Olefile Moakofi, the Managing Director of Inter Cargo Services, which is managing South African Airways (SAA) that is launching services in Botswana next month, has vowed that they will provide clients wishing to fly to South Africa with scheduled and comfortable flights at all times as soon as they start operation.
Moakofi, who is a former Director of the Department of Civil Aviation, says that the decision to start operations in Botswana was borne out of the realisation that though the market seems saturated with two airlines already serving the route they intend to operate on, there are still potential customers who may not be satisfied with the services which are currently being provided by those airlines and that those are the customers they are aiming at.
“People have different tastes, the airlines already on the routes do not necessarily satisfy all of them, that is why we are here. We are here to add value and safety to the services already provided,” he said.
To achieve their aim of providing comfortable services to their clients, Moakofi said that they are bringing in jetliners amongst other things for the purpose of providing their clients with comfort and will be providing business class for the travelers which, currently, is not available in all the flights operating in the country.
Asked if he does not think that they had ventured into Botswana at the wrong time when the country, like the rest of the world, was experiencing financial difficulties because of world economic melt down, Moakofi said: “These world wide phenomena are affecting everyone around the globe. But that it will not stop people from flying at all that, if anything at all, it will only minimise that. That they will still be those who really have to fly for different purposes that can not wait. Those, he said, are the people they are targeting.
“We are targeting those who will still need to fly for different purposes despite the economic melt down and hope to entice them with our superb services,” he said.
He, however, said that they admit that this will be tough bearing in mind the economic melt down but that it was a risk they were prepared to take.
“We know we are taking a risk but it is a risk we are prepared to take,” he said. Their operation between Gaborone and Johannesburg, he explained, is also expected to pay off during the World Cup scheduled for South Africa next year, as some sports fans will be flying to watch games in South Africa and back and other people will be visiting Botswana for different reasons.
Moakofi said that they will be flying from Johannesburg to Gaborone twice daily with one flight in the morning and another one in the evening and only one flight on Saturday.
A return journey, he said, will cost only P475-00, excluding airport fees till August.
He also explained that they currently do not have plans to fly in local routes, especially those of Gaborone, Kasane and Maun but that it might happen in the future.
Asked about reports that the airport facilities at Sir Seretse Khama airport are currently sub standard, Moakofi said that he sees nothing lacking in them, adding that the only problems are those relating to the construction work being carried out at the airport.”
“There is nothing lacking in the airport; the only problem is that there is currently construction taking place at the airport,” he stressed.
On how they were chosen to manage SAA business in Botswana, Moakofi explained that there was a tender for such services made by SAA and that they were one of the local companies that bid and finally won the tender.
What this relationship means, he explained, is that they will be able to provide employment for some Batswana locally but would not happen if the airline was managed from South Africa .
This development comes at a time the national airliner, Air Botswana, is experiencing problems which have led to flights being rescheduled or totally cancelled from time to time and it is expected it will benefit the foreign airlines.
One employee of Air Botswana, who declined to be named, said that he has no doubt that the national airliner will in the near future turn to be a white elephant if nothing is done to improve it by way of buying or even leasing some aircrafts as the current ones are old.
According to him, he sees a scenario where people here will all flock to SAA as they are promising improved services that they do not have in Air Botswana.
“I think it will just be a matter of time before you hear stories that Air Botswana has flown to Johannesburg empty as people prefer using aircrafts from other airlines,” said the source.