South African Airways celebrated women’s month with All-Female crew flight between Johannesburg and Cape Town

JOHANNESBURG, 2014-8-21 — /Travel PR News/ — South African Airways (SAA) today celebrated women’s month with a flight between Johannesburg and Cape Town, which was operated by an All-Female crew.

The rest of the flight preparations were also conducted by females. On board, the commemorative flight also comprised of SAA female executives, led by Ms Zukisa Ramasia, General Manager Operations. Ms Ramasia is responsible for SAA’s overall global operations portfolio, which comprises SAA’s flight and cabin operations, airport operations, ground handling, lounges, on-board logistics and inventory, aviation safety and security as well as SAA’s central nerve system, global operations control centre.

SA313 was captained by the airline’s first black female captain, Captain Kavistha Maharaj, with First Officer, Olga Bottger as the co-pilot.

Looking after customers were cabin crew Purser: Nomvuzo Mjanyelwa, Senior Cabin Crew Member: Rene Essack, Cabin Crew Member: Sonali Bissessor, Cabin Crew Member Thilimbeli Mikosi and Cabin Crew Member: Michelle De Freitas.

Playing a key role in putting the flight together was Mathilda du Plessis, the Flight Dispatcher. Nwabisa Mbulaheni, was the Operations Controller. The load controller was Nicole Mortimer and the Ramp Controller Lucia Mcpherson.

“We are extremely proud of the achievements of the women at SAA, where we are represented throughout the company, in leadership positions as well as in key operational areas which enables SAA to run smooth and on-time operations,” says Ramasia.

The All-Female operated flight is symbolic and yet a strong transformation indicator reflecting the airline’s efforts to transcend the stereotypes and barriers of the past. These were manifest in the form of race and gender discrimination.  Today SAA has women working as technicians, flight deck crew, cabin crew, and in key operational and support areas throughout the SAA Group.

At present SAA women make up 38.96% of all staff, (24.85% general staff; 0.83% cockpit crew and 13.29% cabin crew).



Captain Kavistha Maharaj
Captain Kavistha Maharaj (39), flies the Boeing 737-800. She joined SAA in June 1995 as a cadet pilot, and received captaincy in May 2013. Captain Maharaj who is in her own words “tenacious, hard-working, and loyal”, became a pilot since childhood, she has always had a desire for adventure and travel. “Being an airline pilot fulfills that dream”.

She also says: “It is an absolute privilege to be a captain flying for the national carrier. I am very proud and appreciative of this opportunity. The response from passengers has been fabulous, especially when there’s an all-female flight deck crew.”

Her advice to other females wanting to become pilots is: “Being an airline pilot isn’t just a career – it is a very rewarding lifestyle, though it demands dedication and discipline. It takes perseverance, determination and lots of hard work to turn your dreams into reality. There will be obstacles along the way, but work hard, be strong and don’t lose sight of your goal. Aviation is a dynamic environment and you need to keep up with all the changes. The day you stop learning is the day you should stop flying.”

First Officer Olga Bottger

Olga, who has been flying for 18 years, is a First Officer on the Boeing 737-800 fleet, and joined SAA in February 2013. She started flying at the age of 16, and completed her Private Pilot’s in 1997. In 1999 she completed her Commercial Pilot’s Licence and continued to get her Flying Instructor’s rating.

Olga did some flying instruction and then managed to break into the tough world of commercial flying. She flew cargo, charters and contracts in Tanzania, Pakistan and the Congo. She finally got into the domestic airline world in 2003 and flew for Comair for 9 years. The long awaited call from SAA came in 2012.  She says: “After many attempts and countless CV’s, SAA eventually welcomed me on board, yet another highlight in my career and a whole new adventure. So what is it that I love so much about this thing called flying? The view in my office changes every day!”

Cabin crew:

Purser: Nomvuzo Mjanyelwa joined SAA in July 2000, and says being appointed as a purser which is a senior cabin crew member was the highlight of her career.

Senior Cabin Crew Member: Rene Essack joined SAA in September 1999. She has won the accolade as Crew Member of the month in both 2013 and this year. Customers often compliment her on her friendliness, kindness and support. She is a positive, energetic person, engaged in her work and connects with the passengers, with the understanding “that the customer is the most important person on board”.  Rene is motivated and an inspiration to her colleagues.

Cabin Crew Member: Sonali Bissessor joined SAA in August 2003, and has made her mark as an outstanding cabin crew member, who has an exemplary record.

Cabin Crew Member: Thilimbeli Mikosi joined SAA on Women’s Day in 2004. She recently reached her 10 year milestone this year and she will be a recipient of a Long Service Award. She has an impeccable record with SAA and is one of the most dependable Cabin Crew Members in our employ.

Cabin Crew Member: Michelle De Freitas joined SAA in July 2011 and won the Crew Member of the month accolade in April 2012. Passengers have commented on her excellent customer service.  Michelle is known for her big smile, her patience and passion for flying.

Putting the flight together were:

Flight Dispatcher: Mathilda du Plessis, was in charge of putting the flight together at Flight Dispatch at 06h30.

The flight dispatcher is responsible for SAA’s Aircraft Dispatch system and interprets, applies compiles and calculates flight specific operational flight plan data and supporting documentation that includes, but is not limited to: Meteorological data and the interpretation and application thereof; Route specific NOTAM data and supplementary navigational data and the interpretation and application thereof; Fuel and flight time requirements; Alternate and route alternate selection; ETOPS and EDTO flight planning and documentation; Calculation and application of operational aircraft performance minimal and operational constraints and limitations; Navigational route construction; Application of aircraft MEL and CDL limitations; Non-Normal operations or aircraft configurations.

She also provides and advises the above, as applicable, to the Captain and Co-Pilot, as service and support in the use of pre-departure planning and Flight Crew briefing, and again, as required, during flight. This is all required for the safe and orderly conduct of each flight.  A Flight Dispatcher has the same ground school subjects and qualifications as an Airline Transport Pilot except for the flying aspects.

Operations Controller: Nwabisa Mbulaheni was the Operations Controller for SA313 at the Operations Control Centre at OR Tambo International Airport.

An Operations Controller performs an important function which includes the monitoring and coordinating of service provider activities around SAA aircraft worldwide and proactively employs corrective action where necessary to ensure on-time performance. She also monitors, obtains and investigates reasons for delays/route diversions and initiate voice or data messages in order to obtain relevant information. The OCC (Operations Control Centre) facilitates abnormal operations with the least inconvenience to passengers and disruption to the schedule in their daily function.

Load Controller: Nicole Mortimer, as the Load Controller, responsible for the weight and balance of the aircraft.

The Load controller trims the aircraft and produces a load plan.  She also ensures that the dangerous goods are loaded and segregated according to dangerous goods manual, while also providing flight deck crew with the final zero fuel weight.  Part of the load controller’s job is to also provide flight deck crew with preliminary and final load sheets and affirm that weight and balance principles are adhered to, to ensure fuel efficiency.

Ramp Operations: Lucia Mcpherson, was the Ramp Agent for the day.

Her job is to co-ordinate activities above and below the wing of the aircraft, ensures that the aircraft is loaded and offloaded according to SAA specification, and also affirms that the aircraft is cleaned accordingly. She also ensures that meals are loaded according to the number of passengers on board. Moreover, the Agent enforces precision time schedule and service level agreement, monitors boarding processes and keeps flight deck, OCC and cabin crew informed. Importantly, the Ramp Agent also ensures that high safety standards are maintained at all times, passengers and SAA equipment is safeguarded.