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Kalahari Airways is a private airline based in Botswana which plans on starting flights from Cape Town to London Gatwick via Gaborone, from early 2014, which they will market at deep discounts for economy class and to executive in the diamond industry for their premium class, and also those in the Rustenburg Platinum mining belt (it may be easier for them to drive to Gaborone than to OR Tambo). They believe that Gaborone will be an easier and quicker transit for Capetonians than flying via OR Tambo International Airport. The CEO of Kalahair Airways, Denis Coghlan, says that "Nobody wants to transit via Johannesburg if they can avoid it. I have negotiated agreements with two regional airlines who will feed passengers from Lusaka, Harare, Windhoek and Lanseria into Gaborone."
Another flight from Cape Town to London, even though they make a thirty minute en route stop at Gaborone, would be much welcomed by Capetonians; and not to mention the Botswana passengers, who often complain about having to route via Johannesburg.
Amongst the plans is a proposal to the Botswana Meat Commission to consider exporting chilled beef to the EU, and to resuscitate the cut flower and ostrich meat industries in Botswana "which collapsed due to severe restrictions placed by the South african authorities on transporting fresh agricultural products in transit".
Kalahari Airways is the baby of Denis Coghlan, who became a naturalised Botswana citizen in 1978, having lived there since 1972. He also owns a trucking company called Denco which he started in 1977. He built roads and other civil works under TPR Botswana, until the Chinese contractors came in and took over. Now he collect rents from his properties and imports used trucks from the US.
He started work on his plan the day British Airways ceased operation on the Gaborone - London route. Denis "observed (on many occassions) BA departing direct to London with full loads rather than via Johannesburg, which was their normal routing and where they would top up their passenger loads."
Kalahari Airways (Pty) Ltd was registered in 1997, and is not to be confused with its namesake in Namibia, and also has no connection with Air Charter Botswana (Pty) Ltd. who trade under the name 'Kalahari Air Services'.
Kalahari Airways' street address is C/o R.A. Peerbhay Secretarial Services, Plot 50362, Fairgrounds Office Park, Gaborone. The sole shareholder, director and employee of Kalahari Airways is Denis Coghlan (although through an error on his part, 2 staff members of RA Peerbhay are the nominated shareholders).
RA Peerbhay was contracted by Denis's attorney at the time to register Kalahari Express on his behalf and had no involvement other than that he is the company secretary. Unknown to Denis, at the time he nominated two of his office workers as the shareholders and he did not notice this until the DCA brought it to his attention the first time he applied for an AOC. He abandoned that attempt when they pointed out to him that Air Botswana had the sole right to operate scheduled services.
In 2012 he began using the name "Kalahari Airways" and applied to register it as a trade name.
As at October 2013, Kalahari Airways had no capital in cash terms, although Denis Coghlan claims there is "considerable value in the documentation" he has accumulated over the past three years. The issued capital of Kalahari Express (Pty) Ltd. is P3,000.00.
Kalahari Airways have applied to the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) for an 'Aircraft Operating Certificate' (AOC). Once approved and issued they can apply for an Air Service License and the route authorities.
Whilst Denis Coghlan is the only employee, he has a small team of "experienced aviation guys, each highly qualified in his own area" who give him their time, and he pays their expenses when he needs them from time to time. The COO designate is Paul Green the former COO of Velvet Sky, and Jeff Livings who was formerly a technical director at Virgin ATlantic is the CEO designate.
Three are based in the UK, one is his FD and is ex BA and Virgin. Two are in South Africa, one a former airline COO and is now his COO and one in Australia who is his 747 instructor rated CP. One other UK based former airline COO has taken up an appointment in the Gulf so he is no longer available to him but he acknowledges his contribution.
The plan is for a stand-alone company to purchase 3 Boeing 747-400s for $6.5m each from Qantas, and dry-lease them to Kalahari Airways. The aircraft are currently sitting in storage in the desert in California. Once bought, SAA Technical will be used to maintain the fleet. The B747-400 Kalahari Airways describes as "the only aircraft that is able to tanker cheaper fuel from Cape Town or Durban to Gaborone, due to its high gross landing weight." The long-range plan is to own 20 ore more B747-400s within 5 years, half of which will be marketed on wet lease: "I will be targeting airlines wuch as SAA & Virgin who are stuck with near worthless A340s for the next 5 years. A used B747-400 at $200k per month lease purchase cost plus $2k per hour for maintenance and an extra 0.02c per seat km for fuel is a no brainer against a new A380 @ $2m per month lease cost plus reserves".
An attempt earlier in 2013 to purchase a B747-400 from Qantas failed, which Denis Coghlan explains as follows: "The Deputy CEO of a major SA owned bank in Botswana reneged on their previously stated intention to provide some of the finance if the BDC approved my funding. This he said was on instructions from their head office in Johannesburg. The BDC had offered to co-finance all three of the aircraft with them. I'm now in negotiations with another bank to secure the lease purchase financing, again with the offer from the BDC to co-finance. I will still need an investor to help me qualify".
Denis has been trying to raise the 25% of the sponsors' contribution he needs to qualify for funding by Botswana Development Corporation but without success. He came across the crowdfunding site called Indiegogo in 2013 and decided to try the concept to try to get publicity for his project and possibly attract an investor. It was unlikely that he would raise the money he needed that way as the law under which crowdfunding operates in the US does not allow any offer of investment or offer of a dividend. In September an aviation site picked it up and it has slowly gathered steam ever since the Office of the President, in Gaborone featured it on their Facebook page.
The airline has some big plans to fly routes which start in South africa, stopping at Gaborone en-route to London Gatwick, and later Hong Kong, New York, Paris and Frankfurt:
to fly from Durban to Hong Kong via Gaborone: "The Durban Hong Kong route will be the subject of extensive market research and may continue to Kuala Lumpur. I expect to gather traffic to Hong Kong out of Gaborone augmented by traffic from Harare, Lusaka, Windhoek and Luanda all with significant numbers of Chinese and local businessmen using the route." says Denis Coghlan of Kalahari Airways in October 2013.
All routes are to start in South Africa.