Gaborone – Botswana’s national airline, Air Botswana, is expected to resume flights to Zambia next month after it suspended flights between the two countries two years ago.
Air Botswana (AB), which upgraded its fleet with two new ATR72-600 Turbo propeller aircraft late last year, said in a statement that it would resume its first flight on the Zambian route scheduled for 31 March 2019.
According to Air Botswana, increased commercial activities and movement of people between the two Southern African nations has resulted in the airline resuming its flights to Zambia.
Commenting on this development, Zambia’s Deputy High Commissioner to Botswana, Goodwell Lungu said the resumption of direct flights by Air Botswana demonstrates the increased areas of economic cooperation between the two countries.
He said Botswana is a key partner in economic, trade and investment as highlighted with a number of other developments such as the ongoing construction of the mega Kazungula Bridge Project (in northwestern Botswana) between the two Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries.
Air Botswana has since informed the Zambian Mission in Gaborone that it will operate a jet service with a 70-seater capacity with flights on Tuesdays and Saturdays starting March 31.
In a related matter, Air Botswana has also revealed plans to introduce Gaborone-Bulawayo and Harare routes sometime this year.
According to Air Botswana Marketing Manager Tebogo Zebe, national carrier also intends to introduce a Johannesburg-Kasane route. Kasane is a tourism hub in north-western Botswana.
Zebe said this is part of a strategy to transform business at the airline, following its re-fleeting exercise. She said as part of their efforts to promote tourism, Air Botswana has reduced domestic flight fares by 25%.
Zebe said prices that have been reduced are for the Gaborone-Kasane, Maun-Kasane, Francistown-Gaborone and Gaborone-Cape Town routes.
Zebe said the reduced fares were introduced to heed Batswana calls for Air Botswana to reduce prices, and to encourage local travel and promote local tourism.
The government has since announced its intentions to elevate the recognition of tourism as a priority the growth factor by aggressively developing and promoting it so that it contributes more to the country’s gross domestic product.
“The reduced fees were introduced to encourage local travel and promote local tourism,” she said.
Recently, Air Botswana also signed an express loan partnership with a local financial service company Botswana Savings Bank to fund the nations travelling expenses.
Zebe explained that their partnership with the bank allows qualifying citizens to purchase Air Botswana tickets at discounted prices when using the loan scheme.
With flexible payment terms, she said, the express loan promotes local tourism by citizens in Botswana.
Meantime, Zambia has signed a partnership agreement with Ethiopian Airlines to jointly relaunch the national carrier under a public-private ownership (PPP) scheme in response to increased demand for air travel to that country by tourists and business visitors.
Zambia’s investment arm, the Industrial Development Corporation, will own 55% in Zambia’s airline while Ethiopian Airlines controls the rest.
Zambia Airways ceased operations on December 3, 1994, and has been preparing for re-entry for about two years now.
According to Zambia’s Minister of Tourism and Arts, Charles Banda, the re-entry of Air Botswana would boost air traffic, as Zambia continues to open its skies.
“We are very ready to receive different types of airlines coming into Zambia to beef up what we already have by way of hosting Emirates, Ethiopian Airways, Kenyan Airways, RwandaAir that are already flying into Zambia and have been joined by Turkish Airlines and soon Tanzania,” he said.