Air Namibia granted right to fly into US

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Desie Heita

Windhoek-Namibia’s national airline has just joined the virtually elite club of a few African national airlines approved to carry passengers in and out of the United States of America (USA), a privilege thus far enjoyed by only South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Egypt Air, Moroccan Royal Air Maroc and Cape Verde’s TACV airline.

The approval, which the United States of America’s Department of Transport granted in April, is just one of the recent exciting developments around the embattled airline, that has in recent years been known for dominating headline with dispiriting news.

Not only has Air Namibia been awarded the certification to fly to any EU member state, in March the national airline finally completed the crucial International Civil Aviation Organisation re-certification audit process that started way back in 2013. This enabled the airline to renew its Air Operating Certificate.

Further, Air Namibia’s acting managing director Adv Mandi Samson has disclosed that the airline is poised to introduce three new African destinations this year.

“We are just waiting governmental approvals then announcement would follow,” she said without dropping a hint of the destinations.

The latest strides appear to have boosted confidence at Air Namibia, with Samson this week saying all savings to be realised through the new business strategy would be passed on to customers, especially locals who use the domestic routes.

Samson further promised that the return ticket fare for domestic flights would cost no more than N$3,999, saying “If any one gets priced more than N$4,000 you must call me personally.”

That pronouncement came with a promise to further slash fares when the airline reaches its desired saving and operational efficiency targets on other routes.

Samson was particularly excited about the US approval, saying it would allow the airline to generate revenues through codesharing agreements on the basis of which the national airline has agreed to share passengers on flights, as well as through ‘wet lease agreements’, through which it could lease its aircraft and crew to airlines flying to the US.

“This approval will be used for revenue generation out of the USA in collaboration with our codeshare partners and this brings to an end the days when Air Namibia could not book and issue tickets for flights to and from the USA,” Samson said.

She further revealed that the national airline is reviewing its fuel efficiency patterns with the aim of realising more than N$100 million in savings a year. The airline uses in excess of 150 million litres of jet fuel per annum.

“If we manage to save by N$1 per litre from these initiatives, this will translate to an annual saving of N$150 mllion per year. We are confident that a lot will be achieved through this initiative,” she told a stakeholder conference in Windhoek, last week, where Air Namibia presented its case to a room full of economists, Cabinet ministers, diplomats and private sector representatives.

Other measures of operational efficiency employed by the airline include the increase of flight frequency on the Frankfurt route by 10 percent, which helped improve aircraft utilisation and enhance opportunities for revenue increase.

The flights to Harare and Lusaka were also separated into two destinations to optimise the utilisation of aircraft.

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