Friday, August 12, 2022

SAA contemplates cancelling Botswana route over security concerns

Botswana’s aviation industry was jittery this week as South African Airways (SAA) was said to be contemplating to discontinue services on the Gaborone- Johannesburg route due to poor facilities and┬ásecurity concerns at┬áthe recently refurbished Sir Seretse Khama International Airport.

Head of SAA in Botswana, Gobusamang Keebine, confirmed Monday that his company has registered formal complaint with Civil Aviation Authority in Botswana, regarding poor navigation facilities at the country’s main airport.

┬áHe said they are currently awaiting a response from CAA regarding the up-scaling of the navigation and other basic facilities failing which the region’s biggest airline might be prompted to cancel the route.

Keebine said that┬á“though the route is lucrative, the issues of security and lack┬áof basic facilities at the airport┬ámight drive the airline┬áout of the country as they fear the consequences of exposing their clients to the dangers┬áassociated with┬álack of security and facilities at the┬ácountry’s major airport, which is still partly under construction”.

Regarding the  basic facilities at the airport,  he cited the  recent case where they had a big problem when their customer who is wheel chair bound  had problems of disembarking at the airport  because  the infrastructure is still primitive when put on global scale.

“This on its own underlines┬áthe issue we are complaining about┬álack of facilities at the airport,” he stressed.

More discouraging thought, he said,  is the fact  that every time when they  try to raise these issues  with  CAA in the country, they are told that  they are no funds  for  such  facilities or  simply told that it was not budgeted for and that it will take time  to purchase them as the  whole thing has to go through tendering process.

“Such answers┬áfrom Civil Aviation Authorities┬ájust make the situation more┬áhopeless and┬ámake┬ápartners to feel that the only way out is regrettably to withdraw the services,” he stressed.

Seretse Khama International Airport, which is the main gateway between Botswana the rest of the world, has been given a face-lift in a multi-million pula┬áexercise that was intended to address security issues raised by the┬áInternational Air┬áTransport Association. The association thought the airport was too risky and needed to be blacklistedÔÇömeaning that commercial flights would not be allowed to land.

┬áIf SAA┬ápull-out,┬áthe move would tarnish the image of CAAÔÇöthe┬ámanagers of airports in Botswana ÔÇô and┬áfurther dampen international appetite to fly long haul flights direct to Botswana.

Botswana government was courting some other internationally renowned airlines, such as British Airways, Qatar Airway, Singapore Airlines and Air Mauritius to fly Botswana route.

The move is intended to bolster the fledgling tourism industry, which has been identified as an engine of economic growth aimed at ultimately diversifying the economic base away from mineral sector.

Since March 2009, SAA transformed the aviation landscape by putting some of their jets with business class on the Gaborone- Johannesburg route.

However, Botswana airports have never been short of scandals, which include poor navigation system the recent one affecting the Francistown Airport during Christmas holidays.

All attempts to get CAA to comment were futile on Monday as they could not readily respond to the questionnaire from The Telegraph.

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