The launch, which brought the number of the national airline's cross border destinations in the region to three, was greeted in mid-air with cheers by both AB staff and passengers on board the historic flight.
Before launching the Lusaka route, AB operated direct flights to Johannesburg, South Africa, and Harare, Zimbabwe.
Addressing journalists in the executive lounge of the Lusaka International Airport, AB's business development manager Dikagiso Matshaba apologised for the delay in departure from Gaborone. The flight was scheduled to leave at 11 am and arrive in Lusaka at 1pm. But because of a few hiccups, the flight was delayed and arrived in the Lusaka 40 minutes late.
"We are sorry for what has happened but we can assure our clients this will not happen again," a confident Matshaba said, adding that AB would re-negotiate the time-schedule with their Zambian counterparts including aviation authorities. "We have done our research and established that this is a viable route, which is why we are going to ask for more time. We have realised that trade between Botswana and Zambia is not that much, but with the launch of the direct flights, including the one via Kasane, business between the two countries will grow," he said.
He revealed that after the Lusaka link, "we shall be targeting Luanda (Angola) next".
AB will fly to Zambia four times a week. The flights are from Gaborone to Lusaka and Lusaka-Kasane. The Gaborone-Lusaka direct flight will be on Friday and Sunday, starting from Gaborone at 11am, arriving Lusaka at 1pm. Departure from Lusaka will be from 14 hours, arriving at SSKIA at 4pm. The Gaborone-Kasane-Lusaka flights (and vice versa) are on Monday and Wednesday.
According to advertised rates, tickets for the Gaborone to Lusaka flight will cost P654 (one-way) and P1,208 return trip.
AB's general manager (GSA) in Lusaka, Lesley Stobart, hailed the launch as one of the greatest events in the history of the national airline.
"We are all very pleased indeed. We have over 30 passengers from here going to Gaborone, which is a very good number for a launch flight," she said.
Tshepo Mogotsi, counselor/head of chancery at the Botswana High Commission in Lusaka, said: "We were all anxiously looking forward to this launch. We are delighted that it has happened because President Ian Khama had alluded to the launch of this direct flight when he opened the Zambia International Trade Fair in Ndola on July 3."
Zambians welcomed the introduction of flights as the move will help travellers from Botswana who presently go through Oliver Tambo International Airport (ORT) in Johannesburg to fly to various destinations in Zambia. (Sila Press Agency)