The Sunday Read: New Mango acting CEO will 'give it everything' she's got

Marelize Labuschagne (Supplied)
Marelize Labuschagne (Supplied)

Marelize Labuschagne is the new acting CEO of SA's state-owned low-cost airline Mango.

She is a qualified chartered accountant and says her husband of 28 years has been "an amazing source of support" throughout her career.

"As a wife, mother and career girl, I am always trying to integrate my priorities to ensure true happiness. I believe the only way to deliver your best, is to be truly happy," she tells Fin24.

"I strongly believe Tim Cook's saying: 'Life is fragile. We're not guaranteed tomorrow, so give it everything you have got'."

She regards her appointment as acting CEO as a very exciting opportunity.

"I am supported by an extremely competent team, who all share a passion for Mango. We live our values and we celebrate our successes," says Labuschagne.

Airlines and airports

She first got involved in the airline industry in 1998, when she joined SAA.

"As they say, once the airline industry pumps through your veins, the passion is there forever," she adds.

She has had exposure to both the airline as well as the airports industry and has a collective 17 years' experience within the aviation industry.

This has been mainly in the financial sphere of the business, but in the last few years she says she gained valuable experience from Nic Vlok, the former CEO who retired at the end of October.

"Learning from an expert with 35 years' of experience under his belt was an absolute privilege and honour," says Labuschagne.

She regards the increased costs of airline fuel and the deterioration in the rand, coupled with the downturn in the SA economy as the biggest challenges for the local aviation industry.

"With the downturn in the economy, demand shifts more to low cost airlines, away from full service carriers," she explains.

"Mango has always been financially strong with a positive cash flow, and in the 2017/2018 financial year delivered record profits. This year we will again be profitable, though the margins are under pressure, especially at the backdrop of the increased Brent Crude as well as the decline in the value of our currency."

Five-year plan

Her strategy for Mango is to stick with the five-year corporate plan, which she helped to develop. She believes this puts the airline "on the right path". In the past financial year, Mango increased its footprint by 30%.

"Our success is not entitlement, but the need to earn the loyalty and support from our guests, by understanding our guests' needs, every day," she says.

She believes the strength and equity of the Mango brand and the experience it delivers are the primary reasons for the airline's success and the loyal customer base it has built up.

"We are sensitive to the pressures our guests are feeling and we do everything to individually and as a team to exceed their expectations. Our brand has never been stronger or more relevant," says Labuschagne.

She promises that Mango's increased footprint and ongoing innovation will always keep the interests of its passengers at heart.

"The long-term commitment is to deliver an elevated guest experience. We will continue to lead and manage the company through the lens of humanity, doing everything we possibly can to continue to make our guests proud of our company and our country," says Labuschagne.  

"We want to inspire South Africans to live life to the full by discovering more of our beautiful country, by flying Mango."

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