That the Covid 19 pandemic has created turbulence for the global economy is old news. What keeps flying by as a reminder of this hit is the number of airplanes grounded in airports across the globe. In Botswana, atleast three airlines which used to frequent the country’s international airports are nowhere to be seen. The absence has been blamed on the depressed demand for their service due to Covid-19 related movement restricts.
The list of the absent airlines include Qatar Airways, which was serving mostly the business and tourism travel, Air Namibia and South African Express Airways which was serving the business travel between Windhoek, Durban and Johannesburg.
Civil aviation authorities says this loss impacted negatively on the tourism and business travel and some of these airlines have been liquidated, leaving huge amounts of money owed to Civil Aviation Authority Botswana (CAAB). The discontinuation of these airlines means a huge loss of revenue to CAAB in terms of landing fees, passenger tax and parking fees.
Minister responsible for of Transport – Thulagano Segokgo says the aviation industry has been affected since the onset of covid-19 due to reduced air travel.
Segokgo says air travel in Botswana has been reduced by 90 percent, this reflects a similar reduction in revenues for the operators. In the meantime, Segokgo says the country continues to seek avenues, partnerships and alliances as well as luring investors to identify Botswana as a potential tourism destination to ensure the survival of the aviation industry.
“Discussions to attract Airlines to operate and transit through Botswana happen at various levels and include several stakeholders such as CAAB, BTO and Airlines to attract tourism and business travel,” says Segokgo.
Segokgo opines that the sustenance of scheduled flights is largely dependent on growing demand for the service by tourists and businesses to travel to Botswana and the region, adding that internationally there are limited flights since mid-November 2020.
Segokgo also observes that concessioners inside the terminal building are also closing shop due to reduced number of passengers at the airports and added that the local employees for these airlines have lost their employment.
Segokgo says domestic flights have not stopped since 17 July 2020. To augment the low travel demand, the country’s national airline – Air Botswana introduced scenic flights to encourage domestic air travel and enhance opportunities for revenue generation. Air Botswana also has scheduled flights to Johannesburg and is expected to release a revised operations schedule to match current travel demand patterns.
Meanwhile the Airline industry cash burn is expected to continue through 2021 as early numbers from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) shows a weak first half of the year. IATA says the new COVID-19 variants discovered over the past few months means the virus control is much harder than expected. New COVID-19 cases remain high in most regions, causing renewed travel restrictions in all regions.
[WHAT IT MEANS: After an unprecedented hard landing, the airline industry is facing a long path to a new takeoff.]