In Defence of Air Namibia [interview]

With the recent difference of opinion in the National Assembly over government’s subsidy to Air Namibia, New Era’s Senior Business Journalist, Edgar Brandt sat down with Air Namibia’s spokesperson, Paul Nakawa to find out how the national airline is responding to increased competition and how its plans are progressing to eventually become self-sustainable.

Critics have questioned the logic behind government’s continued financial support to Air Namibia while proponent’s of government’s support point out that Air Namibia supports the tourism industry and a host of related services.

Air Namibia received N$472.2 million for the current financial year, down from N$1 132 million received in the previous financial year. The airline is to receive N$579.8 million for 201516, and N$760 million for 201617.

What is the basis of Air Namibia’s decision to increase the frequency of domestic and regional flights?

“Air Namibia’s commercial department works with market research within the region to look at the numbers of passengers traveling and most popular routes, and base their decisions on these statistics. The findings indicate a positive market response and increased capacity on these routes.”

What are Air Namibia’s most popular domestic routes?

“All Air Namibia’s domestic routes are doing well but the most popular route remains our daily flights to Ondangwa.”

What are Air Namibia’s most popular regional and international routes?

“The regional flights operated by Air Namibia are all popular. Our best-frequented flights remain Cape Town and Luanda in terms of passenger numbers. Frankfurt is currently our only international route.”

How is Air Namibia’s business plan progressing to eventually ensure the airline is self-sustainable?

“We are very well in compliance with the turnaround strategy (plan) and we are optimistic that it should be self-sustainable in year five. As we have been saying on many occasions, the new business plan is aiming to turn Air Namibia’s small size into a virtue by competing smartly and swiftly, and by so doing we will ensure that we are decreasing our dependency on the shareholder. This involves a coordinated commercial strategy, bringing together local market intelligence, competitor analysis, pricing, revenue management and sales. Of late, marketing resources are the priorities to promote Air Namibia’s destinations and services, and to further raise awareness of the brand. We have successful completed the fleet renewal programme for the airline with the recent acquisition of the two brand new A330-200 in November 2013. The business plan is well on track.”

With the introduction of stiffer competition, especially from Germany, how is Air Namibia doing on its long haul route?

“On the one hand competition is competition and on the other hand it brings opportunities to review our offering in terms of products and services. We are content to be in this environment where there is competition, because more often than not you find that our services complement each other, for the benefit of all, especially the traveller and the freight forwarder. Condor is very welcome to enter competition on the FRA-WDH-FRA route. We have brand new A330-200 with state-of-the-art technology and cabin comfort and service levels. Both our inbound and outbound routes are operated at night, therefore our passengers will arrive well rested and they will further make it to their destinations during the remaining hours of the day, and I think this is convenient to all the passengers. The Windhoek-Frankfurt route has been one of our traditional routes we have been operating and I am proud to say, we will always put the customer at the heart of everything we do. Our utmost commitment to safety never wanes and that we will continue providing the highest customer service at all times, which is the only differentiator in this industry. People will still want and need to fly Air Namibia and we must make sure we are their airline of choice.”

What plans, if any, do Air Namibia have for the near future in terms of catering more to regional and domestic passengers?

“We will continue to be innovative with the way we conduct our business (assessing our operations and service delivery technics regularly) in order to remain competent and innovate in the dynamic aviation industry and meet the needs of the market. Domestically and regionally, the culture of flying has set in, so we are doing market surveys in this regard, in appreciation of what we see in the market, in order to introduce more if the statistics are viable. In addition to this, Air Namibia’s new hub and spoke system does serve our passengers in the regional and domestic markets and in terms of frequencies and timings we offer attractive links to our passengers for onward destinations where necessary.

“We will also be offering a special deal for learners, students and senior citizens during the upcoming Easter holidays. We have realized that the culture of flying is setting in with Namibians and thus we offer this special to entice people to make use of the national airline. For this specific offer however students and learners should not be older than 25 years and senior citizens should be above 65 years.”

With recent industrial action averted, how do Air Namibia’s salaries compare to airlines in the region and internationally?

“Air Namibia’s remunerations and perks have been benchmarked extensively in the industry, especially in the regional market. Air Namibia offers competitive and market related packages.”

What can Namibians expect from the national airline in the medium and long-term in terms of services offered?

“Air Namibia has the youngest fleet in Africa. We are now one of the best on-time airlines in the world and also one of the greenest too. This industry is dynamic and it evolves at any given moment. We will not stagnate, as we want to move with the new trends when our resources permit it. We will keep you posted.”

Source : New Era