With a population of a little more than 2 million, Namibia needs to triple its small local market for airline travel, and it’s looking north to Angola, Kenya and the Middle East to increase airline revenue, according to a report in SouthernTimes.
Air Namibia, Namibia’s National airline, is in talks to introduce direct routes with Angola and Kenya as soon as November, according to Rene Gsponer, acting general manager.
“We want to enter the Middle East market even if it’s only as a feeder to that market,” Gsponer said.
The airline has already secured new routes starting at end of March 2015 between Walvis Bay, population 85,000, and the South African cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg. Walvis Bay, once home to large numbers of Southern right whales, is the center of tourism in Namibia, and is known for its scenic beauty, fishing and water sports.
The intra-Africa aviation market is tough to negotiate, Gsponer said. People who want to travel from Angola to Namibia must fly through South Africa. “Intra-Africa aviation is very limited,” he said. “Each country is very protective and limited options are not helpful.”
Namibia needs not only the Angolan and South African markets but all the neighboring countries to join into its flights, Gsponer said.
In an effort to boost delivery service and to encourage more people to fly locally, Ondangwa, a town of 23,000 in Northern Namibia, is set to get a new airport in 2015, Gsponer said.
Due to its strategic airport, Ondangwa was an important staging area for the South African Defense Force during its campaigns against Angola. Rail and road links were improved by authorities to facilitate the rapid movement of military vehicles.
If Namibia succeeds in negotiating new routes between Angola, “our rotation in Ondangwa can jump to six or seven times,” Gsponer said. “If the rotation increases, then the prices can be reasonable as well because the market would have been doubled.”
But if Air Namibia fails to secure flight rights into Angola, it might have to go to plan B — a bus service from Ondangwa Airport to the Angola border towns.
“Obviously driving the bus from the border to Ondangwa is not the best solution,” Gsponer said. “Flying into the heart of Angola is definitely the right option. But if Angola doesn’t give us the right to fly there then we have to look at the second best option … a bus feeding into Ondangwa,” he said.
The big picture for Air Namibia is to make it the safest and most comfortable airline “to stop people from taking long trips by using buses or other means of transport,” Gsponer said. The ultimate goal? To offer tickets that cost less than 1000 rand for local flights.
Air Namibia has one international direct flight from Windhoek to Frankfurt, Germany.
The Middle East will never be a large market for Namibia, Gsponer said. “We can never compete with the Emirates or Turkish or Qatar airlines because they have much more funds than us. They can establish more routes. We are a small country and we need to work on providing quality service.”
Air Namibia offers flights to the Zambian capital of Lusaka, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Harare, Victoria Falls, and Maun, Botswana. Domestic flights include Windhoek, Luderitz, Rundu, Ondangwa, Walvis Bay, Oranjemund, and Grootfontein.