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Girls & Women

First black woman to launch her own airline is offering international flights

Fly Blue Crane, a relatively new airline in South Africa, is going international. While seemingly business as usual for the airline industry this announcement brings the world a milestone on the road to true equality. Fly Blue Crane’s founder will be the first black woman to start an international airline.

African women have been smashing perceived gender barriers about women and flight over the past year. In November, Air Zimbabwe celebrated its first all female flight deck crew, with Ethiopian Airlines quickly following. The last year also saw Siza Mzimela become South Africa’s first black woman to found an airline.

Now Sizakele Mzimela, who goes by Siza, has broken barriers again. Her airline company, Fly Blue Crane, is going international this month, making her the first black female owner/founder of an airline to reach for the truly global skies. 

Fly Blue Crane, which opened in September 2015 in partnership with Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, initially offered customers domestic flights. Siza now plans to expand flights to Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo. A big step for a new airline.

Siza’s a powerhouse in the aviation industry with her Fly Blue Crane company offering airline consulting, aviation legal services and aircraft management services.

Siza is a first in many ways. Siza began her work in the aviation business as a market analyst back in 1997. She rose through the ranks eventually becoming the first female CEO of South African Airways in 2010, and the first woman to be selected to the Board of the International Air Transport Association.  

Under Siza’s direction, South African Airways—for its first time—offered its customers direct flights to New York City in the US and Beijing, China as well as adding an additional eight domestic routes. Impressively that was all within Siza’s first year as CEO.

Female CEOs in the airline industry account for fewer than 5% globally. Africa follows, Asia, Europe, South America and the Middle East in terms of female CEO’s running airline companies. North America still has not accomplished this.

Siza’s leadership extends beyond the aviation industry. Her commitment to showing young, black, South African women that they can shine can be seen in her support of Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy for Girls. The academy is an independent school in South Africa founded to give girls from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to become dynamic community leaders.

In a country where only 14% of the black population graduates from high school, and the average household income in country is less than $950 USD a month, successful women such as Siza are vibrant role models representing who a young girl can become.

“It’s your job to say ‘nothing will stop me. I’m going to make it.” – Sizakele Mzimela

Siza’s persistence to achieve beyond societal expectations makes her a leader not only in her community, but for young women and men around the world.