With approximately 15 years experience in the aviation industry culminated in her current appointment as CEO of South African Airways, Siza Mzimela has achieved something that many dream of. One thing that South Africa now has that America does not is a black female owner of an airline. Today, Siza Mzimela is the founder of the country’s newest airline, Fly Blue Cran . Mzimela saw a niche market and decided to capitalise on it and now she is the first Black woman to own an airline.
South African entrepreneur Siza Mzimela is making history: she’s the first Black woman to start an airline.
Mzimela is the founder and chief executive officer of Fly Blue Crane, a start-up South African airline that began taking flights in September 2015, with O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg as the airline’s operational hub.
Thus far, the start-up is operating as an airline that offers low cost point-to-point domestic routes within South Africa.
However, Mzimela has been vocal about eventually expanding her business to have more regional scope.
“We hope to expand our flight destinations to Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We currently have two 50-seat ERJ 145s. The airline will aim to keep its current rates in order to make flying affordable for both business and leisure travel.”
Not only does Mzimela run Fly Blue Crane, she is also the founder and executive chairperson of Blue Crane Aviation, an aviation services company that specifically focuses on African airlines and that provides specialist airline consulting, aviation legal services and aircraft management services.
Before starting her own companies, she held prominent positions within the South African aviation industry and made history several times over.
After graduating with a degree in Economics and Statistics from the University of Swaziland, Mzimela joined the staff of Standard Bank of South Africa in 1991 and worked at other financial companies, gaining vital experience.
She became a research analyst at the biggest airline in Africa, South African Airways (SAA), in 1996 and quickly climbed the ranks to managerial and executive positions.
Mzimela became the first female chief executive officer of South African Express Airways and of SAA.
While she was CEO, SAA was able to introduce non-stop flights to New York and Beijing, China-a first in the history of the airline.
She is also the first woman to be appointed to the International Air Transport Association’s board of directors in 67 years.
She is also a board member of the South African Tourism Board and the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.
Mzimela joins the elite ranks where few women have crossed. Owning or even running an airline is something that very few can aspire to and women have historically been left out of such leadership positions.
Indeed, women only account for fewer than five percent of airline CEOs globally. Factors such as systemic sexism and lack of female mentors help explain the abysmal lack of women in this vital global industry.
Nevertheless, when women run airlines they succeed.
And the Centre for Aviation notes: “It is not greatly surprising that more customer-oriented airlines sport a higher complement of women, while older, larger companies still labour beneath the overhang of the old engineering and flying days, seemingly bearing many of the silent prejudices and built-in rigidity of the past.”
Interestingly, most female airline CEOs are in Asia, followed by Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Africa. North America, sadly, has no women running airlines as of 2015.
Mzimela’s success is also particularly poignant given the history of South Africa.
Just a few short decades ago, the country was perhaps best known for its brutal system of racial apartheid.
Black South Africans have made serious economic strides since the end of apartheid.
And while the consequences of this systemic inequity still linger, success stories such as Siza Mzimela’s underscore the significant social shifts that have taken place. womensissues.about.com.
Here are 10 things you need to know about the inspirational Siza Mzimela……
- Siza Mzimela is a director of the International Air Transport Association.
- She was the first female chief executive officer of South African Airways (SAA), appointed in February 2010.
- Mzimela is the first woman to be appointed to the International Air Transport Association’s board of directors in 67 years.
- She was previously CEO of South African Express Airway (SAX).
- Siza Mzimela began her career with the Standard Bank of South Africa in 1991 in the Small Business & Retail divisions
- Three years later she joined Total SA as a corporate planning analyst responsible for managing capital projects, before joining SA Airways (SAA) in 1996 as a research analyst.
- After various promotions at SAA, Mzimela was appointed executive vice-president of global passenger services in 2001, later taking on responsibility for global sales and the airline’s Voyager programme.
- She is also a board member of SA Tourism and the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.
- In 2002, she was a finalist in the Nedbank Businesswoman of the Year Award.
- Siza Mzimela studied Bachelor of Arts at the University of Swaziland.—Youthviallage