DM BUSINESSPERSON OF THE YEAR RUNNER-UP 2022
Safair CEO Elmar Conradie, a charismatic leader committed to transparency in the workplace
With many airlines closing down in South Africa – and even more struggling to stay afloat – one commercial company has come out of the storm despite experiencing heavy turbulence.
Founded in 1965, Safair had been doing aviation work in South Africa for decades before establishing its commercial airline, FlySafair, in 2014. At the head of the successful airline is CEO Elmar Conradie.
Under Conradie’s leadership, FlySafair has navigated through treacherous conditions many other airlines could not. It remains a powerhouse in the commercial airspace and has capitalised on the gaps left by its competitors.
When Safair first branched out into the commercial market space, it was seen as the perennial underdog – given little chance of success. Over the previous decade, 10 airlines had gone bankrupt. However, the new airline in the hangar had decades of aviation knowledge on its side.
“This was not a company started by people with a commercial insight and a mere passion for aviation. This was a company that was actually started by aviators,” says Kirby Gordon, FlySafair spokesperson.
“There is a lot of history and a lot of knowledge and a lot of heritage there that we certainly have been very cautious to maintain. That is something that I know has been very dear to Elmar.”
A major strength of the company is its ability to adjust amid ever-changing global conditions.
Conradie is particular about remaining flexible to market conditions and taking advantage of emerging opportunities.
A dependable pilot
Conradie is a charismatic leader with a profound influence on his employees, according to Gordon. FlySafair employees are specifically appreciative of Conradie’s commitment to transparency in the workspace.
“[Conradie] believes very deeply in the power of the team,” Gordon says. “He is the kind of guy [who] certainly has an open-door policy. He will speak to absolutely every employee from every level without reservation.”
This year, the International Air Service Licensing Council of South Africa approved FlySafair’s application to operate regional routes in the Southern African Development Community region.
The company seeks to establish a presence in these countries in 2023, as well as expand its fleet from 26 to 31 aircraft by the end of April 2023. DM168
How we chose the People of the Year winners
In the past, Daily Maverick journalists decided who they thought warranted the title of Person of the Year, but for the second year running, we have asked readers to vote for their preferred choice, with the proviso that we still have the final say. Choosing the annual winners is a labour of love because that’s what it takes to get a bunch of DM editors to decide whether they agree or disagree with the choices of 13,000 readers. Over the next few days, we shall republish online all the results in various categories. – Heather Robertson, DM168 editor
Malinzi is an intern from Stellenbosch University’s Centre of Journalism and Media Studies honours programme.
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.