Flying has become one of the most common ways of transportation in the 21st century. It’s often the quickest way to travel to far destinations and opens up a world of experiences and business opportunities for travellers. However, just a few decades ago, the experience was vastly different to the way air travel is today. We chatted to KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the world’s oldest airline still flying under its original name, about what travelling was really like in the 1950s.

From the 1950s, air travel became slightly more accessible to the broader public. It certainly wasn’t an everyday affair, mainly because tickets were still too expensive. The industry grew, however, and KLM and other airlines capitalised on these changes.

Tourist Class

Like other airlines flying at the time, KLM introduced a second travel class in 1952. Tourist Class had more seats in the cabin and the service was less elaborate for these passengers. Tickets were cheaper, enabling more people to travel by plane. This led to the phenomenon of people booking flights to holiday destinations further from home. This proved to be a major leap forward in those days of post-war reconstruction. Subsequently, in 1958, ticket prices dropped even further when Economy Class was introduced, allowing even more people to travel by plane.

Entertainment On Board

On long-haul flights, entertainment systems on board allow travellers to indulge in a variety of entertainment options – including the latest blockbuster films and popular television series. However, entertainment on board has changed significantly since the 1950s. In the early days of air travel, passengers passed time the old-fashioned way – reading books, newspapers and magazines, or chatting with the crew and their fellow passengers. Back then, there was hardly any contact between the plane and the outside world, which is gradually changing as internet access becomes more commonplace on board. In short, flying in the old days was almost nothing like it is today.

Airlines Setting Themselves Apart

As air travel became more common in the 1950s, airlines around the world introduced various offerings in the hopes of setting themselves apart in the hopes of building connections with passengers. This is still common practice today. One way KLM set themselves apart from other airlines is presenting First Class passengers with a keepsake – a practice still popular with passengers on the airline today. Every Business Class passenger gets to take a Delftware miniature house home with them after their trip. In the 1950s, however, it was prohibited to give passengers souvenirs of any kind. KLM presented these miniatures as a “last drink on the house”, much like restaurants offer a round of liqueur. Instead of serving these drinks in a glass, they were served in a miniature bottle that passengers were welcome to take home with them. Various forms were tried until the first Delftware miniature house was introduced in 1952. This year, KLM is set to introduce the 102nd house in the collection – one for every year the airline has been in operation.


Summing up, the 1950s were a transitional age for aviation, from an exclusive time when air travel was reserved for the elite, to the current day where flying is accessible to many. With the introduction of new travel classes, distant trips became more affordable, but air travel certainly wasn’t in reach of the broader public yet. To ensure passenger loyalty, airlines sought ways to give people a lasting memory of their flight. People traveling Economy Class in those days were already far removed from the nostalgic elegance of the early years of aviation. But the 1950s did open the aircraft door to a larger group of people, allowing them to experience the magic of air travel.

For close to two decades, Chris Zweigenthal has been at the helm of one of Africa’s leading aviation industry organizations, the Association of Southern African Airlines (AASA) based in Pretoria, South Africa. He is leaving in August to be with family in the USA. In this Q & A with Nomad Africa, he takes us through his accomplishments and more.

Nomad Africa: What were the milestones of your tenure and why?

Chris Zweigenthal: The milestones for me were characterized by industry changes and personal events.  I joined AASA in February 2002 as Deputy Chief Executive some 5 months after the tragic events of 9/11.

At that time the focus and priority of the industry was on upgrading safety and security throughout the value chain in airports, on board aircraft, and the passenger experience, an issue that remains a priority to this day.

The post 9/11 recovery also challenged the airlines financially.  The global economic slow-down of 2008/09 also impacted airlines significantly and the COVID-19 pandemic declared in March 2020 was the most devastating crisis ever to impact the aviation industry.

A personal milestone was my appointment as Chief Executive of AASA in March 2009.

