Air Namibia strike affects recovery plans
THE two-week long strike by pilots of Air Namibia, which ended on Wednesday two weeks ago, will affect the airline’s plans to become self-sustaining, managing director Theo Namases said in an interview last week.
“It does affect our timeline,” she said. Namases said although it was difficult to quantify how much the airline had lost during the strike in monetary terms, the reputation of the airline had also taken a hit as a result.
Some media reports said Air Namibia lost as much as N$5million a day because of the strike meaning that the airline must have lost as much as N$65 million during the 13 day strike.
However, Namases said the airline could not calculate the losses accurately now and the true numbers would only become known after three months.
“It is very difficult in our industry because once we cancel the flights; we have to rebook passengers on other flights. The cost of rebooking will only be known after 30 days when the invoices are submitted,” she said
On the other hand, Namases said the losses because of the strike could be lower because the biggest expense the company had to incur was fuel purchases.
This meant that the money saved on fuel when its planes were not flying could make up for the other losses.
She noted that it would take some time for the airline to return to its full schedule.
Air Namibia and the Namibia Airline Pilots Association (Napa) on Wednesday last week reached an agreement on a five percent salary increase.
The agreement ended the strike that forced the airline to cancel both international and domestic flights for two weeks.
Air Namibia announced last Thursday that it had reached an agreement with the pilots and that Napa had accepted the five percent salary increase on a total package effective 29 November 2012.
“In welcoming back our pilots, we have joined each other on this mission to concentrate on the business plan and make it work.
“We have learned a lot from the experience, especially to be more flexible with any prevailing situation in our quest [to provide] excellent service to our passengers and minimise disruptions on our operations.
“The industrial action has granted us another season of renewed commitment and hope. We have turned another new page of planning strategically together in order to turn the company around to ensure its sustainability.
“Our mission remains that of helping tourism to thrive and encouraging business investment growth in Namibia,” Air Namibia said in a statement.
Namases announced in September that the airline plans to review all supply contracts with its service providers.
The airline is currently reviewing all contracts with suppliers and will then sign new agreements.
This move forms part of a turnaround strategy that Air Namibia expects will turn it into a profitable company within five years.
The Government agreed to give Air Namibia a financial lifeline for the next five years worth N$1.6 billion after which it expects Air Namibia to become self-supporting.
In March, well-known economist Robin Sherbourne said the government has spent about N$3.5 billion in bailing out the airline in recent years. In the 2012/2013 budget, Government allocated N$500 million to Air Namibia as a subsidy for its operations.
The managing director said Air Namibia had come up with a new network strategy that would turn Windhoek into a hub for air transportation in the southern African region and make it an alternative to Johannesburg.
As part of this plan, Air Namibia has introduced three flights a day from Windhoek to Johannesburg.
The aim of the flights is to ensure that passengers coming from regional destinations such as Lusaka, Gaborone and Harare can connect to onward destinations from Johannesburg.
Air Namibia’s international routes consist of Windhoek-Frankfurt, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Luanda, Victoria Falls, Lusaka, Harare and Accra.