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Meet Siza Mzimela, The First Black Woman In History To Own An Airline

The United States prides itself on being a land of opportunities, and in many ways it is. We look at countries like South Africa, which not long ago was segregated through the laws of Apartheid, and we are glad that we are so much further along than the land of the great Nelson Mandela.

However, every now and then we need to stop and ask ourselves just how far along we really are, and we have to wonder if many of the once oppressed countries we helped free are not passing us up in the area of civil rights and opportunity.

Siza Mzimela, CEO.

For example, one thing that South Africa now has that America does not is a black female owner of an airline. According to Timeslive, the country’s newest airline, Fly Blue Crane, was started by the company’s CEO, Siza Mzimela, a Black woman who saw a niche market and decided to capitalize on it. “We aim to make our mark serving the increasingly commercially significant provincial and regional capitals. Our aim in the coming years is to make air travel an altogether better and more rewarding experience in Southern Africa‚” she said.

After years of working in the aviation field, South African businesswoman Sizakele Petunia Mzimela is making history as the first black woman to launch her own airline.

In September, the power woman, who is widely referred to as Siza, kicked off operations for Fly Blue Craneat the O.R. Tambo International Airport in South Africa. The airline currently has two 50-seat ERJ 145s and offers low-cost domestic flights within the South African region.

However, Siza makes it clear that she hopes to expand destinations to Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the near future. In addition to her new airline, Siza is also the founder and executive chairperson of Blue Crane Aviation, which is an aviation services company that focuses on African airlines and provides them with airline consulting, aviation legal services, and aircraft management services in an effort to give them access to the global market.

Prior to launching Fly Blue Crane airlines, Siza served as the first female CEO of South African Airways from April 1, 2010 to Oct. 8 2012. Under her leadership, for the first time in SAA history, the company introduced direct flights to New York and Beijing, China. The airline also grew its regional network by adding eight additional routes in one year.

Siza, who started her career with SAA in 1997 as a market analyst, has also been appointed as the first female to join the International Air Transport Association’s board of directors in 67 years. Holding a bachelor of arts degree in economics and statistics from the University of Swaziland, Siza serves as a board member of the South African Tourism Board, as well as the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.

Mzimela had the vision of giving customers what they truly want in airline travel, which she realized was more than just low fares, but reliability and consistency.

Theunis Potgieter‚ the company COO, noted that customers want consistency, frequency, professionalism, and reliability‚ as well as softer touch-points which include complimentary quality meals.”

One of the ideas Mzimela had to accomplish this was to stick to one type of aircraft, a 50-seat Embraer Regional Jet 145 (ERJ). By using just one aircraft type with the same configuration, the crews will be able to use interchangeable parts, the same tools, and so forth.

Jerome Simelane, the airline’s Commercial General Manager said, “By using what we have learned over the years about international airline best practice‚ we have also created a cost structure which allows us to offer competitive fares without cutting any corners on quality‚ safety and reliability.”

During the initial phase of the airline, the flights will originate from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and fly to other cities in South Africa – Bloemfontein, Kimberley, and Nelspruit. According to the airline’s details, flights will go to Bloemfontein five times a day during the week‚ twice on Saturdays, and three times on Sundays. Kimberley will be served three times a day during the week, once on Saturdays, and twice on Sundays. Flights to Nelspruit will leave twice daily Monday to Friday‚ with one flight on Saturday and one on Sunday.

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