Whilst AASA deals with many issues across the entire aviation industry, these milestones forced one to focus on and resolve critical issues that impacted the sustainability and future of the airline industry and our individual members.

Nomad Africa: Given that there are still many challenges for aviation in Southern Africa, what were your experiences like as the head of AASA?

Chris Zweigenthal: There are certainly many challenges facing aviation in Southern Africa, the most pressing currently being the recovery of the industry, to achieve a positive cash position and return to profitability as soon as is possible.

Through all the difficult economic milestones mentioned above and the many projects and initiatives we have worked on, it has been a privilege to get to know and work with a very diverse group of top officials in Government across all departments, the Chief Executives, Executives, management and teams within companies and agencies in aviation, travel, tourism, and associated sectors.

We have developed excellent constructive business relationships enabling us to promote our members’ interests and achieving our mandate.

Nomad Africa: Can you take us through the state of the organisation at the time you joined and now?

Chris Zweigenthal: When I joined AASA in 2002, John Morrison was CEO of AASA and I became the fifth member of staff.  He was well respected, and AASA was regarded as a leader in aviation in the Southern African region.

AASA’s mandate was growing significantly at this time, and what for me started initially as a part-time assignment soon developed into a full-time job.  John and I worked very closely together and I learned an enormous amount from him.

When John retired and I was appointed CEO, it was a smooth transition into my new position. AASA continued to grow its business agenda throughout my tenure and I believe continues to be regarded as a leader of the industry in the region.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown us all a huge curved ball and whilst AASA itself remains in a reasonable financial position, our main challenge remains finding the solution to ensure the recovery and ultimate sustainability of the industry.

Nomad Africa: How many members did AASA have at the time of your appointment and how many are there now?

Chris Zweigenthal: When I joined, there were 15 Airline members from South Africa and the region.  There are now 20 airline members.

When I joined, there were 16 Associate members.  There are now 37 Associate members.  (Associate members include aircraft and engine manufacturers, airports, air navigation services, weather service, financial and leasing institutions, suppliers, service providers, ground handlers, and tourism marketing organizations).

Nomad Africa: Can you tell us what were the major tasks for your tenure and if you managed to achieve them?

Chris Zweigenthal: During my tenure, I was involved in most major business projects or initiatives that AASA undertook on behalf of its members.

We also worked with IATA to promote their global agenda as it applied to the Southern African region and with the Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa, as well as other industry organizations such as the Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa in areas where there was an overlap of interests.

The major work included looking after the airline industry interests on infrastructure service provider business projects and operations, policy, legislative and regulatory issues impacting the airline industry, climate change initiatives, transformation of the industry, skills development and retention of skills, and projects which promote aspirations of new aviators.

SAA Nomad
Chris Zweigenthal spent 13 years with South African Airways, and just over 19 years with the Association of Southern African Airlines (AASA).

Nomad Africa: How do you see the future of AASA?

Chris Zweigenthal: AASA exists for its members and has a duty to ensure that it fulfills its mandate and adds value to its members.

We believe that its growth over the years both in numbers and in the business agenda is testament to its success over the past years. Since March 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry has gone through extremely challenging times.

Some of the projects have been delayed due to the focus of all public and private stakeholders, on dealing with the pandemic.  Emerging from the pandemic, the industry will probably look and operate differently to the pre-COVID environment.

Post-COVID, relationships between all stakeholders will need to be re-calibrated and become more engaging.

AASA has a major role to play in the aviation industry in our region and is the organization that is able to represent the whole industry on all issues of mutual interest with public and private stakeholders.  Hence, AASA must have a great future.

Nomad Africa: As an experienced aviator, would you still be available to lend any expertise to AASA or the broader African aviation industry?

Chris Zweigenthal: I left AASA for personal reasons; to spend more time with family.

However, I have a passion for the airline industry in Africa, that I have been privileged to serve for more than 32 years, 13 years with SAA, and just over 19 years with AASA.

