Saturday, August 15, 2020

CAAB needs more birds in the sky

The Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) invites locals to tap into a new opportunity in domestic scheduled air services expected to boost tourism post COVID-19 lockdown. 

Head of Public Relations & Communications, Modipe Chris Nkwe last week told Sunday Standard that one operator, Mack Air, has applied to enter the domestic scheduled services. 

“There is still an opportunity in this market for other operators. CAAB calls for increased participation in this market,” said Nkwe.

Mack Airline was lisenced by CAAB late 2019 to carry out scheduled services between Maun and Windhoek and between Kasane and Victoria Falls and was meant to resume in April this year. It could not go ahead to commence its operations as planned due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, expectations are that the operator will soon start scheduled domestic flights as interest to resume domestic flights gains momentum. Air Botswana, the only domestic operator currently, last week announced it will resume domestic flights this Friday. 

With the exception of Mack Air, it appears CAAB has not received any application to enter both regional and international scheduled market.

Said Nkwe: “Mack Air is currently the only applicant for the scheduled domestic route and its Air Transport License (ATL) has been approved. However, the only pending process is that which require the Operator to undergo certification process in order to vary their operator certificates from Charter to non- scheduled operations. This requirement has been communicated to Mack Air.” 

One may ask why there is low appetite in submission of more applications to fly commercially in the skies. 

Nkwe said: “Generally scheduled air transport service is a costly market to operate on due to stringent regulatory requirements.” 

The recent draft of the 2020-2023 Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan (ERTP) suggested that CAAB should expedite the applications for scheduled air services on domestic routes.

The ERTP by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning emphasized on the need for improved domestic scheduled air services and an opening up to operators other than Air Botswana. 

It read: “There are a number of “thin” routes that require aircraft smaller than those operated by Air Botswana, as well as potential operators. The consideration of applications to provide scheduled air services on domestic routes should be expedited by the CAAB, and approval should not be dependent upon Air Botswana’s agreement.” 

Who qualifies to become an operator?

The current regulations require that to be eligible for a scheduled air transport license, one shall be: a Statutory Corporation in Botswana or a Government Department; a corporation incorporated under the Companies Act and has a place of business in Botswana and; have at least 51 percent of voting rights (shareholding) held, and effective control exercised by citizens of Botswana or by Government department, an agency or a parastatal or entity which is under any Government department.

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