The National Airline, Air Botswana, is sitting on a ticking bomb after it emerged that scores of its pilots are quitting for greener pastures which has dire consequences for the company.
The cash-strapped airline that has been receiving substantial funds from government in an effort to bail it out from sinking deeper, is currently running the risk of losing all of it pilots.
The massive departure has been linked to uncertainty in the future of the airline as well its failure to pay competitive salaries.
Sources within the industry have come out to say that a certain airline company in the Middle East has been recruiting pilots (60) from Africa and some of Air Botswana pilots have gone through the assessment and interview processes which offers attractive remuneration packages.
From a total of about 40 pilots within Air Botswana, last year about 15 pilots parted ways with the airline due to the end of their employment contracts and downsizing exercise in the company.
It is reported that the national airline has about between 20 and 30 pilots (ATR aircraft operators) currently who could get attracted by lucrative packages of about a minimum of $10 000 salary. They are also looking at increasing their flying hours.
Sunday Standard has established that the Minister of Transport and Communications Kitso Mokaila failed to attend a meeting that was scheduled to address pilots on Wednesday.
Mokaila is tasked with deciding on the pending recommendation by the board of directors on the appointment of the substantive Air Botswana General Manager.
Another issue at hand is the identification of the new “partner/shareholder” negotiations talks regarding government seeking experts to partner with Air Botswana which are reportedly to be ongoing.
Some sceptics have cast doubt on Air Botswana’s viability post privatisation.
When contacted Ministry of Transport and Communications Permanent Secretary Elias Magosi acknowledged that the salary is not ideally competitive, adding that Air Botswana was paying within its financial limitations.
He said that government and Air Botswana were looking at optional ways to continue operations of Air Botswana. Magosi stated that as an ATR operator, Air Botswana had experienced pilots who could be approached by any operator looking to add quality pilots to their operations.
“The recruitment of pilots, like all the other disciplines is an on-going process and will continue as and when new operators, specifically those that invest in ATR aircraft, come into play,” he said.
Magosi further stated that government was aware of competition and allure by other airlines. He said they were confident that engagement and dialogue with local pilots who had in the past demonstrated, and continued to show their commitment to Air Botswana, would yield positive results. He added that the opportunity still existed to avert the seeming crisis.
He said Air Botswana could position itself to be among the highest paying airlines but could not commit to competitive packages for its committed employees.
“The airline management with the board and ministry are working together to try and stabilise the operations of Air Botswana, evaluating options to try and implement a more sustainable operating model,” said Magosi.
He also stated that government would put out an EOI with the objective to identify an investor with whom it would partner.