There is so much more work left to do and I would be available to make a contribution where I could add value.

Nomad Africa: What kind of advice would you give to the person taking over at AASA?

Chris Zweigenthal: Wrenelle Stander takes over from me as AASA CEO.  I have known Wrenelle for many years and have had the opportunity of previously working with her.

She knows the industry and environment that she is returning to.  I would therefore say to her that in this industry anything can happen, be prepared for any curve balls, have a good sense of humour, and enjoy the experience!

Leading airport services provider, National Aviation Services (NAS) signed an agreement to partner with global healthcare company, Abbott, to drive the implementation of Covid-19 rapid testing solutions at major airports and trans border lounges across the African continent and the Middle East. This partnership aims to aid the recovery of safe inter-country travel and passenger confidence.

Using its global network, local relationships and industry expertise, NAS will work with local authorities to deploy Abbott’s Panbio™ COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test Device and the ID NOW™ molecular point-of-care test system. Both these solutions offer quick testing for Covid-19, thus encouraging and facilitating safer cross-border travel. With the global aviation industry working hard to take off following the pandemic, solutions such as these will go a long way in helping fuel economies as more people resume international commerce and travel.

NAS has continued to partner with local authorities to utilize our airport expertise in passenger handling and technology to develop digital solutions





NAS has a presence in more than 50 airports, collectively managing over 100 airlines and 50 airport lounges in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Since the beginning of the pandemic, NAS has been driving efforts to implement digital solutions to help restart travel globally – especially collecting and verifying health data and ensuring authenticity of PCR test certificates of travelers.

Hassan El-Houry, Group CEO said: “During the pandemic, NAS has continued to partner with local authorities to utilize our airport expertise in passenger handling and technology to develop digital solutions that offer peace of mind for travelers, airline employees, airport authorities and the local government. Our collaboration in purchasing and deploying the Abbott’s Panbio™ COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test Device and the ID NOW™ molecular point-of-care system at airports across our network is aimed at continuing these efforts and helping restore passenger confidence to aid further recovery of international travel.”

Abbott’s Panbio™ COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test Device is a highly reliable, portable and affordable rapid antigen test, which has received CE Mark and WHO EUL and has been deployed in dozens of countries across the world. It delivers results in as early as 15-20 minutes with no instrumentation, providing a scalable and cost-effective solution for governments and private industry in efforts to restart international commerce.

ID NOW COVID-19 assay is performed on the ID NOW Instrument, which is a rapid molecular test that uses isothermal nucleic acid amplification to detect SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in direct nasal, nasopharyngeal or throat swabs. It provides results in 13 minutes or less. The ID NOW Instrument has a small footprint and easy to use graphical user interface for convenience within busy environments.

Both solutions can help save passengers and airport authorities or airlines considerable time and effort to get test results prior to departure or on arrival. They will also help curb the transmission of the coronavirus among passengers travelling together or through passengers arriving into the destination country. Passengers can thus travel with more peace of mind when on aircrafts or at crowded airports.

Delta is marking its 15th year of nonstop service from South Africa by scheduling its state-of-the-art Airbus A350-900neo on flights between Johannesburg and Atlanta when the route resumes effective 2 August 2021. The service, first launched by Delta on 4 December 2006, will initially operate three times weekly, offering customers a choice of 150 destinations across the United States via Delta’s largest hub.

“We are proud of our airline’s 15-year history in South Africa and excited that Delta’s restart between  Johannesburg and the U.S. is with our flagship aircraft, offering customers an enhanced onboard experience wherever they sit,” said Amy Martin, Delta’s Managing Director – Network Planning. “As well as offering more onboard comfort combined with the great service customers can expect from Delta, the aircraft is 25% more fuel efficient than the Boeing 777 it replaces, helping reduce carbon emissions on our longest route.”

