Working for Air Botswana
ON INDEPENDENCE in 1966, the concept of the new nation having its own airline was only a dream.
It would be more than 20 years – during which the predecessors of Air Botswana operated under various names and almost entirely dependent on outside equipment and expertise – before that dream became the reality of a national airline in the true sense.
The country’s first airline, Botswana National Airways Corporation, wholly owned by the Government, was not profitable and had to be liquidated. The economy at the time was chronically underdeveloped and the travel and tourism industry in its infancy. A second attempt by the Government and some private investors to operate a viable airline also failed.
Then came the formation of Air Botswana (Pty) Limited as a subsidiary of the Botswana Development Corporation, which was established by the Government in 1970 to be the country’s main financing agency for commercial and industrial development.
Air Botswana (Pty) Limited was essentially a ticketing and ground services company, with scheduled air services being carried out on its behalf by a partner airline, Air Services Botswana, which was owned by South African and Swiss interests.
This arrangement operated from l973 to 1982 when the Government again took over responsibility for the provision of national air services.
In the 1980s the economy was developing rapidly, with impressive growth in foreign trade and tourism, and the Government gave full support to the development of air transport, designating Air Botswana the national flag carrier in 1987.
In April 1988 with the enactment of the Air Botswana Act the airline became a parastatal under the then Ministry of Works, Transport and Communications (now the Ministry of Transport and Communications).
This marked the true birth of today’s Air Botswana, and signalled the start of concerted development of what was to become a model African carrier, quickly earning a wide reputation for quality air services that was – and continues to be – quite disproportionate to its modest size.
A major later development was the introduction of online reservation and ticket payment.
It is doubtful whether any other national airline has been built, almost from scratch, so rapidly and so well.