Thursday, October 28, 2021

Chobe MP would rather purchase “Air Assets” for troubled national Airline

In the wake of new vocabulary for fighter jets ÔÇô “air assets” as introduced by Finance and Economic Development Minister Kenneth Matambo, Chobe MP Ronald Shamukuni has pleaded with the government to rather re-fleet the embattled national airline ÔÇô Air Botswana.

Shamukuni, who was debating the 2018/19 national budget on Thursday, said that the military budget should be diverted towards purchase of new aircrafts for Air Botswana.

As much as the military will acquire new “air assets” so should Air Botswana which according to Chobe MP is operating on dilapidated ATR aircrafts without efficiency, fast mobility and comfort.

The airline has been posting crippling losses over the last few years as it battled with a myriad of problems including a sub-standard fleet, poor customer service, delayed flights and failure to meet international aviation standards.

The government owned company has faced these series of challenges following its failed privatisation in 2004 and 2008. In addition to engaging consultants in 2014, the government also injected large amounts of money into the national airliner to keep it flying the skies.

In early 2017, when the government resuscitated its plan to privatise the airline atleast 17 companies including well known Wilderness Air shown interest to partner with the loss- making entity. The process was however put on hold after the government handpicked Wilderness Air which later withdrew its “interest”.

Air Botswana’s financial losses over the years, blamed largely on ageing fleet as well as a large workforce have prompted a five-year turnaround strategy that includes cutting costs and cancelling unprofitable routes. 

In 2016, the airline discontinued routes to Harare and Lusaka from Gaborone and also sold one of its jets as part of the cost-cutting measures. However, it is said that the disposal of the said Jets has come with huge costs to the airliner as it has since been forced to wet-lease at least one jet from South Africa. 

The estimated cost of leasing the Africa Charter jet has been pegged at P3 million per month.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper