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Low-cost carriers scramble for local skies

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Low-cost carriers scramble for local skies
INTERESTED: Rainbow Airlines

The long-suffering and the near-demise of Air Botswana (AB) may have tremendously dented national pride, but the scores of operators scrambling to fill the vacuum suggests the country’s aviation could still have some life left in it.

Voice Money has been reliably informed that various players have been and are energetically applying for operating licenses to take over Air Botswana local business, while international carriers have been trooping back to fill the void.

Impeccable sources have hinted that the country’s air services board continues to have a full in-tray of requests to sort through, as it seeks to revive an industry that has for years battled through severe turbulence.

Though no official comment could be obtained from the Transport and Communications Minister Kitso Onkokame Mokaila, as his cellphone was ringing continuously, a sizeable number of regional low-cost carriers are said to have applied for permits.

Information reaching this publication is that the low-cost airliners have shown interest in servicing both internal and regional routes that were Air Botswana’s preserve.

Air Botswana discontinued Gaborone-Harare and Gaborone-Lusaka routes late last year.

In addition to the discontinuation of the two routes, Air Botswana instituted a one less frequency per week between Gaborone and Kasane with the suspension of the flight.

It is against this backdrop that low-cost carriers are planning to pierce through local skies servicing domestic and regional routes.

Rainbow Airlines, headquartered in Zimbabwe, has shown strong intentions to fly into Botswana servicing the Gaborone-Harare route for a start, as part of its regional expansion.

Without mentioning when exactly will Rainbow Airlines are expected to start servicing some of the routes which were traditionally preserved for Air Botswana, its Chief Executive Officer, Ed Berry said: “Regionally, we will be doing Harare to Cape Town in six months.

Further on, we will do Harare to Nairobi, Botswana and Malawi. But Botswana is our top priority.”

Rainbow Airlines, an airline wholly owned by Zimbabweans, was officially launched last Thursday with a flight on the Harare-Victoria Falls route.

Last year, another low-cost airline Fastjet Zimbabwe applied for a flying license to service domestic and regional routes also.

Late last year, Fastjet Zimbabwe announced its plans to invest an estimated P155 million in the region, starting with Gaborone, Botswana in the next three years.

The low-cost airline is looking forward to employing approximately 200 people directly with hundreds more employed in secondary services such as fuel, catering and cleaning supporting the airline.