BLANTYRE, MALAWI —
Malawian Airlines made history Thursday with an all-female operated and supported flight from Blantyre, Malawi, to Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania. The two-hour flight by a Bombardier Q400 aircraft that took off from Chileka International Airport was the first of its kind in Malawi's aviation history.
All flight-related operations such as security checks, customer service, check-in, air traffic control and cabin procedures were conducted by women.
Even airport staff such as police, immigration and ground control officers were women.
And the cockpit was under the control of Malawi’s first female captain, Yolanda Ndala-Kaunda, and her assistant, Lusekelo Mwenifumbo.
Joseph Josiah, spokesman for Malawian Airlines, told VOA the venture was intended to promote women’s empowerment and encourage more girls to pursue careers in aviation.
“Somehow they think maybe aviation is only for boys [or] it’s only for men because it is too technical. So we are trying to show to them [that] women too are as capable to succeed in these fields.”
Josiah says about 36 percent of the company's employees are women but that the number is much smaller when it comes to female pilots – only two of the company’s 12 pilots are women.
But Josiah added that authorities have taken deliberate measures aimed at training more women in order to narrow the gender gap.
Captain Ndala-Kaunda says she was excited to have another woman as an assistant pilot.
“I have been flying for nine years. And in the nine years, I was the only woman in the flight bag, so for me I am really happy that there is someone else who can join me and [I’m] hoping that there will even more in the coming years.”
Lizzie Tchokhotho, a duty officer for passenger and baggage services at the airline, told VOA she appreciates the company's commitment to women.
“I am excited, honestly, to be honored. It’s an honor for women to handle this flight. I have been in this service for long but maybe it was two years ago when we had a similar flight by Kenya Airways, so it’s an honor to us.”
The flight had a two-hour layover at Kamuzu International Airport in the capital, Lilongwe, for a reception where the nation's first lady, Gertrude Mutharika, met with the crew.
Mutharika said the time is now over for girls to think they can’t make a breakthrough into careers previously considered male-dominated.
The 67-seat aircraft was expected to return from Dar-es-Salaam the same day.