Air Botswana has indefinitely ceased operating flights between Gaborone and Lusaka, as well as Harare. Air Botswana public relations officer Thabiso Leshoai said the Gaborone-Lusaka flights were terminated on November 13 and Gaborone-Harare flights on November 12. The decision comes as part of a route rationalisation exercise to reduce operational costs on non-profitable routes. The airline will also reduce frequencies on the Gaborone-Kasane route, suspending the Monday flight. This leaves six weekly frequencies. The airline says the rationalisation is part of the airline’s plan to enhance schedule integrity and improve customer experience without compromising its commercial viability. Air Botswana was flying the Gaborone-Lusaka-Harare route three times a week.
Meanwhile, the high price of jet fuel in Botswana has been cited as one of the factors that contribute to the poor performance of Air Botswana as it is said to be the highest in Africa. Speaking at the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) recently, the secretary general, Dr Elijah Chingosho mentioned that one of the factors that contribute to the poor performance of the national carrier amongst others is the high jet fuel price. “The jet fuel price in Botswana is one of the highest in Africa, which severely negatively affects the competitive capacity of the national carrier,” he said.
The relatively high price of jet fuel in Botswana has been blamed on logistics as well as economies of scale. Unlike other countries in the region, which use rail and pipeline to import fuel, the commodity is brought in by road in Botswana pushing up the cost. On the other hand, the low volumes in Botswana have also contributed to the higher price with the country’s total consumption estimated at 15 million litres per annum.
On average, the OR Tambo International airport is estimated to consume about two billion litres of jet fuel per annum while the Lanseria Airport consumes about 700,000 litres. According to IATA, African airlines made a loss of $700 million in 2015, a record loss that is expected to be followed by another significant loss of $500 million in 2016. [www.lusakatimes.com]