ORANJEMUND – FlyWestair, the new Namibian airline that has been commercially operating for three months, on Wednesday undertook its inaugural flight to its new destination of Oranjemund.
Operating from Eros Airport, the company has been in existence for more than five decades in the aviation industry but only recently began with commercial passenger flights. The airline currently serves two local routes, namely Ondangwa to Windhoek twice a week, while Oranjemund to Windhoek from Eros Airport is serviced four times a week.
A new route in the pipeline for the airline is the Johannesburg to Cape Town flight that is targeted to start end of August. However, airline officials noted that the exact date depends on third party inputs, such as from the home affairs ministry.
Chief executive officer Henri van Schalkwyk said the airline does not only operate in Namibia. “We have fixed airlines operating from Senegal, Mali, Mozambique and now Namibia,” he said. Van Schalkwyk stated they are in week three of operating a scheduled airline so it’s premature to discuss profitability measures yet.
He, however, mentioned three important profitability measures in aviation. “It is very important to have a strong maintenance base, which includes cost-effective maintenance facilities associated with local skills to cater to those facilities. Having a strong team is the second most important measure to ensure profitability. They say if you have a good and enthusiastic team and are proud of what they are doing, all will be well. The third and most important measure is you must have customers; you have to offer quality service, you have to offer what you promise and that what we strive for,” said Van Schalkwyk.
However, he added that for the company to become more profitable, it will not only rely on the Namibian market. “We work with our own money, we are not subsidised nor have we received any handouts,” he said. Van Schalkwyk said they want to contribute to the economy in terms of job creation.
“The airline employs more than 130 Namibians from various backgrounds, with around 70 pilots, engineers and ground staff. With the new routes we are at least going to cater for 50 Namibians through the Ondangwa and Oranjemund routes. We need check-in people, airport managers, baggage loaders,” said Van Schalkwyk.
Holding company for FlyWestair, West Air Aviation, owns 42 aircraft including aircraft used for training pilots and uses four Embraer 145, 50-seaters. “We are currently operating with four and three of those will be in Namibia,” Van Schalkwyk noted.
FlyWestair has also procured a check-in system that they have developed to make check-ins convenient. “We have spent a lot of time on the onboard experience, how the meals must look and how the cabin crew should interact with the passengers,” said Van Schalkwyk.
Van Schalkwyk said they thought people would be more enthusiastic about the new airline operating in Namibia. “We underestimated the issue around marketing, we thought people knew West Air. The same applies to the push-back that we received. We had to be more open about the airline especially about who owns the airline,” stated Van Schalkwyk. He concluded that with South Africa having more than 10 airlines, he thought locals would be optimistic.
2019-07-26 11:37:08 26 days ago