On March 15, 1961, 19-year-old Roberta Alpert logged her first day on the job as a flight attendant. Now, 59 years later, she is saying goodbye to the company she has loved dearly for most of her life – but not just any goodbye would do. As a final farewell, Roberta emailed Delta CEO Ed Bastian, Joanne Smith – Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer, and Allison Ausband – Senior Vice President, In-Flight Service, a heartfelt “love letter” to Delta, summing up a career bursting with memories and appreciation.
A Boston native, Roberta started out her career in her hometown with Northeast Airlines, which merged with Delta in 1972. She served domestic flights out of Boston for almost 40 years – allowing her to be at home and take care of her family. After her mother’s passing in 1997, Roberta moved to New York to serve Delta internationally before returning home to Boston to finish out her long career.
Through the years, Roberta’s passion for Delta came from serving passengers from all over the world. “Passengers are people just like you and me,” Roberta said in an interview. “They may be distracted by their everyday lives, but it stops them in their tracks and allows them to forget their worries when you provide a special and elevated experience on board.”
Roberta knows all too well how exhausting the role of a flight attendant can be – in fact, her total miles of service equate to 50 trips to the moon and back! In such times, Roberta encouraged herself and fellow crew members with simple words of advice: “All you have to do is love the passengers and throw kindness around the airplane like confetti.” Sometimes, she would even carry around a small bag of confetti as a reminder.
“Roberta’s love for humanity is an incredible reflection of the true Delta spirit. As we all work to restore Delta to its glory, this Delta spirit and differentiation will carry us through to be stronger than ever before,” said Allison Ausband – Senior Vice President, In-Flight Service. “We stand on the shoulders of so many great Delta people, like Roberta, who are entrusting us to carry forward that “honor to love our customers” each and every day.”
Roberta departed Delta on Aug. 1, along with nearly 17,000 fellow Delta people as part of the Voluntary Departure Programs forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, at 78 years old, Roberta plans to earn a degree in music history at a Harvard extension school.
Read Roberta’s love letter below that highlights her love of passengers and emphasizes the joy that working for one of the greatest airlines in the world can bring.
Roberta Alpert – A Love Letter
Dearest Delta Air Lines,
I was once told “one does not love a company, one can only love people.” They obviously never knew you.
However, due to circumstances beyond our control, and with the heaviest of hearts, we must now part. And with that being said, I can now finally state, unabashedly and audaciously, that “I LOVED YOU!”
After all, how could I not? For nearly 60 years you fed me, clothed me, housed me, cared for me when I was sick, bestowed gifts, awards, and honors upon me, and sent me flowers when I was bereaved. And all that you asked in return was that I love your passengers.
You were my best date; taking me to La Scala in Milan, where we mingled with the “cognoscenti” of the opera world (although our seats were so high we looked down at the great chandelier instead of up!). And how vividly I remember us begging the ticket brokers outside the Bolshoi in Moscow (in -20 degree weather) for a seat with even a tiny view of its magnificent main stage. We strolled alone, on a cold, damp winter’s night in Piazza San Marco, accompanied by one solitary pigeon and some romantic piped-in piano music. We were members of the Louvre, the Victoria and Albert – and when sweet Fabrizio, at the Uffizi, recognized us, he proudly escorted us to the front of the long line of tourists. Just for the record, on Oct. 1, 2019, it was calculated that our total miles flown together equaled 50 round trips to the moon! Is it no wonder my jewelry drawer runneth over with wings of every size, shape and metal? And for all those exquisite, exhilarating and exhausting memories, you asked only in return that I love your passengers.
Along our way we met princes, princesses, presidents and kings. We swam in the Dead Sea and touched the walls of Petra, the Great Wall of China, and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. We flew presidential press charters for the 36th president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, as well as press charters for the 45th president (our current president). We mournfully took the press to the funeral of Pope John Paul II. And in this year of “Black Lives Matter,” we poignantly recall leading our inaugural flight from Accra to America. You see, it was not just my duty, but my honor to love your passengers.
During these wickedly difficult days, I’ve been worrying with you and about you, dear Delta, but I know your great leaders well, and they are among the most brilliant, compassionate and generous officers in your industry and they are working feverishly to save you. They will guide you to safety as they have guided me and all those who will come after me! They, too, love your passengers.
You may not remember, but many, many years before you showered me with those extravagant “Valentine’s Day presents,” you gave me several United States savings bonds. I gifted mine to my mother, Edith, and she saved them among her most important belongings. On each envelope she wrote “DELTA FOREVER.” Edith was a precious and prescient lady!
Perhaps you’ll let me visit you in Atlanta when you graduate that next brand new flight attendant class and I will bring Edith’s “DELTA FOREVER” envelopes for the new class to see! I should also like to tell them how much I loved your passengers and how much I loved you!
I leave you in Boston, beloved city of my birth, as its #1 flight attendant, an honor I will carry in my heart--- FOREVER!