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May 3, 2002

Barbara Cassani '82 Named Business Woman of the Year


Photo: Go Fly Unlimited

Barbara Cassani '82, CEO of Go Fly, Ltd.

Mount Holyoke trustee Barbara A. Cassani '82, the CEO of Go Fly, Ltd., British Airways' no-frills subsidiary airline—won the Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year award April 24. This award, which the April 17 Financial Times (London) described as "one of the UK's top business accolades," comes on the heels of the Wall Street Journal Europe naming Cassani in February one of Europe's twenty-five most successful businesswomen, ranking her as number six.

The MHC alumna faced stiff competition for the award from fellow nominees Sly Bailey, chief executive of IPC Media Group; Rachel Elnaugh, chairman of Red Letter Days, which sells special experiences such as rafting or go–carting; Chey Garland, chief executive of the Hartlepool-based Garlands Call Centres; and Jo Malone, who founded a skin-care and perfume group. Cassani, who, ironically, "has always disliked being singled out for special mention on the grounds of gender," according to the April 25 Financial Times (London), was cited by the paper as "rapidly gain[ing] respect as one of the very few female chief executives in an industry that is seen as being notoriously male-dominated."

After graduating magna cum laude from Mount Holyoke with a major in international relations, her next stop was the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Having completed her master's degree in public affairs there, she joined the firm of Coopers & Lybrand (now Pricewaterhouse Coopers) in Washington, D.C., as a consultant in its international division. She then moved to the firm's offices in London. A British Airways newspaper advertisement for a job in sales and marketing led Cassani to a new career path and to swift ascension through the managerial ranks of the major international airline company.

Cassani told the New York Times that she "had no idea of what [she] was getting into" when she embarked on her career with the airline. But the turbulent industry seemed to inspire her greatest talents. She turned around a small European airline bought by British Airways in 1992 and was soon pegged for Go Fly. Unhindered by competition and threats from rival low-cost airlines, Go Fly, under Cassani's direction, now has a
staff of nine hundred and serves twenty-three European cities, from Copenhagen to Lisbon. Cassani will be on campus this spring for her twentieth reunion.

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