The once perennially inefficient Air Botswana has managed to ride out its problems, taking the first step to recovery. For almost ten years, the airline has struggled with losses, shortage of pilots, leasing aircraft at high prices, and carrying a contract devoid of an exit clause.
In the last two years, operations at Air Botswana have started to take shape. The airline Botswana is currently in the second phase of its turnaround strategy. The first phase was to achieve compliance with all relevant legislation and international requirements, in particular with IOSA.
This was intended to put the airline in a better position to stabilise operations.
“We are on track as we have successfully implemented all projects intended to achieve and maintain compliance,” said Sakhile Reiling, the airline’s general manger. ”The first stage has been completed with Air Botswana regaining its IOSA certificate and has commenced the second phase of a three-phase strategy.”
Reiling said the carrier’s efforts to stabilise existing operations has met success, especially with regard to on-time performance and a more customer-centric approach to delivering various services.
“It is our intention to ensure the airline plays its part in keeping other sectors of the economy afloat,” Reiling said.
The majority of the airline’s customers had lost confidence in it and this had affected key economic sectors like tourism.
A comparison of the current market share and that of two years prior shows the airline had attracted a significant number of new customers, she said.
“This year, we have been able to carry in excess of 29,000 passengers compared to last year when we carried fewer than 25,000 people,” Reiling added.
She said the airline is making fewer losses than before and is on the way to running efficiently. She said Air Botswana had set in place measure to continuously reduce the losses, which were accumulated over a ten year period.
The airline introduced the automated frequent flyer programme, TEEMANE CLUB, and new routes coupled with the recent acquisition of new jets.
“Member registration at TEEMANE CLUB has been steadily growing and before the end of the year, we will have opened the Pula Lounge at the SSKIA terminal,” Reiling said.
She was confident the opening of the lounge would keep the airline competitive, considering imminent volumes of traffic attributed to the relocation of the Diamond Trading Company to Botswana and liberalisation of Botswana’s skies.
The airline’ has managed to retain a good market share in the Southern African region despite introduction of competition on some of its more lucrative routes.
“We believe liberalisation of Botswana skies will provide opportunities for the country to develop a vibrant aviation sector,” she added.
Looking ahead, Reiling said people should expect Air Botswana to link more domestic destinations by air and to automate many of its services. She said they expect to introduce new regional routes and an increase in frequency to some current destinations to afford customers increased levels of convenience.