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Treat or threat?

Qatar airways’ arrival sparks mixed reactions

The historic arrival of Qatar Airways in Botswana last Sunday has sparked mixed reactions.

Widely regarded as one of the world’s top airlines, Qatar Airways will now make three trips to Gaborone every week, becoming the first Middle-Eastern airline to land in the country.

While someheralded the development as a coup for the country, describing it as the dawning of a new era, others remain sceptical as to how exactly it will benefit Botswana.

Indeed, many feel it may spell further doom for theunder fireAir Botswana.

Their bone of contention is that Qatar Airways will provide unnecessary competition to the already struggling national airliner, which faces losing passengers to the imposing new entrant.

Voted the 2019 Airline of the Year by Skytrax – regarded as the global benchmark of airline excellence – Qatar Airways’ Gaborone to Doha route (and vice versa) includes a stopover at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport.

The aircraft boasts a capacity for 283, including 36 business class seats and 247 in economy.

With Air Botswana already offering daily flights between Sir SeretseKhama International Airport and Johannesburg – many of which fly half empty – a scramble for customers is set to ensue.

Logic suggests there will only be one winner!

Despite this, the Minister of Transport and Communications, ThulaganyoSegokgoinsists Qatar Airway’s arrival offers immense opportunities for both Air Botswana and the country’s economic development.

She did not, however, go into detail as to how this would happen.

For her part, last month Air Botswana General Manager, Agnes Khunwana told journalists their ground-handling unit would assume the responsibility of such services for Qatar Airways

Meanwhile, addressing local media at the official launch on Monday,Qatar Airways Chief Commercial Officer, Simon Talling Smith described the occasion as a proud moment for his company.

He said the route will provide Batswana with access to an extensive network of 160 destinations via Hamad International Airport in Doha.

While some have voiced reservations on the venture’s long-term sustainability long term, Smith expressed confidence that the country and indeed the continent have tremendous potential as far as the aviation industry is concerned.

“The African aviation market has the chance to grow tremendously in the next few years. Despite an estimated population of 1.3 billion and an expected GDP growth of four percent, Africa remains the underserved aviation market,” stressed Smith, adding the Middle-Eastern airline is ready to change the situation.

In 2016, Air Botswana secured a code partnership with Qatar Airways – a move that enabled the latter’s business and leisure travellers with connections to Gaborone, Francistown and Maun via its Johannesburg gateway.

The deal also allowed Air Botswana access to Qatar Airways passengers from all over the world.

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