Featuring all four Delta cabin experiences, highlights of the new A350 for customers flying between Johannesburg and Atlanta include:

  • Delta One Suites – a personalized experience, with a full-height door for enhanced privacy and comfort, each suite features a fully flat-bed seat with direct aisle access
  • Delta Premium Select – more personal space, wider seats with more legroom and recline, adjustable leg and head rests and an elevated onboard service
  • Delta Comfort+ – a seat at the front of Main Cabin, with allocated overhead storage for carry-on items
  • High-resolution in-seat entertainment screens and personal power ports for every customer, optional access to high-speed 2Ku Wi-Fi connectivity, plus free mobile messaging
  • Larger windows with optimized cabin pressure, temperature and humidity and ambient lighting to help customers feel refreshed and ready to go after a long-haul flight
  • For meal service, Delta offers uniquely crafted menu items that reflect regional flavors. All customers will receive a choice of entrée alongside an appetizer and dessert in addition to a full bar selection or soft drink. Customers traveling in Delta One can pre-order their meal choice on flights between South Africa and the U.S. and can look forward to favourites such as Peri Peri chicken or grilled prawns with jasmine rice

Delta’s nonstop flights between Johannesburg and Atlanta are conveniently scheduled as night-time departures. Thanks to Delta’s extensive network from its Atlanta hub, customers can fly one-stop from South Africa to cities including Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Miami and New York-JFK, arriving in time for lunch the next day. Entry to the U.S. from South Africa remains restricted except for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Those eligible to travel can also connect via Delta’s European hubs in Amsterdam, London and Paris in conjunction with joint venture partners Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic, while onward connections are available in South Africa and beyond in conjunction with local partners.

“We are excited to welcome Delta back to South Africa. North America is a key market for us and we are confident that this Delta non-stop flight will boost South Africa’s efforts to grow business and leisure tourists’ arrivals out of this market,” said Acting CEO of South African Tourism, Sthembiso Dlamini.

South Africa is a country rich in history and vibrant culture and very warm people. South Africans are ready to welcome back visitors from across the world and we are definitely open for business. We look forward to many years of success on this route, as we continue to share the variety of experiences with all travelers.”

Gus Gardner, Associate Travel and Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Europe’s largest low-cost airline foresees summer 2022 as its time to shine, and preparations are underway. The airline has placed its bets on returning demand by beginning a mammoth recruitment drive for 2,000 pilots over the next three years. Moreover, Ryanair will take delivery of 50 of its new 200+ aircraft order by summer 2022, as it prepares for its busiest post-COVID season to date. With pent-up demand for travel rising as restrictions begin to ease across Europe, Ryanair could be one of the best positioned airlines to absorb demand, and this could bear fruits for the carrier, especially with its new aircraft.”

The new Boeing 737-8200 aircraft will offer eight additional seats in comparison to its current 189 seat aircraft, while reducing fuel burn by 16% per seat and reducing noise/CO2 emissions, which should help lower costs further.

Gardner continues: “Ryanair’s new game-changing aircraft looks set to drive its already low-cost base even lower. Reduced fuel burn per seat will reduce spend on fuel, thus giving the airline a considerable cost saving. If passed onto passengers, Ryanair will be in a strong position to reduce ticket prices, become more competitive, and step on the toes of other players. Ryanair’s new aircraft, coupled with high levels of expected pent-up demand, will likely see the carrier excel in a post-COVID environment, attracting many budget-conscious travelers that may have stated their loyalty elsewhere prior to the pandemic.”

A live GlobalData poll* demonstrates the impact the pandemic has had on travelers’ budgets with 11% of respondents stating a reduction in travel budget post-COVID.

Gardner adds: “With reduced funds, travelers who previously opted for full-service carriers will likely shift to low-cost carriers for the interim. Ryanair will be well-positioned compared to others, especially given the introduction of its new aircraft and the cost savings it can pass on to stimulate demand. Furthermore, another live GlobalData poll** revealed price as the most important factor when selecting an airline brand. Over half (52%) of respondents selected price/value as the largest factor – which bodes well for Ryanair.

