Nico Bezuidenhout. Photo: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)
JOHANNESBURG – Former Mango chief executive Nico Bezuidenhout has emerged as the front runner to return to the helm of the low-cost airline in a spectacular comeback that is set to shake the industry.

Sources yesterday told Business Report that Bezuidenhout was expected to dump EasyJet after nearly three years in a job that Mango and its parent company SAA allegedly tailored to suit him. The sources said that among the requirements for the new Mango chief executive was matric and experience in the aviation industry.

One said that the process to appoint a new chief executive was questionable and that there was a determined effort to bring Bezuidenhout back and that the job requirements were written with him in mind.

“This clearly shows that the process has been run to appoint an already selected candidate, which is Nico Bezuidenhout,” the source said. “Although there are other potential and capable candidates shortlisted who have been through a vigorous screening process.”

The job requirements seen by Business Report show that “matric with a minimum of 10 years specific airline experience as chief executive of an airline or relevant tertiary qualification with a minimum of 9 years airline specific experience on an executive or chief executive officer or managing director level,” would secure one the position for the next five years.

Bezuidenhout courted controversy in 2014 when it emerged he was appointed chief executive of Mango and later as acting chief executive of South African Airways (SAA) without any post high school qualification.

SAA, which owned Mango in 2014, admitted that its 2011 and 2012 annual reports were wrong to state that Bezuidenhout had a BCom in transport economics and industrial psychology as well as an MBA.

Bezuidenhout has been largely credited with driving e-ticket implementation within SAA and materially growing e-commerce and direct sales at the national carrier while he also led the team that developed the business plan that culminated in the launch of Mango.

Bezuidenhout's name came up in an explosive testimony of disgraced former Bosasa chief operations officer Angelo Agrizzi at the State Capture Commission.

Agrizzi told the commission he met Bezuidenhout at the Intercontinental Hotel on a Saturday afternoon to discuss the possibility of Bosasa taking over the security and the catering contracts at SAA.

Bezuidenhout left Mango after London-listed Fastjet successfully headhunted him.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said the requirements of matric as a minimum requirement had not lowered the bar as the minimum qualification must be accompanied by the highest level of experience, such as 10 years as chief executive of an airline.

“We confirm that the board at Mango Airlines is at an advanced stage of searching for their airline chief executive. We are not in a position to share any further details on this as the search process has not been finalised," Tlali said.

BUSINESS REPORT