[Interview] Africa Business Communities speaks with Tabassum Qadir,President, Skywise, South Africa
Tabassum Qadir, President of Skywise believes her new position has come at a time of amplified debate about a female President for South Africa. Her interview with Africa Business Communities
What does it mean to be President of Skywise?
It means that for the first time in the history of aviation in SA and Africa, there is change at the top that will further drive women's corporate and leadership power as well as gender transformation across the country and the rest of the continent. In SA and in Africa, the airline industry is among the top five businesses that are difficult to get into as it is very difficult to get a license, so it is remarkable to see a woman co-founded airline in Africa.
My rise to this position is being witnessed at a time when there is much talk of a female President in South Africa. It's important to have women as leaders across major industries, and the airline sector plays a key role in enhancing growth of the travel and tourism industry in SA.
The airline business has always been competitive, how do you intend to set yourself apart from the rest?
As President, Qadir will from now add her wide trade industry experiences and energies into strategic development of the low-cost airline. She will make sure that Skywise's strong value addition policy becomes part of a long term strategy to ensure memorable customer experiences and future viability. The current Unlimited Flying package, a first in African passenger aviation business, is just one example. Unlimited Flying builds on the back of our VIP red carpet treatment that has unbelievably stood out in the market. We do not compete with anyone, we believe in running our own race.
What are the challenges facing the airline business?
These include poor policy making and slow transformation by national governments in Africa, in areas such as the opening up of the skies to regional airlines. Safety is still a major hindrance to full aviation development. The airline sector in SA is suffering from unfair competition attributed to the state's running of low-cost airlines that in turn leads to the distortion of air ticket prices as state funded carriers enjoy government bailouts. Generally government institutions do well to support private airlines but we expect more to speed up growth that will bring employment and economic stability. Private airlines must also unite and work together to realize smooth operations in times of cancellations of flights.
How is Skywise addressing these challenges?
We are a private airline that believes in running its own race. We are privately funded and are always doing all we can to market ourselves and get our product known.
Currently, what is the state of the aviation industry in Africa compared to before?
Though there is lack of willpower by the majority of governments, we are seeing improvements in some countries. Some governments haven't signed the Yamoussoukro Decision, a fact that will draw back the expected growth in the industry. However, we are seeing more and more private airlines flying to some regions of the continent with encouraging results.
Are there more opportunities?
Plenty of opportunities exist in Africa as the middle class emerges strong in economies that are recording reasonable annual growth rates and others that are neglected for various reasons but are in fact underserved with air services. The scope is huge in linking business hubs across the continent where many business people still travel by road for commercial purposes.
How can the government/ policy makers help to harness opportunities in the aviation industry to encourage private airlines like Skywise?
At continent level, the quicker the rest of African governments sign the Yamoussoukro. Decision the better as it has potential to inspire airline industry growth. There should be honesty and transparency when it comes to pricing by state airlines, as unfair pricing tends to distort the actual market situation and disadvantage private players. Also, there should be some form of funding available for new players and perhaps more importantly there should be a policy that prevents government from operating low-cost carriers.
How can safety be improved in the aviation industry?
Adhering to international safety standards is the key to ascertaining improvements across the board. This should be bolstered by training and aligning with latest technological evolutions. Also, airlines have to operate within the scope of the local regulation authorities to ensure safe standards and trust from the market.
Any news from Skywise to the public?
Skywise is committed to providing the best customer service to the market. Since Skywise commenced its commercial flights on the 11th of February 2015, we have always strived to provide value by offering world-class safety standards, affordable airfares, reliable on-time performance, and courteous, professional service. Ours is a sustainable airline that will continue to provide a reliable service and a cost effective solution.We look forward to the support, patronage and the privilege of serving Africa's air travel needs. Travellers from Africa planning to go to SA and flying between Cape Town and Johannesburg should look at Skywise as their first choice. By the end of 2016, Skywise plans to be servicing at least one destination outside South Africa.
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