Messages of condolence have been pouring in from industry, following the unexpected death of Nikki Knight Samuels, who passed away from a heart attack last week.
Described as an irrepressibly bubbly and happy person, Nikki was also extremely dedicated to her work. She was known for her wicked sense of humour, her love of fashion and for her collection of boots in particular, travel friends say.
The travel bug bit Nikki early, as she moved between Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Zambia where her father worked when she was young. Later, she attended boarding school in England and flew back to Africa as an unaccompanied minor from a very young age. After finishing her studies she enjoyed a short stint at Travel2, a UK-based travel agent, before moving back to Africa where she worked for an agency in Umhlanga. She was later appointed as a sales executive for Nationwide Airlines, which would prove to be a pivotal moment for Nikki. She was mad about the airline industry, with friends describing her as having “aviation in her blood”.
During her career she also represented Singapore Airlines. She worked at Qatar Airways for many years, first as an account manager before her promotion to sales manager. She was then head-hunted by TAAG Angola Airlines and appointed sales manager, where she worked for the past three years, commuting between Durban, where she lived with her husband, and her flat in Johannesburg.
TAAG’s regional gm for Southern Africa, Gregory Epps, said he met Nikki when they worked together at Qatar. “Years later, when I was assigned back to Africa by TAAG, the first thing I did was recruit Nikki before I even got off the plane – she was just that good. She was not only an excellent salesperson but was also highly analytical, a rare combination of skills. She was a tireless worker and would never give up on a task until it was completed. In just three years she did an incredible job of putting TAAG, a relatively unknown African carrier at the time, on the map within the SA industry. She was a great people person and these qualities gave agents the assurance they needed to trust us with their clients,” said Greg.
“I have known beautiful Nikki, with her trademark long blonde hair, for many years even before we worked for different airlines. Nikki’s friendly smile will be missed by the Durban travel industry. Sending love and prayers to her hubby and family, as we all try to come to terms with this extremely sad news,” says Barbara Herridge from Acorn B&B in Durban.
“The industry is in absolute shock at the news of Nikki’s passing. Her bubbly personality, admirable work ethic and wicked sense of humour – that was always delivered in her trademark English accent – are just a few of things that will be missed about her,” says Esther Currie, owner of Amalfi Coast Promotions, who worked with Nikki when they both started at Nationwide together.
Club Travel’s head of supply, Sharon Schierhout, says Nikki was always only a phone call away, willing to help with any request. “I will remember her for her ability to spin the most difficult of situations in a positive light.”