. . . as first privately-owned airline launches Maseru-Joburg route
THE long awaited launch of Lesotho’s first privately-owned commercial airline became a reality on Tuesday this week, with Maluti Sky taking to the heavens in a maiden return flight from Moshoeshoe I International Airport to OR Tambo International Airport Johannesburg.
Maluti Sky is a subsidiary of the Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) and evolved from a charter aviation company which was established in 2009. The airline’s arrival challenges SA Airlink’s monopoly as the only commercial airline on the route and hopefully more competitive air fares for customers.
During the maiden flight, 34 passengers boarded the 50-seater Bombardier CRJ-200BER which now flies to Johannesburg every day at 6:30am and back to Maseru at 4:30pm.
MGC Chairman Sam Matekane, Head of Corporate Communication and Marketing ‘Mamotake Matekane and Maluti Sky Chief Operations Officer Peter Coetzee were also among the passengers who included representatives of various organisations and the media.
According to Mr Matekane, the launch of the commercial airline service was a culmination of long and arduous process.
“In 2009, we acquired two helicopters and a private jet for the company,” he said.
“Following the acquisition of two 50-seater jets in 2012, we decided to launch commercial flights that would ply routes between Lesotho and South Africa.
“Today, we are pleased to announce that we are launching one of those planes whose route will be between Moshoeshoe I and OR Tambo airports.”
Prior to the airline’s launch, the planes had been flying under the auspices of different operators.
“We have been flying to such countries such as Tanzania, DRC, Angola and Namibia under the operators we partnered with, but still bearing the Lesotho flag,” he said.
Mr Matekane said the airline had so far employed 35 people manning the bookings and check-in counters as well as flight attendants among others.
“Thirty-five people have been employed by the airline and plans are underway to expand the human resource as the business grows,” he said.
“At a later stage, we plan to advance to other routes such as Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban since Basotho have to drive to Bloemfontein to catch a flight to those destinations.”
The cost of the flight, he said, would be determined by market forces with the flexi ticket costing M2 500 and saver ticket going for M2 350.
Mr Matekane said the milestone should inspire local entrepreneurs to aim for higher goals for the development of the economy.
“One of the objectives of the Matekane Group of Companies is to create conditions where people can sustain themselves and bring them together towards achieving a common goal,” he said.
“We are living in hard times where foreign aid is no longer sufficient for our needs. So, as Basotho, we ought to look within ourselves and believe that we can achieve whatever we set our sights on.
“Through Maluti Sky, our company aims to motivate Basotho to raise this nation’s flag high and it is the vision we have for everyone in the country.”
The MGC boss also implored Basotho to support local businesses.
“It has not been easy to get to where we are today, and we are determined to continue doing our utmost for the advancement of our country by coming up with innovative business solutions,” said Mr Matekane.
“We are, therefore, counting on the public to rally behind us in this business because it is for their benefit as well. This airplane is going to simplify travel for people who wish to visit Johannesburg either for business or personal purposes within a day.”
One of the passengers, ‘Malerato Sefefo, told the Lesotho Times that the experience was “mind-blowing”.
“I have found this trip to be very mindblowing in both my personal and professional capacity. As a teacher at Maseru LEC Primary School, I found the trip to be educational, and it has assisted me to teach my pupils more effectively about modes of transport,” she said.
“I am glad to have been afforded such an opportunity to travel from Maseru to Johannesburg within such a short space of time.”
Ms Sefefo added: “It has also inspired me to save money for the next time I travel to South Africa with my children since it is a luxurious way of travelling without the fatigue synonymous with road travel. It has been an enjoyable trip indeed.”