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Botswana: Air Botswana Under Fire


By: Kabelo Adamson

Air Botswana insists it has enough pilots to service its routes despite coming under heavy criticism for its growing unreliability.

In recent weeks, delays and flight cancellations have become increasingly common at the under-fire national airline, causing its already battered reputation to plummet.

However, this week the airline spokesperson, Thabiso Leshoai told The Voice that Air Botswana has an adequate number of pilots to effectively service its fleet.

Despite a number of its pilots currently undergoing training in France for the ATRs acquired last year, Leshoai insists the situation will normalise ‘in about a month’.

In the past three years, more than 26 pilots and over 30 skilled personnel have left Air Botswana, seeking greener pastures abroad.

Most have headed for the Middle East and India, where the pay is reportedly substantially greater.

“Since the rationalisation of the operation to a two aircraft schedule, Air Botswana currently has an adequate number of pilots to service its routes,” maintained Leshoai in a written response, although he did not state how many pilots the airline currently has.

Air Botswana has had to cut-down from a three aircraft schedule to a two aircraft operation, which Leshoai explained has resulted in reduction of frequencies across its route network.

“These reductions were purely based on our capacity, with the objective of restoring a lean and efficient operation,” stressed the airline spokesperson, adding Air Botswana is currently going through a fleet transition process.

In addition, Air Botswana has since taken some of its pilots for certification for the new equipment unveiled at a stunning ceremony last November, where former Transport and Communication Minister, Kitso Mokaila was in attendance.

At the event, Mokaila revealed plans to privatise Air Botswana were still in the pipeline, adding that the re-fleeting was in order to make the airline valuable before giving it to a private entity to run and operate.

Before they were sent for certification, Air Botswana pilots are said to have flown the aircraft without necessary certification.

Indeed, in one incident, pilots reportedly struggled with the instruments in the middle of a flight, before both the crew and aircraft were grounded to allow the required training procedures to take place.

The airline has this week defended its delays, explaining that due to the Embraer Jet acquired late last year not being in operation, a three aircraft schedule cannot be operated, hence the strain on crew members.

“The situation is expected to continue to show a steady increase until full recovery is achieved in about four weeks,” closed Leshoai.


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