The recent bold decision by Botswana’s Civil Aviation Authority to liberalise its airspace has been met with optimism as it is expected to not only improve choice and delivery of air services but also complement the tourism, business and others sectors.
In an interview with The Telegraph, the CAAB Director, Meshesha Belayneh, explained that the liberalisation of the airspaces implies that Air Botswana’s exclusive concession for the operation of scheduled domestic and international air transport services will be lifted, except for scheduled passenger services between Gaborone and Oliver Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) and between Maun and ORTIA.
“The liberalisation effectively allows private carriers to operate scheduled services to various domestic points. This is seen as an important step that will eventually position the industry in Botswana for the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision, which Botswana is part to,” Balayneh said in an interview.
The government will also licence domestic operators to operate regional routes, depending on their competence. This requires local operators to be designated as Botswana carriers since it is a requirement in the bilateral air service agreement.
In September 2009, Kenya Airways moved in to operate a direct flight to Nairobi, adding onto SAA on international flights.
Belayneh also revealed that the CAAB has just hosted officials from Delta Airlines of USA, who had come to inspect the airports for alternative parking to ORTIA during the forthcoming World Cup games in South Africa.
The liberalisation of the airspace will also increase competition and therefore reduce air fares, which have in the past been prohibitively high.
“For a long time, in Botswana and southern Africa, fares have been very high making it expensive for tourism to expand. With competition now imminent, it is hoped that the fares will be set at the most affordable range. Frequencies would increase and dependency on one national carrier would be minimised,” said Belayneh.
The reduction of dependency on a single carrier, by removing the national carrier’s existing monopoly and allowing other capable carriers to become established, will create an environment where government can be assured of the availability of adequate services from private carriers.
The Botswana government is also face-lifting its four airports to bring them to international standards.