Air Namibia prepares for competition

At the recent launch of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism’s statistical report, Air Namibia Acting MD, Advocate Ellaine Samson commented that the national carrier is positive about the large number of arrivals to Namibia as reported by MET.  She was sober and upbeat in answering questions about the threat to Air Namibia’s inbound air travel market share given the arrival of Condor Air and the impending arrival of Qatar Airways and now, air industry heavy-hitter,KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, in addition to South African Airlines (SAA) and British Airlines (BA) that already land at Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKAI).
Though the MET tourism statistic report states that 70 percent of Namibia’s arrivals are by road and only 27 per cent come to the country by air, Samson felt that the increased load factor potentials with the increasing numbers of leisure and business tourists overallare a potential for growth in sales for Air Namibia.
Adv. Simon said: “This high number of arrivals has a positive impact on load factors and we are encouraged by these figures.  We are not predicting immediate demise of our market share with the arrival of other airlines in Namibia.  Air Namibia has its own strategic plan that was just approved by Cabinet.  We are excited about our plans to prioritize Namibia as a destination on our airline as one way to carry the flag effectively, profitably and to the benefit of the economy.”
Environment and Tourism Minister, Pohamba Shifeta inserted pro-Air Namibia comments in his launch speech.  He spoke glowingly of the national carrier as he announced his Ministry’s commitment to the airline and affirmed its importance to tourism growth in Namibia.   He stated, “Cabinet has already approved a mandate that all civil servants flying to destinations covered by Air Namibia, must book on our own national airline first.  The government is determined to support the national airline.  MET is quite aware of the vital role Air Namibia plays in marketing the country abroad and facilitating the air travel for officials and local businesses as they market their goods and the country to the world. 
“This role for Air Namibia cannot be diminished.  We support our airline first, but recognize the decision to increase competition and bring more available airline seats into the country.  An increased number of seats on airlines could mean an increased number of arrivals, if marketing the country steps up to include visitors from a wider range of countries.”
The NTB CEO, Digu //Naobeb commented on marketing realities influenced by air flights.  He said, “Tourists like direct flights and prefer as few plane changes and lay-overs as possible.  Having airlines that offer a varying connections can open parts of the world (particularly in the Asian market) to possible tour packages to Namibia by flying more directly.”
The strategic plan of Air Namibia includes attention to increased service for Namibians and other travellers flying domestically.  The Acting MD stated that the airline was aware of complaints that local travel by air within Namibia (for example, the Ondangwa flight at around N$4320 return to WHK) is more expensive than travelling to Johannesburg (+/-N$3200).  To address that situation, Simon announced that the airline, “would no longer charge more than N$3,999 for any return ticket domestic destination.” In addition, she stated that Air Namibia is aware that tourists want a good experience to report when they get back home.  Air Namibia wants to improve the traveller’s positive inflight experience.  Their focus on improvement of service, on time departures, better food selections and possible brand refreshment for the airline itself are all options in motion as Air Namibiapursues a unique competitive niche in light of the arrival of other airlines into the market.
She said, “We have no delusions about what the arrival of these other airlines with flights to Namibia may mean in the overall market.  We know our industry and we know our product.  We are in a comfortable space.  Cabinet approved our new strategic plan and we will publicly launch this strategy going forward.  Aspects of the plan include improving efficiency, on-time performance and there are options for brand rehabilitation.  We all know that there are usually negative overtones to how many consider Air Namibia.  We will tackle this and have some solid plans in the strategy to address it.
“We know that our clients demand customer service.  In fact, Air Namibia was selected as the second best regional carrier for customer service last month.  The prestigious international grading agency, Skytrax World Airline Awards, gave this accolade to Air Namibia.  We are proud of this distinction and intend to build on this success.”
The Acting MD spoke proudly of Air Namibia and its record of achievements.  She stated that the airline is ready to take on its role as a supporter of Namibian products and intends to serve these items its flights and use Namibian-made goods as it promotes the country.
“In Namibia, we don’t blow our own trumpet enough.  We don’t loudly say the things we do well.  We will address that at Air Namibia.  We need to ‘Namibianize’ our concepts.  We pledge to offer more selections of Namibian cuisines on our in-flight food menus. 
We will serve Namibian made produce and food products on our flights.  When people sit on an Air Namibia flight they should already know they are in Namibia; we should reflect our country inside the plane as well as outside, our passengers should automatically feel and know that they are en route to Namibia.
“Right now we have a promotion going in sync with the Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR).  We will offer discounted domestic flights to the airports nearest to NWR facilities and form packages with their rooms and our flights.  This is to offer better value holiday deals for Namibians, but also for tourists already in the country, travelling to different sites.”