There will be no flights between Eros and Ondangwa airports as from November 12 to December 17, a decision that could cost Air Namibia up to N$19 million in revenue.
More than 4 000 passengers, who had booked flights between the said dates, would have their flights cancelled, the national airline confirmed this week.
The Eros-Ondangwa route is the biggest source of income for the national airline on its domestic routes, but the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) said it had no choice but to take the decision.
NAC manages all publicly owned airports across the country.
“Air Namibia hereby wishes to inform its valued travellers and all other key stakeholders that the Namibia Airports Company is busy with construction activities related to rehabilitation of the runway at the Ondangwa Airport,” the airline’s head of corporate communications, Paulus Nakawa, said.
Nakawa said passengers that have already purchased tickets and are affected by the suspension of flights on the route during the specified period would be contacted in due course for refunds.
Nakawa said that 250 bookings have already been made for the period November 12 to December 17 and at least 4 100 would-be passengers will be affected by the closure.
NAC chief executive officer Tamer El-Kallawi yesterday told New Era that suspending flights to and from Ondangwa was the only option left on the table.
“It was inevitable. In fact, we were supposed to close it some time back, but we had to accommodate Air Namibia. Unfortunately, now we have reached a stage where work has to be done on the central parts of the runway, so we are left with no choice,” the NAC chief said yesterday.
“Information received from the Namibia Airports Company indicates that, effective 12 November 2015, they will commence with construction activities on the central portion of the runway and this will result in Air Namibia’s Embraer ERJ 135 regional jets not being able to land, or take off at Ondangwa due to the shortened runway,” Nakawa said.
The cheapest flight ticket from Eros to Ondangwa costs N$2 278, but the price can go as high as N$4 838 for those who book at the last minute. It is estimated, based on the 4 100 figure presented, that Air Namibia would have made roughly N$19 million through ticket sales – if the highest figure is used, or about N$9.5 million using the lower figure.
Air Namibia last year added more flights to its Windhoek-Ondangwa route due to an increase in demand and currently operates two flights on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, three flights on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a single flight on Saturdays.
The Ondangwa-Eros flight is mostly utilised by business people, who prefer the 45-minute trip instead of travelling by road, which can take up to eight hours. The runway rehabilitation project commenced on March 16 and completion is envisaged by July 2016.
After completion, the Ondangwa Airport runway will be upgraded from Category 3 C to Category 4 C. This means bigger aircraft, such as the Airbus A319, would be able to land there. NAC said the runway would be widened to 45 meters in width and 2.8 kilometres in length.
The refurbished runway, constructed at a cost of N$208 million, will greatly compliment the renovated fuel facilities and new Ondangwa Airport terminal, the NAC said.