Maun Airport’s Glaring Limitations

Date:

  • Facility a constraint to airlines interested in flying to Maun
  • Its runway not strong enough to withstand bigger aircrafts
  • The terminal building inadequate to process high number of passengers
  • Feasibility study to determine whether to relocate or expand the airport underway
  • Calls being made for its relocation

With the feasibility study currently underway to determine the fate of Maun International Airport, the situation on the ground is that the current facility remains a constraint to the interest from airlines that continue to show interest in introducing direct flights to the tourism hub.

In a period spanning three weeks, two airlines have introduced new routes to Maun, and have all launched their inaugural flights. Ethiopian Airlines launched its route from Addis Ababa to Maun with the inaugural flight on June 10.

On Wednesday this week, Fly Namibia launched its Windhoek – Maun flight with an inaugural flight landing at Maun International Airport, before taking off to Katima Mulilo on its way back to Windhoek.

These travel developments have been applauded for their impact in enabling tourism and the growth of the aviation sector in Maun, however, the glaring challenges lie with the facility.

Maun International Airport has a 3.7 km runway, suitable to land any aircraft, but not strong enough to withstand the weight that comes with bigger aircraft. The terminal building is also inadequate to process the high number of passengers coming in or departing from the airport.

These shortcomings have been confirmed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) Chief Executive Officer Dr Bao Mosinyi this week as they welcomed Fly Namibia to Maun.

“We do have limitations in this airport. We feel disappointed that a longer runway was constructed during the expansion, but it cannot take heavier aircraft because it is not strong enough,” he regretted.

He said there is a more pressing need to connect Maun International Airport to further destinations, which requires a stronger runway.

Mosinyi has further pointed out that Maun terminal was a challenge, highlighting the limitations due to the small space when it comes to ushering in all the flights that fly into the terminal due to limited check-in counters.

Dr Mosinyi, while engaging the media ahead of the flight launch indicated that whatever the recommendation and final decision on the airport – the biggest aviation investment ever to be made will be in Maun.

In Dr Mosinyi’s view, the time is now to move away from the piecemeal approach to addressing the inadequacies of Maun International Airport – the busiest in the region after South Africa’s OR Tambo.

Pundits have posited from the time residents of Botshabelo were relocated to Disaneng some over 15 years ago, that the best decision would have been to relocate the airport outside Maun, and leave the current one for use by charter planes ferrying tourists into the Okavango Delta.

This, they argued would even create an economic opportunity for many sectors including transport and transfers, small businesses, retailers, and hotels among others.

This debate, from over a decade ago has come back to haunt the aviation industry and all eyes will be on the report of the consultant about the best option that will be in the interest of the tourism industry, the aviation sector, and the people of Maun and the environs.

Further to this Mosinyi has reiterated his stand that whatever the decision that will be made, it will have to hold the future in the long term. This is as larger airlines around the world continue to show insatiable interest in flying into Maun, a great opportunity for economic growth.

Dr Mosinyi indicated that South African Airways has shown interest and applied to fly into Maun, while another international airline from Europe, which he did not mention may soon start a direct long-haul route into Maun.

With such prospects in the growth of the aviation and tourism sectors – as well as the value chains, relocating Maun International Airport, remains and is the most viable option.

Meanwhile, when giving a vote of thanks, councillor for Boyei in Maun Ntlogelang Kebonyekgotla declared his desire for Maun airport to be relocated elsewhere outside Maun, leaving the current one to service the charter and transfer operators.

Kebonyekgotla posited that this would allow for the construction of a world class facility that would accommodate large and heavy aircraft, that would include cargo planes. A new airport outside Maun will also boost the local economy while also creating jobs.

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