“The airline’s competitive position, low fares, and expansive European network will pay dividends and could see the airline as the carrier of choice for post-COVID travel. With a pay for what you require model, Ryanair will be attractive to those looking for the most basic service. It could substantially shake up incumbent players, and its bullish approach will see it win travelers to help it emerge strongly from the pandemic.”

We are concerned that the application by Delta Air Lines to the Department of Transport to add a stop to Cape Town International Airport on its Atlanta-Johannesburg service has been pending for over 12 months.

This matter was brought to my attention several weeks ago and since then I have been actively engaged in the matter, given the critical importance of the Cape Town route for tourist and business connections from the United States (U.S.) to the Western Cape.

To this end, I wrote to the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula on 13 May 2021 requesting that the Minister urgently review and approve the application for the triangular Atlanta – Johannesburg – Cape Town route and I wrote to the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on 17 May 2021 to ask her to take up the matter with the Department of Transport given the importance of the route for tourism recovery in South Africa.

I have since received a reply from Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane indicating that her department are in ‘intensive discussions’ with the Department of Transport on this matter.

We have also engaged regularly over the past several weeks with all stakeholders involved in the matter, including representatives from Delta Air Lines, the U.S. Consulate General and Cape Town Air Access, to ensure that every possible angle could be pursued in resolving this matter.

From the various engagements that officials from the Department of Economic Development and Tourism and from Cape Town Air Access have had with the Department of Transport, it appears that a possible reason for the delay in the Delta Air Lines application is that this request is seen as a triangular flight which will cause competition with domestic carriers.

However, this is not the case. While Delta Air Lines is requesting to stop at two South African locations, passengers will only be able to purchase an Atlanta – Johannesburg ticket or an Atlanta – Cape Town ticket and vice versa. Delta Air Lines is not proposing to carry any domestic traffic between the two points and will not disembark any passengers originating from Johannesburg in Cape Town.

The Cape Town Air Access team have engaged with the Department of Transport over this issue on several occasions and unfortunately the Department of Transport has not provided satisfactory evidence or arguments to oppose this application.

The two reasons given, that the Department of Transport has not appointed a new Air Services Licensing Council and that the Aviation Policy Review Committee (APRC) is behind schedule in completing the policy review process, cannot be allowed to hinder air service development in South Africa.

According to feedback received, the APRC has decided that “triangular routes will not be approved going forward and the ones ongoing are under review”. This is extremely worrying since the draft policy has not even been shared for public commentary, which suggests that a select few officials from the APRC have decided the national policy direction.

The global aviation landscape is changing fast and progressively more applications of this type will follow, requiring flexibility in decision-making and the removal of red tape that is a barrier to economic growth in South Africa.

Through delays like this, the Department of Transport is constraining South Africa’s air connectivity to other countries and unnecessarily compounding the negative impact of the global travel restrictions imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Delta Air Lines’ flight to Cape Town is key for economic recovery and job creation in the Western Cape.

And so, I appeal to Minister Fikile Mbalula to urgently review this matter and expedite this long overdue application so that Delta Air Lines can fly to Cape Town.

The ravages of COVID-19 on the aviation and tourism industry are well documented. South African local Low-Cost Airline FlySafair, has just launched a new mobile app as companies attempt to rebuild after South Africa’s second wave, and adjust to travel in the New Normal.

“We’ve been crafting an app for a while and now seemed like a great time to launch it because we were able to make a lot of adjustments to the features to ensure that they were relevant in this COVID-19 reality”, says Kirby Gordon, Chief Marketing Officer at FlySafair.

Aviation is South Africa took another massive knock after the announcement of level 3 restrictions in late December last year, with available seats on the market in January this year being a mere 45% of what they were in January 2020. Competition for limited customers is fierce and it’s now more important than ever that airlines look to differentiate themselves to win over market share.

