Nico Bezuidenhout was recently appointed the Chief Executive Officer of Mango and will commence his duties in October. Clinton Moodley chats to him about his new role, the aviation sector and his flight hacks.
How did you enter this profession?
I was involved with one of South Africa's first internet start-ups in the late 1990s. When SAA then wanted to embark on its e-commerce initiatives in the early 2000s, I was approached to assist them in this process, and have since remained in aviation.
What will your new role entail?
As CEO, my role is to provide the company with stewardship, guide the business's strategy and direct its resources in the interest of stakeholders.
Describe a typical day for you?
I would typically get up by 5:30 am and am in the office by 7.30am. I currently also serve on an airline board in Kazakhstan (4 hours ahead of South Africa), so I typically try and attend to early morning mails from other geographies during the first 30 minutes of my day in the office. I will later review the previous days' business performance before starting formal and informal engagements with my colleagues.
I typically do not take lunch and have a dislike for many meetings. I avoid these in favour of stand-up discussions with colleagues, facilitated by an open-plan office environment. I typically leave the office by 5 pm and spend the rest of the evening with my family. Over weekends I try and avoid work, and am mostly occupied by the myriad of activities my children are involved in, spending time with my wife and…some more studying.
What are your top 5 flying hacks for travellers?
· Book in advance to make sure you get the best deal. If you're in your Golden Years, look out for airlines that offer senior citizens discounts, or if you are travelling in a large group, look for group discounts.
· Make sure the airline has sufficient flight options for the route you are travelling on. Life happens, plans change, and you need an airline that can provide alternative flight options.
· Carefully look at what carriers include and what they exclude from the advertised price.
· Always carry your valuable items in your hand luggage.
· Check-in online or on a mobile app to make your airport process more seamless.
Mango has been delaying their flights recently. In May, I had to wait for over an hour due to a delayed flight, which caused transport issues at my destination as I arrived after 11 pm. What causes these delays and how does the airline hope to prevent further delays in the future?
Several reasons may exist for airline delays, ranging from weather considerations to technical dispatch reliability challenges or a schedule that doesn't allow time for delay recovery. It is a fact that Mango, historically one of the most punctual airlines globally, has delivered deteriorating on-time performance in recent times and this is a matter that will receive my urgent attention once I join the company in October.
Mango, on the other hand, does have many attractive features. Why should people fly Mango?
Mango cares about reducing its carbon footprint. The company is in the process of installing Winglet technology on all its aircraft, which will mean significant fuel savings across the fleet and reduced carbon emissions. Mango has also announced the launch of GoRewards, which will offer instant rewards to travellers. Mango's new menu and drink offering include draft beer, craft gin, bubbles, whiskey, wine and a tapas box, among others.
What do you think needs to be changed in the South African aviation sector? What are some of the current challenges?
The South African Aviation Sector, historically, has been over-traded (oversupplied) and the industry is impacted by the challenging economic conditions in the country over recent years. Currency uncertainty, with the Rand being exceptionally volatile, is a particular challenge in the context of an industry that is predominantly US-dollar denominated from a cost-perspective. Skills shortages in technical disciplines such as pilots and engineering also represent a growing challenge.