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The Rejected Flight Attendant Who Started Her Own Aviation Company

By Parker Diakite

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Sibongile Sambo fell in love with aviation at a very young age. In fact, she loved everything about airplanes so much, that she dreamed of becoming a Flight Attendant for South African Airways one day.

Once she applied,  she was told that she didn’t qualify for the position because of her height and was deemed too short to be a flight attendant.

After having her dreams crushed,   she decided to do the unthinkable by starting her own airline. 

Founded in 2004, SRS Aviation is the only Black woman-owned and operated aviation company on the entire continent of Africa.

Launching Her Company

The opportunity came knocking on Sambo’s door in 2003 when the South African government passed the Black Economic Empowerment Act. The statue addressed the inequalities of Apartheid and helped to advance economic participation from people of color in the form of entrepreneurship.

Sambo sold her car,  received a loan from her aunt, and used her mother’s pension money to raise enough capital to launch her company.

SRS Aviation serves as a personalized air service including a helicopter, tourist and luxury flights to destinations around the globe

“It could be a tourist charter for $1,000 or could be a head of state traveling on a VIP aircraft to the United States, which could be about $200,000,” Sambo told CNN.

Recently, the company has partnered with MCC Aviation, which has enabled Sambo access to a fleet of aircraft, as well as technical and operational support.

In the future,  Sambo plans to encourage and support more South African women to get into the airline industry.

“I’m where I am today because somebody invested in me,” she said. “It’s my opportunity now to invest in other people.”

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