Air Botswana, the national airline, is flying into turbulence with ten of its pilots confirmed to have tendered their resignations in an acrimonious wage dispute.
Four Captains and six First Officers resigned allegedly following dissatisfaction over their employment packages and poor management..
The ten pilots apparently handed in their resignations in the wake of the results of the Expression of Interest (EOI), which is part of the privatization of the Airline.
Allegations were rife that the Airline had contemplated giving the pilots a 17% increase but this, it was reported had been put on hold. Further, they were unhappy with the leadership of the Flights Operations Director, it was alleged.
Air Botswana Acting General Manager, Agnes Khunwana, confirmed the resignations.
Khunwana, said that there has been growing demand for ATR pilots in Asia Pacific and Middle East and that the airline, being an all ATR operator, has been losing pilots to that part of the world.
“They do pay very high remuneration packages which are tax free and it is very difficult for Air Botswana to compete with them,” she said.
The airline, Khunwana added, has since the issuance of the Expression Of Interest (EOI), lost a number of its pilots and that some may still leave.
“However there is still no risk to the continuance of the business as the number of pilots that the airline has been keeping relative to its aircraft has cushioned this loss,” she said.
At time of going to press three had already left the airline to join Saudi Arabia Air also known as Saudia and Fly Dubai.
The pilots who have already left due to this saga, Khunwana confirmed, include Captains Daryl Ellinton, Mooketsi Ngwato and First Officer, Naledi Ngwato.
Their bone of contention, it is alleged, was that there was speculation that their gratuities would be cancelled.
As an appeasement their flying allowance, it was alleged, would be increased from 30 to 50%, with a housing allowance of P3500 per month.
It is alleged that the pilots were not amused with the management and leadership of Flight Operations Director, Oduetse Leshogo.
They claimed promotions were made on favouritism citing one case in which First Officer, Lefika Tsayang was promoted to Captain whilst he had less experience than some of the pilots, who had been with the Airline longer.
When contacted for comment, Leshogo referred all enquiries to the General Manager.
“Unfortunately I am not allowed to comment on anything related to Air Botswana. The General Manager is our official spokesperson,” was all he was prepared to say.
The Air Botswana boss however denied allegations that some of the disgruntled pilots cited favouritism and one case in which First Officer, LefikaTsayang was promoted to Captain whilst he had less experience than some of the pilots, who had been with the Airline longer.
“This is not true. Captain Tsayang was appointed on merit and the Captains were given feedback of their psychometric assessments,” she said.
Khunwana confirmed that the other pilots who have tendered their resignations include Captains Simon Phiri and Tefho Keothepile and First Officers Gokwadilwe Molemi, Anthony Chanda; Madabane Mokgosi; Gaborakanelwe and Botho Mmipi.
Keothepile who was reluctant to mention his next employer left the country on Wednesday after serving the airline for 14 years.