teal water and breathe in the island air, all while marveling at how I actually made it ‘here.’ Not just ‘here’ being an overhyped luxury destination, but ‘here’ being, “How did I stick with this private aviation path long enough to know that it could be so good?” That I would like the job so much and find so much satisfaction in all of it? How did I get ‘here’ when it was SO fucking hard and painful for so long? When I thought I had made a mistake in my career? When I thought I would never be “good at this?” When I didn’t even know ‘here’ could even exist?

Maybe that’s just another miracle-story of my life.

I never thought that I would really like being a corporate flight attendant. I always thought I would hold onto and identify more closely with commercial flight attendants. Now, I don’t know what I most closely identify with (except for Griffin; 200% of the time), but I feel so incredibly inspired, alive, and motivated. I feel more like myself than ever before. Maybe that is what life is supposed to feel like. That, when we are living in the space— and moving towards the place— that God has always hoped for us, we stop identifying so much with our job descriptions and titles, but start living as our complete, full, and unique selves. I’m not saying I’m perfect. I’m saying growth is gold.

If you want better for yourself, don’t let it be a rejection that forces you into what you really want. Be braver than I am, stronger than you think you are, and do all that you need to do in your life to change. Be humble during your transformation and grateful as you excel. Southwest Airlines may have pushed me into private aviation, but one line got me my start—

“I’ll do whatever it takes.”

It was to the boss that I said those words to, that connected me to a Unicorn floating, Unicorn flying, Bora Bora trip— OVER A YEAR LATER! It took time. Longer than I expected, but it all seems short consider how worth it is. Success is never an overnight thing. Success is never a destination. You just keep floating forward in it, paddling towards it, and swimming through all the muck to keep reaching it. 

People tell me, or ask me, all of the time, “I want to be a corporate flight attendant! How do I become a corporate flight attendant?” I often don’t respond, not because I don’t care or don’t want to (I LOVE YOUR QUESTIONS), but because I don’t know what to say and how to say it. Usually, the response that you never get is probably not the one that you want to hear anyway. What I just want to ask the people that ask me that corporate flight attendant question is my own corporate flight attendant question. “How willing are you to cry? A lot? A whole fucking lot? How willing are you to be broke as hell, uncertain as fuck, and scared shitless half the time?” Yeah— I didn’t want that either. In the land of corporate flight attendant, Bora Bora is the exception. The other stuff is a reality, but the thing is corporate flight attendants ARE THE EXCEPTIONS. It’s such a competitive industry, only the very best create longevity within the career.

I was talking to one of my friend’s on the phone about the prep I had to do for the international flight. He responds jokingly, “I don’t want to hear you complain at all. You’re making soooooo much money to sit on an island!” I laughed, “I know, I know. I’m lucky.” “No,” he says emphatically. “You earned this. You worked your ass off, and you deserve it. It’s not about luck.”

I appreciated his acknowledgment because there is this aspect of luck that often doesn’t get acknowledgment. Luck is the silent partner to dedicated and committed effort. You won’t meet the person of your dreams if you don’t at least go out on a first date. You will NOT get hired by an airline if you never apply. You won’t actually travel if you never leave your couch. Nike didn’t make their iconic slogan because it was a fallacy. Literally, it boils down to that simple statement — ‘Just do it.’ Just do whatever it is you want to do. If you got one rejection for you “dream job” try again. Or just go embrace Plan B, C, or Z. You may relate to my experience— I didn’t even see my dream. I said once, “I would HATE being a flight attendant, and I would NEVER be a corporate flight attendant. Go figure…

I believe that when you step out, the Universe steps up. Don’t expect your journey to be painless, easy, or simple. You won’t get to the destination you want until you are willing to put in the work required. Most of the time, the work is not glamorous like “Bora Bora.” Most of the time, it’s really, really hard. You’ll have to learn to enjoy the process just as much, if not more, than the reward. I really, really enjoy the flying experience I’m in now. The paycheck is amazing, but that’s not why I invest incredible amounts of thought, time, and energy into doing the best job that I can. I’m not sure why I care so much, but I do. That feels really cool to be able to say, too. I just care about the work that I produce. It matters. Unlike the airlines, there are no rules, but endless possibilities to create my flights and my future.

Southwest Airlines wasn’t my only rejection. When I broke my ankle, I spent more weeks than I care to recount crying over how stupid I was that I left Norwegian. I ached for it. For my friends. For Copenhagen. When Norwegian announced it’s LAX base opening, everyone said, “Kara, it’s perfect for you.” I had wanted Los Angeles to open the entire time that I was based in Florida with the company, but when it finally happened, I had already grown into a new place. It had outgrown me and I had outgrown it. I say that to tell you— where you are going is better than where you left. You may one day soon find yourself on a loooooooooong layover on a gorgeous island; paid to float on a unicorn, eat food, swim with sharks, all while raising a glass in complete gratitude to everyone who ever rejected you. Cheers!


About the Author

Hello, I’m K. J. Watts, but my friends call me Kara. I fell into the sky and have worked as International cabin crew, on private jets as a corporate flight attendant, and earned an FAA Private Pilot Certificate. Over a decade ago, I started this blog, which developed into a love for writing and a debut memoir based on Flight Attendant Life. A California native, I now live in Sydney, Australia, where I enjoy spending time with my husband, writing, and surfing.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}