Air Botswana loses 10 ATR pilots to Middle Eastern airlines
Botswana's troubled flag carrier Air Botswana has confirmed the mass resignation of pilots, with at least 10 having resigned to take up the opportunities arising from the high demand for Any Type Rated (ATR) pilots among major airlines in the Middle East.
The loss of at least four Captains and six First Officers came as the airline continued to battle against an internal financial crisis, the uncertainty presented by an ongoing privatisation process and labour unrest arising from disgruntlement over low pay.
Last month, the government of Botswana invited Expressions Of Interest (EOI) from companies interested in taking over and running the airline in line with its privatisation plans. The invitation of EOI froze all pre-planned expenditures, including a 17% pay hike that was calculated to stop the exodus of ATR pilots to Middle Eastern airlines.
Air Botswana Acting General Manager Agnes Khunwana said like other African airlines, they were losing ATR pilots to Middle Eastern airlines which offer higher salaries, perks and better working conditions. Since issuing the notice calling for the EOIs, the airline has lost many pilots.
“They (Middle Eastern airlines) do pay very high remuneration packages, which are tax free. So it is very difficult for Air Botswana to compete with them. However, there is no risk to the continuation of business as the number of pilots that the airline has been keeping relative to its aircraft has cushioned this loss,” she said.
Some of the former Air Botswana pilots are reportedly headed for Saudi Airlines and Fly Dubai. A few may be headed for regional competitors including South African Airlink (SAA) as well as a host of emerging private operators.