South African Airways recently announced the first woman CEO for the national carrier.Ms Siza Mzimela, who was CEO of SAA's domestic partner SA Express (SAX), will take over from former Kenya Airways finance director Chris Smyth from April 1. She will be SAA’s first female to head the airline.
Both airlines are owned by the Government of South Africa through a parastatal called Transnet. Mr Smyth, then general manager of operations at SAA, was appointed acting CEO of the airline in February 2009 after the departure of Mr Khaya Ngqula.
“With her extensive experience in the airline industry, and especially her knowledge of the inner workings of SAA, she is the ideal candidate to fulfill the mandate of SAA to be an African airline with global reach,” said SAA board chairman Cheryl Carolus.
Ms Mzimela has an impressive track record as the CEO of SAX, which she joined in 2003 and she is highly regarded in the aviation industry. Under her leadership, the regional airline has grown and introduced new routes and recently started a new airline, Congo Express in the DR Congo.Best Wishes from the Flight Africa Team!
Based in Johannesburg, SA Express started operations in April 1994. Although it is operationally independent of SAA, its flights are incorporated within the strategic alliance with South African Airlink and South African Airways (SAA).
Ms Mzimela re-joins SAA at a time when its position as the biggest airline on the continent is threatened by a resurgence of its African rivals and erstwhile partners led by Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Air Algier, Royal Air Maroc and Kenya Airways.Just like Ethiopian Airlines, KQ and EgyptAir, SAA has a commanding presence in Africa, which has been less affected by the recession than the rest of the world.
With a fleet of 49 aircraft, SAA is relying on the 2010 World Cup, where it is the national carrier and host airline, to shore up its coffers after several years soaking up losses.
SAA has experienced strong growth in market share in Africa, which remains the most profitable market following a strategic decision to concentrate on growth in the region. Domestically, the airline’s position has remained strong, backed up by its low-cost carrier subsidiary, Mango.
A Brief Profile of Ms Mzimela:After she graduated with a degree in economics and statistics, Mzimela's first job was in the small business and retail division of Standard Bank in 1991. 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 2001/2, later taking on responsibility for the airline’s core business global sales and the airline's loyalty programme, Voyager in 2002/3.
She was involved in setting overall strategic direction for the sales and Voyager team and in actively managing and reducing costs. She was also responsible for the strategic positioning of SAA and for optimising alliance partnerships. She is also a board member of SA Tourism and was the Chairperson of the Airlines Association of South Africa for two years. In 2002, she was a finalist in the Nedbank Businesswoman of the Year Award.