Air Namibia Must Walk the Talk

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I want to publish the following episode for the information of readers, as Air Namibia certainly knows about it well in advance. An American from California is coming to visit Namibia for the second time within a year, having been so impressed with our country in 2005 that another visit is warranted. This person is well-traveled and on this particular visit, Namibia forms part of the first leg of a round-the-world trip. I have been asked to guide this person and duly made the necessary bookings for an 18-day itinerary through a local travel agent. Because I am a proud Namibian, I also recommended that Air Namibia is chosen as the local carrier. This was done and in December 2005 the full amount was paid for a return air ticket from Johannesburg to Hosea Kutako. The return flight from Windhoek to Johannesburg was booked for 28 May 2006 (Flight SW 710 departing 11:00 am). To my astonishment, I received information from Air Namibia, on 28 April, exactly one month before the scheduled flight, that it was cancelled. The reason given by Air Namibia is that the aircraft must be withdrawn from service for maintenance purposes. Air Namibia could not offer an alternative flight on 28 May that would allow my client to connect with an onward flight in Johannesburg. The only option available is to put this tourist on a flight one day earlier. The consequences of this are: – My client may be liable for cancellation fees at a lodge already booked in Namibia on the night of 27 May; – One day less in Namibia, where my client would have enjoyed new experiences; – One day less guiding fees for myself; – One day less car hire for a vehicle already booked and paid for; – The unforeseen inconvenience of now having to overnight near the Johannesburg airport on 27 May; – A wait of nearly 24 hours in Johannesburg to connect to an outgoing flight, which has already been booked for 28 May. I estimate the loss of revenue to Namibia because of this to be at least N$2 500 (being lodge expenses, meals and beverages, loss of guiding fees, loss of car hire and fuel). My client will not be the only person affected by this cancellation and I wonder what the cumulative loss of revenue to the country is going to be if account is taken of all the other passengers who will be affected. The reaction of my client is understandably one of annoyance and disappointment. Likewise, I am at a loss to explain how our national airline can cancel a scheduled flight one month in advance, without making arrangements for an alternative aircraft. Air Namibia asks the tourism sector to recommend to visitors that they fly on our national airline. I have done this to date because I want to boost Namibia’s image in every way possible. What do I do in the future? Can Air Namibia expect me to recommend them when this type of non-service is offered? As a Namibian citizen and taxpayer, I read in the press that Air Namibia has to date cost the government close to N$2 thousand million to keep airborne. Can we afford to lose more money by simply cancelling flights so far in advance? This type of incident does our excellent reputation no good and can result in Air Namibia coming in for a hard landing if it is repeated too often. I will appreciate it if Air Namibia is prepared to make a statement about this, either in your newspaper or by letter to me. Disappointed Namibian (Dr.) Hu Berry Certified Specialist Namibian Guide Swakopmund