Despite Air Namibia’s call for increased consultation when it comes to opening Namibia’s airways, the Ministry of Works and Transport is adamant that the national airline is well represented on the committee that decides which airlines may fly to the country.
Air Namibia recently called for increased consultation following the announcement that Qatar Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines would soon introduce regular flights to and from Hosea Kutako International Airport.
Other foreign airlines flying to Namibia include South African Airways, Condor Airlines and Blue Crane.
According to permanent secretary in the Ministry of Works and Transport Willem Goeie-mann, the ministry established a Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) consultation committee, which meets once a month, excluding December and January.
Goeiemann explained that the function of the BASA consultation committee is to provide a platform that enhances information sharing among all stakeholders, including Air Namibia, the Attorney General’s Office, the Transport Commission of Namibia and the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation.
The committee also serves as an advisory team by providing written recommendations to the PS for decision-making, prior to legal review of the draft BASA, either during negotiations and/or signing of an agreement.
“Air Namibia, being a member to the BASA consultation committee, is represented by the general manager for commercial services and the manager for international and government affairs. Air Namibia has been sufficiently invited and fully represented during all consultation and negotiation meetings,” Goeiemann told New Era Weekend.
He also updated New Era Weekend on the status of foreign airline operations that are soon to provide additional competition to the national airline.
Condor Airline is the only airline already fully operational locally, while a Foreign Operators Permit (FOP) has been issued to Blue Crane, whose security programme has been submitted and is subject to approval.
A FOP has also been issued to Qatar Airways, but its security programme is still in the process of being submitted. Goeiemann noted though that applications for KLM and Ethiopian airlines FOPs have not yet been received, hence their security programmes could not yet be processed.
Air Namibia’s acting managing director, Advocate Mandy Samson, recently told New Era that increased competition in the aviation industry could lead to the collapse of the national airline.
“These foreign airlines move to other areas once your market is done and the cost of restoration of what was there before becomes unbearable, resulting in permanent loss of air transport infrastructure and accessibility to a once well-connected country. This risk is real. Not only to the local airlines but to the whole economic system,” she said.
Samson also noted that the new competition would not bring in new traffic flows, but would be “cannibalising” existing traffic flows that Air Namibia is already carrying from established source markets.
“Air Namibia has spent quite a lot of money in developing and promoting the country as a tourist destination and we’ve managed to grow the market for the country as a route more than four times over the past 12 years or so. Now the foreign airlines have spotted a developed market and that is really what is attracting them here,” Samson remarked.
This report was first published in New Era Weekend.