WINDHOEK – Senior executives of Emirates, the world’s largest airline by international traffic, jetted into the country this week for a brief tête-à-tête with Air Namibia executives as well as senior government officials, in a bid to strike a comprehensive business deal between the two airlines.
Air Namibia has rolled out new regional routes and has also acquired new aircraft in a bid to boost profitability in five years, while Emirates is looking at Southern Africa, having already launched additional routes to Harare and Lusaka.
Air Namibia is looking at Emirates’ strengths to increase its passenger numbers, while the Namibia Tourism Board sees an opportunity of luring some of Emirates’ passengers as tourists to Namibia, especially its Asian passengers.
Emirates’ Senior Vice-President for Commercial Operations in Africa, Jean-Luc Grillet, said the airline was not looking at opening routes to Namibia anytime soon, but was “very much interested in developing the flow of traffic in the region” and “wants closer cooperation” with Air Namibia.
“We are very much interested in liaising in whatever way possible. We appreciate your stopover [since] there is a window of opportunity for business,” said the De-puty Minister of Works and Transport, Chief Samuel Ankama, who also attended the brief discussions.
Also present at the meeting was Uahekua Herunga, the Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism.
The short visit follows two visits by the Trade and Industry Minister Hage Geingob to Dubai this year and last year, during which he courted Emirates and other investors to come and do business in Namibia.
Grillet said there “are many routes at which we can connect [and] Emirates Airline sees great opportunities to bring business travellers to Windhoek”.
Emirates Airline and Air Namibia already cooperate on various routes, through agreements such as the inter-airline agreement and the Special Prorated Agreement (SPA).
Air Namibia’s Managing Director Theo Namases wants the cooperation agreement to be specific and believes that the sharing of passengers on speci-fic routes and skills transfer are some of the elements to look at.
Namases pointed out that since Emirates Airline is “a non-alliance” airline and is looking for cooperation in Southern Africa, it is a definite plus since Air Namibia is also not in an alliance.
Grillet, who is accompanied by Abdul Fouad Caunhye, Emirates Airline Regional Manager, Southern Africa, and Sales Executive Ronel Marais, will also visit Botswana and Mozambique with the purpose of understanding the region better.
Air Namibia recently added new routes to its list, while it upgraded its fleet of aircraft, as part of a new turn-around business plan.
The new business plan aims to turn in a profit in five years by focusing on profitable regional and domestic routes, minimising operational costs and implementing better flight scheduling, which is only possible with reliable and newer aircraft.
International Air Transport Association consulting services, which drew up the business plan, asked Air Namibia to focus on turning itself into “a full service carrier with a geographically focused network that services the traffic flows to and from, and within, Southern Africa.”