In what is perceived by passengers as a regressive move; passengers on Air Botswana aircrafts got an sudden awakening when they were informed mid-air that the national airliner no longer serves alcoholic beverages to its passengers.
Air Botswana has become synonymous with its measly complementary snacks comprising of 30grams of biltong and salted peanuts which they have been serving since inception in 1972. Passengers were also used to the limited stock of alcoholic beverage brands. But the announcement of an alcohol ban mid-flight, in the wake of decision to reduce the alcohol levy, nearly created a commotion mid-air, when passengers were recently told without forewarning of the abrupt decision to stop serving alcohol on all Air Botswana aircrafts.
The longest route flown by Air Botswana is between Gaborone/Kasane and Gaborone/Maun which last only 1 hour 30 minutes and allows a passenger to, at the most, binge drink only two beers before the air hostesses stop serving passengers after take-off and prepare for landing. Customers who travelled to Maun this past weekend complained of the new ban which was not communicated to them when they booked their flights.
Air Botswana did not spend substantive funds on alcoholic beverages because their flights are rarely fully booked and most passengers who are loyal to their brands of alcohol end up not imbibing because of the national airliner’s limited stock, which excludes most international brands. With their short routes, Air Botswana does not spend much on passenger beverages (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) because on average, each customer gets just one drink on a single trip and their aircrafts cannot carry more than 100 passengers, with their ATR72-500 only having capacity to carry just 78 passengers.
While other airliners around the world are looking to improve on the variety of alcohol beverages to meet the preferences of their varied passengers, it comes as a shock that Air Botswana on the other hand seems to be regressing and not going forward to improve customer satisfaction. Prone to delays on departure time, Air Botswana has been, for many years, struggling financially and failing to penetrate the African skies like its counterparts in other African countries. Air Botswana has failed to maintain its routes between Gaborone and Cape Town and Windhoek and now only flies to Johannesburg, Kasane, Francistown and Maun.
While abolishing alcohol consumption on Air Botswana aircrafts may appear to be a trivial matter to complain about, most customers expressed their disappointment at the inflight announcement and how, given a choice, they would rather fly with an airliner that serves alcohol even if it means just two cans of beer as was the case with Air Botswana. The passengers contend that it is such tokens, small as they may be, that have a deep and meaningful impact to many customers.
Reached for comment, Air Botswana’s Corporate Communications Officer Thabiso Leshoai laughed at the enquiry and promised to send a written response but did not keep his promise by the time of print, Monday night. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the decision to ban alcohol on Air Botswana aircrafts was the brainchild of one of the newly recruited managers who personally abhors alcohol and now wants to impose a personal disdain on passengers.