Sizakele Petunia Mzimela, popularly known as Siza Mzimela, is credited as being the first black woman to start an airline.
Sizakele was a student at the University of Pretoria, GIBS Business School at Transnet on the Executive Women’s Programme.
Also a student at the University of Swaziland where she gained a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Economics and Statistics.
Her successful career began in small business and in the retail division of Standard Bank in 1991. She joined Total SA in 1994 as a Corporate Planning Analyst responsible for managing capital projects.
Sizakele then joined SA Airways in 1996 as a research analyst. She was appointed in the year 2001 as the Executive Vice President of global passenger services.
She is the founder and Chief executive officer of Fly Blue Crane, a start-up airline which was launched on 1st September, 2015. She was listed as one of Forbes magazine’s most powerful women in 2011.
She often headed global sales and SAA’s Voyager loyalty programme, serving as CEO from 1st April, 2010 until 8th October, 2012.
She has also served as the first female member of the board of governors of the International Air Transport Association, based in Miami, Florida, USA.
Fly Blue Crane Embraer ERJ 145 was launched at OR Tambo International Airport a couple of weeks after the launch of the airline in September 2015 by Sizakele and two ex-SAA colleagues, Jerome Simelane and Theunis Potgieter. By 2016, it had expanded to employ over 100 people. Sizakele said at the launch of Fly Blue Crane that she hoped to expand the airline to include routes to countries like Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Fly Blue Crane became insolvent in 2016; operations were suspended on 3rd February 2017.
She was appointed interim CEO of South African Express in April 2017, which was forced into business rescue on 28th April, 2020 by its creditors.
On 1st April, 2020, Mzimela joined Transnet as CEO of its freight rail division.
Video credit: IATAtv