By Andreas Thomas
Windhoek – National flag carrier, Air Namibia has launched a new route to Ghana and Nigeria, which is expected to reduce travelling time to West Africa by 60%. With the new flight, Air Namibia anticipates closing a gap in the market by competitively connecting Southern Africa to West Africa within less than 6 hours.
The airline launched the Windhoek-Lagos-Accra on Wednesday, with the first flight to take off at the Hosea Kutako International Airport on June 29, 2018.
Air Namibia is introducing flights into Lagos for the first time, while it is making a comeback to Accra. In 2003, the national airline launched the Windhoek-Accra flight, but has to abandon it 2013 due to low traffic.
Air Namibia Acting Managing Director Ms Mandi Samson emphasized that the decision to launch flights into West Africa is in line with the company’s five-year strategic plan, with one of the key objectives – to break even by 2021.
Recent entry into the local market by major airlines including Ethiopia Airways, Qatar Airways and KLM Royal Dutch Airline has necessitated Air Namibia to search new markets.
“The industry we operate in as Air Namibia is one where competition is fierce and cut-throat; to survive you have to be bold,” said Samson, while justifying the West African move, that: “We shall not sit and wait for others from outside to come take the cake and repeat the fruits while we stand aside and look”.
There have been lingering questions about why Air Namibia is return to West Africa.
Samson told that Ghana and Nigeria route were decided following a market research, where the company undertook to launch five new routes within three years.
Two of the five routes are already operational – Windhoek to Gaborone and Windhoek to Durban. The fifth destination scheduled for 2019 will be announced after Governmental approval.
“Nigeria and West Africa in general is home to one of the world’s most populous nations. The market is big, we share a lot in common as far as values, history, culture and potential to do business together,” she said.
“Previously Air Namibia operated into Accra alone, with no embassy to issue visas. This time around we are combining Lagos and Accra, with an added opportunity to transport people and goods between Lagos and Accra using fifth freedom traffic rights offered by the Nigerian and Ghanaian Governments, to which we are very grateful.
“Previously we operated into Accra, with no visa issuing office to facilitate travel to Namibia. This time around we have a High Commission in Accra for Namibia. It is also our sincere hope and trust that our Government will establish a visa issuing solution in Lagos, to supplement the one available in Abuja at the moment”.
Air Namibia said it would be servicing the Windhoek-Lagos-Accra route with the Airbus A319-100, the same aircraft type used on Johannesburg, Cape Town and Luanda routes.
The aircraft will be offering a seat configuration of 16 Business Class and 96 Economy Class seats and offer two tons of cargo space. The flight will operate four times a week on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The ambassadors of Nigeria and Ghana in Namibia have on Wednesday commended Air Namibia’s decision to fly to West Africa. They expressed that the new route presents business opportunities for Namibia and West Africa.
The High Commissioner of Ghana to Namibia, Ms Elizabeth Salamatu Forgor said it is a refreshing development that various stakeholders in Namibia found it prudent to consider the resumption of Air Namibia flights to West Africa.
“For us in Ghana, this development has come at a time when the whole of Africa is championing the Single African Air Transport Market, an Africa policy which is expected to contribute towards the promotion of trade, cross border investments and above all create jobs. Ghana therefore sees this as a development in the right direction,” Forgor said.
“As you may all be aware, there has been a series of information floating around, that air Namibia would be resuming its flight to West Africa, particularly, Accra. Many have been wondering whether the information is true or not? Yes, Air Namibia is flying to Ghana again effective 29th June, 2018. This time around the route will include a stop-over in Lagos, therefore, the new route will be Windhoek-Lagos-Accra”.
The Ghanaian diplomat added that at the bilateral level, “Ghana welcomes, the introduction of the Air Namibia Lagos-Accra route and we believe that this development would open up relations between Ghana and Namibia, most importantly, in the areas of trade, tourism, education, and cultural exchanges as well as collaborations which would be geared towards strengthening relations between the two countries and peoples”.
Also speaking during the official announcement of the new route, Ms Lilian Onoh, the Nigerian High Commissioner called on the Namibian business community to take advantage of the new flight to market their products in the Nigerian market. She noted that Namibian meat products most notably its biltong have a potential in the much larger Nigerian market.
And to ensure operational effectiveness and efficiency, Air Namibia has appointed APG Network as sales representatives in both Nigeria and Ghana to provide full sales and marketing services, as well as call centre and customer care services on its behalf.
Juanita Klassen, Air Namibia’s Manager for GSA and Offline Markets has remarked about that: “We are happy for having established this relationship with the APG Network, as we can use their extensive experience in the field of aviation as a key global player in the airline distribution environment, offering outsourced services such as passenger sales and marketing, reservations, Air Namibia can benefit and is positioned to make its West Africa operations a success.”