“The aim of the app has been to make our customer’s experience with us simpler, by centralising all booking details into one place. What’s great about this is that customers can manage a great deal of their journey on their own devices. Boarding passes are kept on the device which supports our No Touch approach at the airport and live updates through the app will keep customers abreast of any possible schedule changes”.

The new FlySafair App is available for download, free of charge, in both the Apple App Store for iPhones, and the Google Play Store for Android devices. While the app provides functionality to assist customers during their travel process it’s also a platform to purchase new flights.

“Users create a profile on the app which allows them to save the details for regular travelers and even remember their payment details, making booking really simple”. FlySafair has also communicated that special offers will be promoted through the app only. “We’re looking forward to running a couple of promotions and deals that will be exclusively available through our app in the near future”.

For best flight deals; to compare, search and book affordable flight, click here.

Air Peace has started two direct flights weekly from Lagos, Nigeria to Johannesburg, which was  recently announced at the inaugural ceremony of flight operations in Johannesburg yesterday.

The airline said it will operate two flights weekly between the two cities. Flights will depart Johannesburg for Lagos on Thursday and Sunday for the six-hour journey.

The 4,524 -kilometer route currently has the likes of Ethiopian Air, RwandAir, Kenya Airways, ASKY, Egypt with one or more stopovers but Air Peace passengers will fly directly in a three-class Boeing 777-300 configured with 320 seats.

The gradual reopening of borders will definitely boost Air Peace plans to provide affordable flights between the two biggest economic hubs on the continent.

The inaugural launch of Air Peace flight operations into South Africa at the Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport. Photo Source: Facebook
Photo session at the inaugural ceremony to commemorate launch of regular flight operations in South Africa held at Johannesburg. Photo Source: Facebook

Air Peace is a Nigerian private airline that provides passenger and charter services. The airline boasts a fleet size of 23 covering 17 destinations serving major cities of Nigeria and West Africa. Travel Class. Air Peace provides passengers with an all-economy class cabin equipped with comfortable seating and great service.  

RwandAir customers will benefit from easy-to-understand schedules and prices following a new partnership between the airline and Lufthansa Systems. The new partnership means will better display the cheapest available ticket prices to meet customer demand and make booking with the Rwandan flag carrier easier than ever.

The enhancements follow RwandAir’s adoption of Lufthansa Systems’ NetLine/Sched and ProfitLine/Price solutions, which optimise the airline’s complex flight schedule to more efficiently determine the best ticket prices, based on the current market situation as well as supply and demand. NetLine/Sched, the schedule management system from Lufthansa Systems, helps airlines to quickly make the best decisions when creating and optimising their flight schedules, while also taking operational and economic aspects into account. ProfitLine/Price is a comprehensive system for pricing which considers the current competitive situation, price trends and underlying fare structures. These two control programs not only simplify the airline’s scheduling, they also effectively support RwandAir’s expansion of its route network and pricing strategy by forecasting revenue changes based on fare modifications.

Yvonne Manzi Makolo, Rwandair CEO, said: “Thanks to our adaption of Lufthansa Systems’ scheduling and pricing solutions, our customers will be able to find fares more easily and enjoy an easy-to-understand flight schedule. Working closely with Lufthansa Systems, we have been able to optimise our ticket pricing and flight schedules to ensure RwandAir continues its ambitious growth as it enters into exciting new markets.”

Marco Cesa, Lufthansa Systems Vice President Regional Management EMEA, said: “We are delighted that RwandAir, an important customer in Africa, is now relying on our NetLine/Sched and ProfitLine/Price solutions. I am certain that both products will make a significant contribution to the airline’s expansion plans. Netline/Sched is a dynamic system which enables airlines like RwandAir to make swift and effective changes and important short-term modifications to their highly complex live flight schedules. These systems use economic algorithms to help evaluate different schedule scenarios to create a comprehensive pricing system.”