The national airline, Air Botswana plans to launch back into regional skies by March 31, buoyed by a refleeting programme last year estimated to have cost more than US$60 million (P630 million).
On Wednesday, Agnes Khunwana, the airline’s managing director, said in the first quarter of the year, the airline would restart flights to Harare, Lusaka and Cape Town from Gaborone. A Kasane-Johannesburg flight will be introduced later in the year.
Air Botswana acquired a twin-engine Embraer E-170 Jet in December last year, the country’s first, as well as two ATR 72-600s earlier in the year.
“This route expansion is being supported by a revised fares structure which has been borne out of increased efficiency per seat cost due to the airline now operating bigger capacity aircraft. We have discounted some of our fares by up to 25% on certain routes, more especially our domestic routes,” Khunwana said in a statement sent out after BusinessWeek enquiries.
Air Botswana dropped the Harare and Lusaka flights in 2016 citing viability issues, while the Cape Town service was discontinued last year after South African airline, Cem Air experienced technical downgrades. Air Botswana ran the Cape Town flight through an arrangement with Cem Air.
Khunwana said the Harare and Lusaka routes were supported by “increased commercial activities and movement of people between Botswana and its northern neighbours”. The refleeting is part of a phased approach to privatising Air Botswana, where Phase 1 involves increasing the airline’s intrinsic value, before moving towards a process to privatise.
In August 2017, Parliament was informed that that Air Botswana was worth P300 million in terms of its assets and property. The airline, at the time, had a fleet of three ATR42-500s and also leased a Bombardier jet. Government has attempted to privatise the loss-making airline three times before, in 2003, 2006 and 2008, but the deals have fallen through each time due either to investors withdrawing or Cabinet rejecting the terms.