Botswana ropes in Qatar Airways, downsizes national airline

Qatar Airways will become the first Middle Eastern airline to fly to Botswana starting from 15 December. This comes in the wake of reports that the Southern African national airline, Air Botswana, intends to reduce its workforce to 210 from 450.

Air Botswana also intends to establish a wholly-owned company to oversee its ground-handling operations and it will be open to investment from the private sector. It has already secured business from Qatar Airways.  

Qatar Airways Vice President responsible for commercial operations, Martha Tilahun Paulos, said the Asian airline plans to launch its inaugural flight to Gaborone on December 15.

“The launch of this new route will further strengthen the ties between Qatar and Botswana, building on an already existing and flourishing relationship between our two countries. The new routes will offer seamless connectivity options for international travellers who wish to fly to Gaborone,” Paulos is quoted as saying following a meeting with BTO Chief Executive, Myra Sekgororwane, in the Qatari capital Doha recently. 

Qatar Airways will be flying to Gaborone, Botswana, three times per week. The flights will be operated by the state-of-the-art Airbus A350-900 aircraft with 36 seats in business class and 247 seats in economy class.

Sekgororwane said she had, during the meeting, highlighted that Botswana has excellent tourism products that would be attractive to tourists from Qatar such as the wildlife, culture, sports, music and dance as well business tourism.

Air Botswana General Manager, Agnes Khunwana, told reporters this week that her organisation intends to privatise the ground-handling business. She added that business in question has already secured business from Qatar Airlines. 

“This is about a commitment to be more focussed on our core business. The ground-handling company will compete for the ground business, which is a liberalised sector. At the moment, it is not working for us to keep it as a division. We are finding it unsustainable to keep offering ground handling in-house as a division within Air Botswana,” said Khunwana. 

In his State of the Nation Address, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said Qatar Airways will add to other operators already operating in the country by starting to fly into the country in mid-December 2019. Scheduled international flights are offered by five carriers, which are:

  • Air Botswana
  • Air Namibia
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • SA Airlink and South African Express

These airlines offer direct connections between Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Ethiopia. 

President Masisi said, 

“The new scheduled 73 services will expand our connectivity to three more destinations being Victoria Falls, Harare and Lusaka.” 

Furthermore, he said Air Botswana will also commence operations to Harare and Lusaka, exercising fifth freedom traffic rights between Lusaka and Harare.

“Over and above these, another airline, Mack Airline, has been licensed by CAAB to carry out scheduled services between Maun and Windhoek and between Kasane and Victoria Falls. The operation is anticipated to commence during the last quarter of this financial year,” said Masisi. 


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