WINDHOEK - Air Namibia on Friday confirmed the suspension of the Windhoek to Lagos Accra route as of Friday, May 24, 2019. The national airline no longer flies to Ghana or Nigeria after introducing the West African route at the end of June 2018.
“The route started off very well in terms of passenger numbers and revenue generation, and within two months the route was making a positive contribution to the airline’s route network. During February 2019, the Nigerian High Commissioner to Namibia banned the issuing of visas to Namibian passport holders. In addition, there are messages circulating in Nigeria about Namibia being 'anti-Nigeria', with travellers being urged to avoid visiting Namibia, as well as avoid using Windhoek as a transit point when travelling to South Africa,” read a statement issued by Air Namibia’s Corporate Communications Unit.
According to Air Namibia’s Acting GM: Commercial Services, Wimpie van Vuuren, the ban on issuing visas to Namibians can be linked to allegations that Nigerians are normally ill-treated by Namibian border control officials at Hosea Kutako International Airport when arriving or transiting through Windhoek. He noted that in this regard Air Namibia consulted various stakeholders to mitigate the diplomatic standoff, but all efforts proved futile.
Due to the diplomatic difficulties, Air Namibia’s load factor performance of the route dropped from average 55 percent attained during June 2018 to January 2019, to between 35 percent and 38 percent during February to April 2019.
The airline’s manager for Corporate Communications, Paul Nakawa, noted that Air Namibia decided to suspend this route for an indefinite period in order to mitigate the related safety, non-compliance and commercial risks.
“Affected passengers will be assisted by accommodating them on flights operated by our partner airlines at Air Namibia’s cost, or they will be refunded if they opt not to fly anymore,” Nakawa concluded.
At the end of October last year, Air Namibia increased its flight frequencies on the Windhoek to Gaborone to Durban route to seven per week. This attractive route was launched following a comprehensive route network development review, which recommended that this specific operation utilise the Embraer ERJ 135 fleet. At the introduction of the ERJ on the route Air Namibia experienced load factors in excess of 85 percent on average per flight during August 2018. Motivating the move to increase frequencies in the southern African region, Air Namibia management said the additional rotations on the route are expected to carry about 70 percent load factor, generating a positive operating margin of 12 percent. Earlier this year, Air Namibia changed the schedule and frequency to a number of domestic and regional flights. On the Eros to Ondangwa route flight frequencies increased to 20 per week, from the previous 17 flights per week. Additional frequencies were introduced on Fridays, Sundays and Wednesdays.
On the Eros to Katima Mulilo route flight frequencies increased from four to five per week, with the new additional rotation on Thursdays.
The Eros to Rundu route saw flight frequencies increased from three to four per week, with the new additional rotation on Mondays.
The Ondangwa to Walvis Bay route’s flight frequencies remained on three flights per week but operations changed to Fridays, Sundays and Wednesdays.
The Windhoek to Lusaka and Windhoek to Harare flights increased to four per week from the previous three.
The changes in frequency is in line with Air Namibia’s strategy and objectives to grow domestic and regional markets. The national airline has steadily been growing its footprint in the domestic and regional markets, with the number of passengers transported in the domestic market having grown by more than 50 percent over the past eight years.