Troubled Air Botswana is on the verge of collapse as it has made millions of losses in the last twelve months.
The national airliner, which largely depends on government, spends about P1 million monthly to fuel the leased B737 jet that services the Gaborone-Johannesburg route.
The Air Botswana financial results have not been finalised and are currently being finalised by the external auditors for approval by the board,” the General Manager of Air Botswana, Sakhile Reiling, told Sunday Standard.
However, she said preliminary figures indicate an estimated loss of P54 million for the financial year 2010/2011.
Although questions have been raised why the airliner decided to lease a B737 that appeared to be expensive for them, she replied that “the lease of the B737 has cost the airline in excess of 1million pula per month”.
She said because of P1 million excess, it is for that reason that management had taken the decision to terminate the current lease in favour of utilising Air Botswana aircrafts.
She said that B737 lease was terminated on 31 August of this year and added that the decision to utilise the aircraft on the route was based on a number of reasons, amongst which is the fact that there is currently a limitation of aircraft availability in Southern Africa.
“In fact there had been attempts to obtain leased equipment different from the B737, with no success,” she added. “It is important to note that the practice of leasing aircraft is a very common business reality in Commercial Aviation, and is frequently relied on to meet many operational challenges and, as such, Air Botswana will continue to utilise such lease options from time to time to ensure it maintains its capacity to meet its mandate.”
About the newly approved strategic plan of 2011 – 2014 she said “the air line management will continue to monitor the airlines cost structure through improved utilisation of the airlines purchased fleet and improved marketing penetration strategies to increase passenger numbers and revenues”.
She pointed out that the airline is reviewing its current fleet with a view to enhancing capacity, reliability and competitiveness and added that the new strategy includes plans to provide capacity for greater penetration of the southern African region.
Reiling also pointed out that once new regional routes are established, Air Botswana will work to achieve long-haul capability by 2014.
However, about the air craft that was involved in an accident in Francistown she said, “One of Air Botswana ATR-42 aircraft, with registration A2-ABN, was indeed involved in an incident when it collided with a warthog on the Francistown airport runway.”
She explained that the aircraft sustained structural damage, especially to the undercarriage.
Reiling confirmed that the damage has since been repaired; and the aircraft is still currently in the hangar due to the fact that both its engines became due for major maintenance based on calendar time.
She promised the public that the engines will be fitted during the first week of October 2011, and it is estimated that this aircraft will be back in service during the same month.