LOCAL company, Mohahlaula Airlines will next month launch domestic flights from Maseru to Mokhotlong, Semonkong and Qacha’s Nek.
The first two weeks of the month have been allocated to two daily flights to Mokhotlong. Flights to Semonkong will be launched during the Easter holidays while flights to Qacha’s Nek will commence from the third week onwards to make way for the repair of the airstrip.
Mohahlaula will also offer chartered flights.
The company has leased a Cessna 208B aircraft from a South African supplier. The plane will be flown by Captain Minette Van Deventer, a holder of a Commercial Pilot License (A).
The company has also leased a hangar at Moshoeshoe I International Airport while its ticket sales, reservations and check-in desk are located at the main terminal.
Mohahlaula founder and chief executive officer Phafane Nkotsi told the Sunday Express that the company was borne out of the realisation of an opportunity of providing convenience enhancing services.
“I view air travel as a business requirement not a luxury, and was therefore convinced that Mohahlaula Airlines will change the way business travel has been handled in Lesotho,” Mr Nkotsi said.
He said discussions around the scope of work began back in December 2017.
In February 2018, Mr Nkotsi went for a pre-application meeting with the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) to layout the operations which intended to apply for.
The DCA is charged with the task of regulating the aviation industry in Lesotho.
Mohahlaula was certified as an air operator by the DCA on 24 February 2020 after successfully submitting its application, making the necessary amendments and undergoing a base inspection and flight demonstrations.
He said they leased the plane from a South African company because the industry was capital intensive hence required a lean business structure.
“It is a strategy which many airlines engage in, which keeps our operation as liquid and agile as possible.
“In addition, having a South Africa registered plane means that we are under the both the DCA and the South African Civil Aviation Authority. This ensures that we have both regulators monitoring our operations and also ensuring that our aircraft is fit for flights.”
A business development specialist, Mr Nkotsi said their progress so far has been as a result of a team effort led by aviation specialist, Khotso Marumo.
Mr Marumo attained his pilot licence in the United Kingdom in 2012 and another from South Africa in 2013. He is currently studying for a commercial licence.
The director of the civil aviation department, Motsoaole Lesupi, told this paper that Mohahlaula was free to start operating as it was officially registered and certified for domestic and chartered operations.
He said registering an airline was a “very demanding exercise” and that aviation in Lesotho was hampered by a number of factors.
“The aviation industry in all aspects is very costly running into millions of Maloti,” Mr Lesupi said.
“The infrastructure (airports) is not attractive to foreign airlines and a lot has to be done in terms of the runway, navigational aids and terminal building.
“Lack of refuelling systems makes Lesotho a very costly destination because airlines have to fly elsewhere to refuel before either proceeding or commencing their journey.
“The domestic aerodromes commonly referred to as airstrips and building need serious rehabilitation,” he said.
Mr Lesupi said despite its pitfalls aviation in Lesotho has a future and Basotho products can reach international markets, which will in turn unlock the country’s economy. He added that little is known about aviation and it has “opportunities and careers for our youth.”
Mohahlaula Airlines will become the first local airline since Maluti Sky stopped operations in 2017 and the now defunct Lesotho Airways which seized operations in 1997 for its alleged inability to meet the DCA’s minimum requirements.