As the manager of the fixed-wing charter operation of South Africa’s National Airways, Jolande Parrott may expereince the same day-to-day woes as working elsewhere, but the landscape is a compensation.
You started as cabin crew?
My career in aviation started in 1997 at the age of 21, when I decided to discover Africa as a freelance cabin attendant on the historic Douglas DC-3. In 1998 I was approached by the chief executive of Naturelink Aviation to join their charter department, and from 2001 I had the opportunity to manage the charter division at Wonderboom airport in Pretoria.
After a merger between National Airways (NAC) and Naturelink in 2010, I became part of the fixed-wing charter division and I’ve headed up this operation since 2014. I am fortunate to have had brilliant role models and mentors in the aviation industry – people I could look up to – and I respectfully thank them for the experience I’ve gained over the years.
What are your current duties?
My current job title is manager, fixed-wing charter. My duties include finance, administration, human resources, marketing, quality and safety oversight, fixed-base operations and hangar rental.
My portfolio gives me the opportunity to experience different aspects of aviation on a daily basis – from an early morning flight departure to meetings with caterers, photo shoots with clients and lots more. I also spend a lot of time meeting potential new clients and concentrating on the day-to-day activities in the office.
How diverse is NAC?
It’s one of the largest general aviation companies in Africa – and, indeed, the world. We have bases at Lanseria, Rand, Wonderboom and Grand Central airports in Gauteng; Durban in KwaZuluNatal; a helicopter base at the Waterfront in Cape Town; an office in Wichita, Kansas in the USA; and an office in Perth, Australia.
We also have a presence in more than 11 African countries where we provide various nongovernmental organisations with airlift services. NAC is also an authorised sales partner for the Daher TBM single-engined turboprop family and Nextant Aerospace’s 400XTI and G90XTi remanufactured business aircraft; it is also an authorised distributor for Piper Aircraft, and an independent representative for Bell Helicopter. NAC also owns 43 Air School – it’s one of the largest pilot training providers in the southern hemisphere.
“To me, overall customer satisfaction is one of the most important aspects of the service”
What’s been a new project?
We wanted to give our VIP lounge facility at Lanseria International airport a new look, as part of ultimately establishing a fresh corporate identity to further enhance our customer’s charter experience. I was lucky enough to be part of this – it is enjoyable to sometimes do something that is out of your normal day-to-day routine.
What’s the best part of your job?
After a very busy day, I really appreciate the African sunset, beautiful scenery and open spaces. From our NAC hangar, spectacular changes in the contrast of the sky and beautiful colours of the clouds can be seen when it’s time to close shop. At moments like these, the long days and nights at the office are all worth the time and effort – knowing that today you did all you could to make the day a successful one.
And the least favourite?
I always try my best to make sure my team is well equipped to handle and prevent customer complaints but, as in any other industry, a person has to deal with customer complaints from time to time. To me, overall customer satisfaction is one of the most important aspects of the service.
Any life lessons to share?
Be selective with your battles. Sometimes, peace is better than being right.
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