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WATCH: From Soweto to the skies - entrepreneur creates 'air taxi' business

29 November, 10:15 AM

"I always wanted to be a pilot and coming from a disadvantaged background, I couldn't get into aviation."

These are the words of Thokozani Miya, founder and CEO of Neo Aviation, an air taxi business operating from Lanseria International Airport, north of Johannesburg.

He calls it "Uber in the air".

Neo Aviation transports up to three passengers to more than 150 airports in South Africa in a Cirrus SR22 aircraft at R18 per kilometre.

Making air travel accessible

He said he wanted to make air travel accessible to everyone without the hassle of queues and check-ins.

Miya, who studied computer science at Tshwane University of Technology, said his love for flying was reignited by international business trips.

"I like the freedom and excitement of being in the sky. It's freedom."

His dream started to unfold in 2010 when he received his private pilot licence.

"I started researching in 2010 and came across the air taxi model. They were quite big in the US at the time," the 44-year-old told News24.

"In 2012, I went to Atlanta in the United States for a few days at an air taxi company, to learn the ropes and see if the model could work in South Africa," Miya added.

He also met with executives from Cirrus Aircraft in Duluth, Minnesota and was introduced to his current business partner Piet van Blerk.

Home for dinner

It took them years to get the business off the ground and they eventually received their operations licence late last year after a Civil Aviation Authority of SA audit.

They flew their first client to Thohoyandou in Limpopo in February this year: "We were all excited. We didn't know what to do because it had taken so long."

His client base comprises mostly business people who have meetings in other provinces, but who still want to make it home in time for dinner.

Miya hopes to one day partner up with larger airlines and expand beyond South Africa's borders.

"I want to grow this in all provinces. Eventually partner with bigger airlines and do the feeding into big airports from the smaller ones."

He gave an example of someone flying to Dubai from Limpopo.

"They can only fly from OR Tambo (International Airport) but will have to drive all the way from Limpopo. That's where I come in," he said. 

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