Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Air Botswana fights tooth and nail to woo pilots back

The national airline Air Botswana is said to have developed a strategic plan to ensure that some of the pilots and other skilled personnel it lost to international airlines retrace their steps to its pay roll.

For the past three years, Air Botswana has separated with a total of 26 pilots, eight engineers and 29 other skilled personnel, Parliament heard this week.

Minister of Transport Kitso Mokaila said management responded to the loss of pilots to competition international airlines by reviewing the salary structure and working conditions, in line with industry standard. Mokaila said a retention strategy was then developed adding that this has yielded results as a number of pilots were retained.

He said that prior to 2016, Air Botswana operated a felt of eight aircraft, comprising four jets and four turbo props.

Since then, according to the minister, the entire jet fleet was however permanently grounded until it was deposed of by the end of 2016.

“Meanwhile, the crew for the eight aircraft remained under the employ of the airline, meaning that 50 percent more pilots than needed.  Based on the size of the fleet, the same applied to the engineers,” said Mokaila.

He said in 2017 when 26 pilots left for to Saudi Arabia and India, the airline was left with 22 pilots-when the fleet required 24.

“The two vacant posts were soon thereafter, filled with more experienced pilots who had previously left the airline. They saw that as an opportunity to return home,” he said.

In respect to other skilled personnel, he said, 15 were close to the end of their contract, which management decided not to renew. He said twelve were retrenched while two resigned as part of normal attrition.

Mokaila explained that management and the Board continue to explore effective and sustainable strategies to attract and retain staff including the development of a robust succession planning and talent management framework.

He said Air Botswana continues to review its salary structure with a view to making it more competitive, especially for workers who possess mission-critical skills and knowledge.

In the year 2006, Mokaila said, the Board of Air Botswana approved the implementation of a staff retentions scheme, with the main purpose being to attract and retain mission critical personnel through payment of retention scarce skills allowances. He said Management continues to implement this at various level of the organisation.

“Former employees are considered a potential market for the airline, and they will be considered on an as needed basis.

In 2017, four captains who had left were recruited to man critical air operators certificate (AOC) positions (Director Flight Operations 2 x Training Captains and Examiner) as required by Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB). Currently, the airline is operating with a full complement of pilots and engineers,” he said.

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