From left: Melony Moodley - Supervisor Airport Services, Jeenesha Baichan - Airport Service Manager, Catherine Govender - Airport Services Officer and Carmel Barnard Supervisor Airport Services at the Emirates International Women’s Day celebrations held at King Shaka International Airport. Picture: Supplied
From left: Melony Moodley - Supervisor Airport Services, Jeenesha Baichan - Airport Service Manager, Catherine Govender - Airport Services Officer and Carmel Barnard Supervisor Airport Services at the Emirates International Women’s Day celebrations held at King Shaka International Airport. Picture: Supplied

WATCH: Touring King Shaka International Airport with Emirates

By Clinton Moodley Time of article published Mar 10, 2020

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When an invite landed in my email inbox about an International Women’s Day event to be hosted by Emirates, I assumed no men were allowed. 

I called the PR lady from Emirates to ask whether it was a female-only event, of which she replied no. 

Sceptical, I headed to King Shaka International Airport a few days later with my photographer Zanele. The event was in collaboration between Emirates and Airport Company South Africa. 

Emirates invited Grade 11 and 12 tourism students from Nkosibomvu Secondary School to visit the Durban airport for an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the airport operations. 

The event coincided with International Women’s Day on March 8. 

After the mandatory speeches by Emirate representatives, our group, including the students, proceeded with the airport tour. 

The tour was led by Emirates’ Airport Service Manager Jeenesha Baichan from the Durban branch. 

Baichan, who celebrated her 10th anniversary at Emirates, led the group to the domestic and international arrival terminals. She shared some airport tidbits with the female students who, judging by the broad smiles on their faces, relished every minute. 

Next, the group wandered past the many shops and restaurants to get to the check-in counters at the airport. 

Here, the girls got a taste of what it meant to be behind the check-in counter. 

One student, dressed in her green and white uniform, showed her interpersonal skills as she ‘helped’ a traveller with their luggage. 

A few pictures later, we took a shuttle to the Air Traffic and Navigation Services office, located a few kilometres from the airport. 

The group, split into two, got understand the Airport Traffic Control Tower process, where ground-based air traffic controllers monitor and direct the movement of an aircraft on the ground or air using technology. 

Many people, including myself, did not know the hard work that went in take-off and landing of a plane. 

I have a newfound appreciation for those air traffic controllers. 

On our way back to the event room where a light lunch awaited, one of the students said the experience opened her eyes to the vast opportunities available in the aviation sector. 

She said once she completed school, she wanted to pursue a degree in aviation. The students were inspired by Baichan and the other female Emirates staff for their contribution to the sector. 

Female power 

Emirates stands at the forefront of women empowerment in the industry, with 40 percent of its overall workforce occupied by female workers, who are from around 160 nationalities, including over 1 000 South African nationals. 

According to a press statement, the women were employed across 1 100 wide-ranging roles, covering all major operational, commercial and business support functions within the group, including cabin crew members, pilots, aircraft engineers, and ramp and cargo operators.

“Emirates continues to champion the importance of women’s contributions to the growth and development of aviation. Through events that celebrate women, the airline is boosting female interest in the male-dominated sector of aviation, spurring on a new wave of opportunities,” the release revealed. 

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