WINDHOEK – Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa has questioned Air Namibia’s rationale in moving its flights between Windhoek and Rundu and Windhoek and Katima Mulilo from the Eros Airport to operate from the Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA).
The unpopular decision came into affect on Sunday, March 29, 2015.
In a strongly worded letter to Air Namibia’s Chairperson, Harald Schmidt, Mutorwa – in his individual capacity and as a politician – said if the New Era report is accurate then he finds the reasons offered by Air Namibia “completely inadequate, spurious and totally unconvincing. Why not move all flights from Eros to HKIA at once if Air Namibia’s decision is to be regarded as somehow fair?”
When Air Namibia announced the change in landing terminals for the Rundu and Katima flights, the airline’s spokesperson, Paul Nakawa reacted, “This will assist in minimising aircraft positioning costs and will increase aircraft availability on scheduled commercial flights.”
Nakawa was quoted as saying, “In the near future we might be moving all our flights operations to Hosea Kutako in order to fulfill our business objective.”
However, Mutorwa lashed out at the national airline, saying that the above statement is “certainly unconvincing for now, unless and until ‘near future’ is specifically and categorically qualified and quantified in terms of exact date(s) and the intended affected destinations or places also mentioned, now.”
Last week, New Era reported that air passengers, particularly business travellers, in Katima Mulilo were outraged at the airline’s decision as it would become more costly and would be an inconvenience for them to land 40km outside Windhoek.
“Residents of Zambezi and Kavango are disadvantaged by this decision. We already spend close to N$5 000 for a return ticket to Windhoek, even more expensive than going to Cape Town and in addition our local airport (Mpacha Airport outside Katima) is located over 20 kilometres from town,” lamented Francis Sikumba, a local businessman.
Meanwhile, Air Namibia’s Nakawa could only say the decision was purely based on business principles.
“The rationale behind the decision is purely business economics. We operate this route with an ERJ 135 that seats 37 passengers. At the moment we reposition such an aircraft flying it empty from Hosea Kutako to Eros. This is a costly exercise,” he said.