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ABSENCE FELT: Tourism and aviation industry players say Air Namibia has left a notable void.
ABSENCE FELT: Tourism and aviation industry players say Air Namibia has left a notable void.

Lack of competition in air travel questioned

Routes not competitively priced
Prior to its liquidation, Air Namibia reportedly received N$6 billion in budgetary transfers from government to keep it flying since 1998.
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Namibia Tourism Board managing director Digu //Naobeb says the gap left by former flag carrier Air Namibia has given rise to steep prices charged by players in the aviation space.

He had been asked how the absence of Air Namibia has affected air travel in and out of Namibia as well as domestically following its liquidation last year by government.

“We lost an airline and the routes are not competitively priced. We had competitive pricing, but if you compare flying and fuelling domestically, the cost is not justifiable, the only justification would be time to travel.”

//Naobeb added that Air Namibia had also aided government objectives as the nation’s flag carrier.

“It assisted government in achieving its objectives. Airlines operating commercially do not have an objective to support government’s objectives,” he said.

Unused routes

Namibia Airports Company CEO Bisey IUirab said the airline’s departure left many routes either under- or completely incapacitated.

“Air Namibia's disappearance coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic, and has certainly affected us negatively in terms of passenger numbers and movements. Some of the domestic routes that were covered by Air Namibia remain unserved or under-serviced to this day,” he said.

A burden

Meanwhile, Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) CEO Gitta Paetzold said Air Namibia was a burden on government.

“While it was always good to have a national airline for marketing and image purposes, as the presence of ‘Namibian wings’ at international airports such as in Europe and South Africa was impactful, it simply proved to be financially unbearable.”

The entry of players into Namibia’s aviation sector was a boon for business and tourism, she said, as Namibians are exposed to greater options to connect to major international hubs.

“Fortunately, given Namibia's popularity as a destination, airlines such as Eurowings Discover, Ethiopian Airways and now Qatar filled the void left by Air Namibia and even extended their capacity to the extent that for the first time ever, an airline even runs 10 flights per week to our main tourism source market in Europe.

“While it still remains sad to see Air Namibia go, the service and marketing efforts of all the other airlines to sell their routes to and from Namibia compensate well for the loss of the national carrier, while the financial burden is shared by them and state coffers are relieved of this responsibility,” she added.

Billion-dollar bailouts

Government liquidated the 75-year-old airline in March 2021, citing its insolvency as one of the key reasons. The decision resulted in close to 700 jobs lost, and left government footing a N$2.5 billion guarantee to United States-based leasing company Castlelake.

Prior to its liquidation, the Institute for Public Policy and Research had estimated that Air Namibia received N$6 billion in budgetary transfers from government to keep it flying since 1998.

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Namibian Sun 2022-12-04

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