If there's one sure way to get Americans to want something, it's to tell them they can't have it. And for at least five years, Delta Air Lines has been telling Americans their odds of getting hired as a Delta Air Lines flight attendant are pretty darn remote.

In fact, the airline claims it's harder to become a flight attendant for Delta than it is to get accepted at Harvard University. Now, they've just announced they're hiring another 1,000 flight attendants.

Is the "harder than Harvard" claim just a marketing tool? Is it actually true? We'll look at that below.

But in an era where the United States has a 3.9 percent unemployment rate, which is arguably as low as it's ever been, employers like Delta find themselves in a race to hire and retain the best people they can--while paying them only about $25,000 a year to start.

Under 1 percent acceptance rate

Of course, very few people become flight attendants for the salary. The big perk is the ability to travel almost anywhere in the world for free or nearly free.

And last year, sure enough, the Harvard comparison works out on one level: more than 270,000 applicants applied to Delta for just 1,700 positions. That works out to a .6 percent acceptance rate. 

Harvard had a 4.59 percent acceptance rate this past year, which was the lowest in the 382-year-old college's history.

Of course, there are a few differences between the two, to say nothing of the fact that there's a $75 application fee at Harvard; applying to Delta is free. But, it's truly a great marketing statistic to be able to point to. 

No tattoos

If you know anyone who might be interested, here a few things to keep in mind.

Basic requirements include: holding a high school diploma or GED, the ability to write and speak English, physical fitness, the ability to pass a background check, and a valid passport that would allow you to travel to any country in Delta's network. The pay isn't exactly amazing--about $30 an hour to start--but then again, 

Beyond that, you can't have any tattoos or piercings that would show while in uniform, and they're especially interested in applicants who can speak Dutch, Czech, Danish, German, Greek, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Hebrew and French.

Oh, and of course they'll need the application website.

Not just Harvard

One place you might imagine this Harvard vs. Delta Air Lines gets a lot of play: Harvard. And sure enough, Harvard's student newspaper, The Crimson, compared acceptance rates at the college, the airline, and a few other highly competitive programs.

The three that Harvard identified as more competitive than not only Harvard but also Delta Air Lines? 

  • McDonald's Hamburger University in Shanghai (under 1 percent)
  • the U.S. Secret Service (also under 1 percent)
  • Google (.2 percent)

This year, Delta would need about 22,000 applicants for its 1,000 jobs to ensure that it remains more competitive than Harvard. They should be in the clear. But we'll keep tabs and report back when the hiring is complete.

Published on: Aug 14, 2018
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