Air Botswana launched its Gaborone-Lusaka route over the weekend, in what is seen as an expansion strategy that is aimed at making the national airliner a regional powerhouse.
The BP Makgadikgadi, carrying 30 commercial passengers, touched down on Lusaka International Airport in a historic moment that excited Zambian nationals who have in the past travelled through Johannesburg en-route to Lusaka.
“For us, this now means less traveling time and less costs. We do not have to travel to Johannesburg and wait for hours to board another plane for Lusaka” said one passenger.
The new route follows on the heels of another code-sharing deal with Kenya Airways, in which Air Botswana sells seats on Kenya Airways’ direct flights between Nairobi and Gaborone.
Dikagiso Matshaba, Air Botswana Business Development Manager, hopes to make the route a success.
“We did all the necessary preliminary studies and the results showed that the Botswana-Lusaka route will be profitable” she said.
Air Botswana will fly Lusaka four days in a week. On Mondays and Wednesdays, Air Botswana will travel via Kasane airport, while it will fly direct to Lusaka from Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA) on Fridays and Sundays.
Departure time from Botswana is 11 am, while Air Botswana will leave Lusaka International Airport at 14 00 hours. However, the celebration launch flight started on shaky grounds with the aircraft taking off almost an hour later than scheduled. Passengers were starting to get jittery and worried that the maiden flight might get cancelled.
“Unfortunately our first flight did not go according to schedule, we hope to normalise the situation in time,” said Matshaba.
Air Botswana still has to approach Zambia Airways about the time schedules. It was initially estimated that the flight to Zambia is two hours, but it has since been realized that it is 2 hours 15 minutes.
Captain Clement Nsimbi and his Assistant Michael Mangole received a prolonged applause the minute the airline touched ground in Lusaka.
The Sales Manager of Air Botswana Lebogang Matale, joined by the flight captain and Thelma Maswikiti, treated passengers to bottles of champagne to toast the new route up in the air.
Added to that, the airline’s hostesses Betsi Laing and Tiny were at their best making sure that everyone was comfortable.
There was excitement at Lusaka airport as staff from the Botswana High Commission in Lusaka came to witness the maiden flight landing.