Fran Heron, Mango revenue manager and a veteran of SAA, passed away on Sunday, June 20, at the age of 70, after a short illness.
Sean Bradley, chief business development officer Africa at Travelwings.com, said he was mentored by Fran and worked alongside her at SAA for many years. He said the enormous contribution she made to SAA and Mango was beyond words and the void she leaves ‘incomprehensible”.
Sean shared the following tribute to Fran:
Fran started her career with South African Airways where she spent a very happy 39-years of her life contributing in building brand SAA!
She started off as a Ground Hostess and served in operational areas of the business and eventually with a ‘safe-landing’, progressed into Revenue Management where Fran very quickly excelled through her natural flair for understanding capacity performance, eventually being responsible for many of SAA key International routes.
Fran’s experience was unique… apart from the scientific and mathematical understanding of route management and chasing for Yield, Fran’s ability to achieve Load Factors at the desired yields was based on her instinctive understanding of every flight (even those outside her responsibility!).
Fran’s experience also included working closely with me for a period in Voyager Marketing, serving SAA’s Voyager Platinum and Lifetime Platinum customers. “This was quite an experience, as Fran was a ‘straight-shooter’ and would inform the customers ‘yes, I will secure your upgrade seat… or, its not going to happen with this flight!”
There was also a very sad time when SAA’s flight from Taiwan went down near Mauritius on the 28th Nov 1987, killing all 159 people on board, Fran was called to assist in calling all next of kin. This apparently affected Fran in a very big way and understandably so. The compassion and support Fran extended to many of the families is indicative of Fran’s caring manner… always putting other’s first!
During Fran’s illustrious career with SAA, there were many achievements, however Fran was always humble… for her, it was simply ‘part of the job’!
Rugby World Cup 1995 was another one of the successful sporting events Fran was involved with and ensured each of the flights operated at maximum capacity bringing many international travellers and visiting friends and relatives to the game!
Fran was also involved with the aircraft that flew over Ellis Park stadium for the final, a Boeing 747 flown by Captain Laurie Kay. Most the Pilots knew Fran… she was known throughout the business and across the International stations… right up to the many CEO’s! It was Fran’s incredible bubbly personality that made it easy to know her – she also took no nonsense from anyone and stood strong on her beliefs and values.
On 30 October 2006, Mango was launched and the first flight airborne on 15 November with Nico Bezuidenhout (CEO at the time) and his team. Fran was already assisting in the background, and in January 2007 Fran moved across to Mango and continued her career with Revenue Management and served the airline up until her tragic passing.
Fran’s passion for aviation is evident in everything she did… her knowledge was deep and accumulated over the many years while serving SAA. There are many people who’s careers were built on the support and insight shared by Fran – testimony to this is the many messages of gratitude that are being shared. Fran’s passion for the SAA and Mango brands was evident in the manner she served customers and the teams across various pillars of the business.
Fran’s work ethic was faultless and her commitment was not only to SAA and Mango, but also to Tourism! Fran helped build Zanzibar’s tourism through the capacity positioned on the route and ensuring strong partnerships with the Trade and product suppliers in Zanzibar.
Fran’s friendship circle across the world was built over many years… serving customers, the International teams and through her travels. Her close friends were considered her family. Her family was everything to her! Having lost her mom to COVID-19 almost a year ago, was an incredibly painful time for Fran.
On the 1 May Fran celebrated her 70th Birthday and she shared her appreciation for life family and friends at a special, intimate lunch in the country (open-air venue to ensure health & safety measures are observed) – little did I know that would be the last hug I would enjoy from Fran!
Fran, your sudden passing has affected all those who’s life you touched in some way. As an Industry, there is a massive void today and we extend our enormous appreciation for your unselfish support and love you shared with many.
To your husband Ted, brothers Louis and Martin (ex SAA Head of Pricing), sister, Ellen (Chairperson PCO Alliance Network) and Family, our deepest condolences for your loss. Our prayers are with you.
Fran Heron – Forever in our hearts!
Noelan Rungasamy, GM Commercial at Mango adds: “For her team at Mango Fran was known to be a knowledge bearer, teacher, a leader, and more personally a mother figure. Often being called upon for advice and assistance Fran was never one for staying within boundaries. She involved herself in various aspects of the business and was never afraid to speak her mind. She served as an integral part of Mango and in no uncertain terms was a key to the success of the airline. Her loss will resonate with the people she leaves behind for some time to come and her loud voice within the corridors of the head office will be sorely missed. Goodbye my dear friend, you were a true legend.”