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Free country, new market

27 April 1994 First democratic elections. Nearly 20 million South Africans,irrespective of race, queue to vote. They elect Mandela as President. He servesuntil 1999.

December 1994 Flight Centre partners with PenTravel, a local agent with 11 shops. Wayne Hamilton and Treacey Dowd-Hamilton open our first shop, Eastgate Flight Centre, in Johannesburg. It breaks even in three months.

1995 Shane ‘Flynnie’ Flynn heads over from Queensland to open the second shop,Westgate Flight Centre. He leads operations in South Africa until 2002.

24 June 1995 South Africa hosts and wins the Rugby World Cup, defeating New Zealand 15–12. Mandela dons the Springbok’s jersey to present the trophy. This moment unites a previously divided nation behind the national team.

1996 We have eight shops – five in JNB, two in DUR, one in CPT. Our firstnational ball is at the Philips Manufacturing Plant Canteen. The top consultant wins a fruit basket.

Eighty per cent of what Flight Centre did had never been done in South Africa before. We were the first travel agents ever to discount fares. We even had other travel agents ringing us wanting to buy them from us… We just blew clients away. They were used to traditional travel agents who took a week to quote. We gave them a price on the spot and discounted it to boot. They couldn’t believe it – and we just kept making money.’ – Wayne Hamilton

We face operational challenges in the early years after apartheid. Electricity supply is intermittent. Our Ticket Centre people work at night and often have to ticket by torchlight. Phone lines cut out frequently as vandals raid them for copper wire. Security is an issue with about 30 car-jackings a day in downtown Joburg.

‘Hello, Heathway Flight Centre.Sorry we can’t help you right now, the bank next door is getting robbed and there’s a shoot-out going on.’– Unknown FC consultant answers customer enquiry

In the previous 20 years under apartheid, less than 10 airlines fly into South Africa. In late 1997, four years post-apartheid, there are 70 airlines operating in RSA. New airlines want to deal with new players like Flight Centre. However, it takes us three years to get a deal with British Airways, and three years just to get an appointment with South African Airways.

1997 Just two years after starting up, South Africa breaks even. We have 10 shops and about 70 Flighties.

1998 South Africa makes its first profit of AUD$795,000. We start our Corporate Traveller operations out the back of Sandton FC shop.

Our marketing strategy is ‘on the box’. We build a replica Flight Centre store in a shopping mall on the set of Egoli, South Africa’s first daily TV soap opera. The show is the equivalent of Neighbours and it speaks directly to our demographic.

1999 South Africa posts a profit of R9 million.


On the rise

‘I loved the autonomy we were given at Flight Centre as such young people.I was 20 years old and I genuinely felt I was running my own business. It was great to be working with like-minded
individuals who all wanted to be the best they could and to be successful.’

– Janine Salame, who started as a consultant at
Brooklyn Square FC in 2000

2001 We have 63 shops, TTV of R740 million and profit before tax of nearly R21 million.

2002 Flynnie returns to Australia as company CEO. Sue Garrett becomes Managing Director of RSA, having started in 1995 as a consultant at Rosebank FC. A defining moment for Sue and Flight Centre is finally signing a deal with the national carrier, South African Airways.4 We introduce Student Flights to the local market.2003 We record an increase in pre-tax profit of 76 per cent. At Global, South Africa wins Most Improved Nation.

2004 It’s our 10th anniversary in RSA. We have 88 leisure and corporate travel outlets, and TTV of AUD$229 million. At Global, Student Flights Hatfield wins Most Profitable Student Flights Team Worldwide. Dayle White becomes Executive General Manager for RSA. 2005 We have 116 leisure and corporate outlets, and TTV of AUD$365 million. South Africa has an unemployment rate of about 24 per cent. President Thabo Mbeki calls for faster economic growth and the necessary skills development to support this.

2006 We have 133 outlets, and TTV of nearly AUD$402 million. At Global, South Africa wins Most Improved Nation and a Social Responsibility Award for our learnership program. This year-long program provides disadvantaged young people with opportunities to learn about an industry of interest through practical workplace placements. Often this leads to permanent employment for the participants.

2007 FC RSA begins to sponsor and volunteer with Philile, a non-profit organisation whose mission is to uplift disadvantaged communities through quality pre-schooling.

2008 Our TTV is AUD$435 million. We open the first international office for theTravel Associates brand.

18 July 2009 In recognition of Mandela’s 91st birthday, Nelson Mandela International Day is launched by unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly. It’s inspired by Mandela’s call for the next generation to take on leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices.

2009 Global financial turmoil means turbulence for the travel industry. Our profit plummets. So we need a new leadership structure – now, RSA is linked to the UK. At 29, Janine Salame becomes Executive General Manager for RSA. She reflects:

‘Age is nothing but a number. I love Flight Centre and I feel like I’ve grown up with the company. I’ve always looked at every position I’ve been in from the perspective of what value can I add.’


2010 There’s a sense of pride and togetherness when South Africa hosts the Football World Cup. A total of 3.18 million people attend the matches and the TV coverage reaches 2.2 billion viewers. Having successfully staged this global mega-event and with its rapidly growing economy, South Africa becomes a full member of BRICS, and joins Brazil, Russia, India and China.

2010 FC RSA wins ‘Best Medium-Sized Company to Work for in Southern Africa’ as awarded by Deloittes. We relaunch Corporate Traveller. Andrew Stark starts as leader of RSA’s Corporate Nation. His brief is to: ‘Turn performance around and make corporate profitable.’ We trumpet our vuvuzelas for RSA Corporate. At Global in 2011, South Africa wins Most Improved Corporate Nation. At Global in 2013, we win Most Improved Corporate Nation and Terry Harley wins Top Corporate Consultant.

2013 We have 158 businesses, TTV of AUD$416 million and AUD$7.4 million profit.

5 December 2013 – ‘Father of the Nation’, Nelson Mandela dies.2014 marks 20 years of freedom in RSA.

2015 marks 21 years of FCTG in South Africa. We have 172 business,TTV of AUD$473 million and record profit before tax of AUD$11.3 million.We launch our Flight Centre Foundation. Andrew Stark becomes Managing Director for RSA.

FCTG’s culture is like watching your favourite movie over and over. You know it so well, but you watch it again because every time you watch it you are smiling, happy and enjoying every minute of it! …We are passionate about what we do,we care for one another, we care for our customers and we love to see success at the end of it.’ – Hanrie Pelser

‘FCTG’s culture means that we can speak freely and you are allowed to be yourself. There is no “Corporate Seriousness”. We are young (no matter your age).’ – Claire Madika Ngwane

2016 We are the largest travel company in South Africa with TTV of R5 billion and the overall footprint of our 14 retail, corporate and wholesale brands.

‘The future is bright for Flight CentreSouth Africa. Over the next ten years,our story is all about growth – acrosscorporate and leisure, in profitability and in developing our people. With
1.1 billion people on the African continent compared to 742 million in Europe, we have opportunities to expand into new countries and markets. Our mission is to become Africa’s greatest travel and technology experience company.

– Andrew Stark

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