Air travel – which has long been considered something of a ‘boys’ club’ – is slowly but surely making way for inspirational women with a love for all things aviation.
In fact, with top ladies like Lindie Bruyns blazing a path forward, it’s been difficult for the industry not to sit up and take note.
At just 30, Lindie is the Operations Manager, FlySafair. This means she is responsible for putting together the airline’s flight schedules, including making sure the right size aircraft is deployed on the right route. “Otherwise the airline might end up with 23 passengers without seats – which is generally a bad idea,” she quips.
Lindie also manages the day-to-day flight operations of the airline, closely monitoring and managing each aircraft movement – as a result she starts every morning at 04h15 when the first crew starts signing on for stand-by.
Swimming well in the deep-end
Her career in aviation began at a young age as a receptionist for a local air charter company. “That’s where the bug bit,” she muses, explaining that she was given the opportunity to help out in operations and decided then and there that she wanted to build a career in aviation. “While I loved aircraft, I never really wanted to be a pilot or hostess. It was the ground operations which I found so intriguing.”
Her first real operations role was also on the charter side of the industry, where she found herself thrown in the deep-end a number of times. Running an entire charter operation by the age of 23, Lindie developed most of the knowledge she now uses on a day-to-day basis. “The rules in the charter industry are very strict and you quickly learn the importance of keeping your clients happy,” she comments.
It was two years ago that Lindie made the move across to FlySafair, where she says the challenges she faces are bigger but so are the rewards. “Luckily I enjoy solving puzzles,” she jokes.
One of Lindie’s critical functions as Ops Manager for FlySafair is delay management. “If there is a delay we need to manage the situation effectively so that the passengers arrive at their destination with the shortest interruption possible and the best possible communication along the way,” she explains.
And FlySafair’s current status as the most on-time airline in the world is a testament to just how good Lindie is at running the show. She says the airline has a strong management team through which pride in on-time performance in instilled throughout the operations. “We are driven – not only to be the best, but to stay the best,” she says. “Arriving at the top is easy – it’s staying there that’s the challenge.”
A good fit for aviation
Lindie believes that a key characteristic to being good at her job is high attention to detail. “I need to be capable of looking at the bigger picture while at the same time focusing on those finer details,” she says.
She also believes that an effective Operations Manager is conditioned to think on their feet, often enabling them to act quickly and effectively, in a crisis. “For example, if there’s a delay with a possible knock-on effect on four or five different flights, I am able to line up several plans of action to ensure that if my plan A fails for some reason, I’ll still have plans B and C to fall back on,” she says.
As companies recognise aviation as an area where women have a great deal of value to add, the dynamics of the industry are starting to change, says Lindie. “In our operation alone we are seeing many more women in powerful positions. In fact, FlySafair’s recently appointed Safety Officer is also a woman and she has made a major impact in a short time. We’ve got our own ‘girls’ club’ going which has been embraced and encouraged at FlySafair.”
Lindie maintains that in order for the industry to truly transform, companies need to start taking an active role in building careers for women in the industry. “Women in aviation aren’t limited to the roles of hostesses or administrators – we can contribute to so many other areas of the industry - we simply need to be empowered to do so.”