Loss-making national carrier, Air Namibia, announced this week plans to add the Lagos and Accra route to its network, effective 25 March, 2018, despite pressure from the ministries of public enterprises and finance to scrap some of its routes.
The airline argued this week that the planned route launch is backed by research to succeed and fits in with its strategy of growing the business and increasing its footprint on the African continent, despite declining numbers on its existing African routes.
“The current economic trends are quite strong and convincing, more especially that this time around we will do Accra together with Lagos. There are many ardent passengers with significant business interest in Southern Africa, and they need seamless connections to reach their destinations on time,” Air Namibia Manager for Corporate Communications, Paul Nakawa said, insisting the airline had done market research, which showed positive results.
“Africans are now keen to travel for leisure and this is what we want to facilitate in line with our mission and vision. We are targeting passengers from all walks of life, particularly business and leisure travellers,” he said.
Air Namibia will service the route using the Airbus A319-100 with a capacity of 112 seats.
Flights will depart from Hosea Kutako International Airport at 16h30 and return the following day, at 07h20.
The routing for the two new destinations will be Windhoek-Lagos-Accra, and the return flight will be Accra-Lagos-Windhoek, four times a week.
Apart from providing direct connection from Namibia to West Africa, the route according to Nakawa, will further transport passengers and cargo on the Lagos-Accra route, using the fifth freedom traffic rights granted by the Ghanaian and Nigerian governments, as contained in the existing Bilateral Air Service Agreements.
The airline said the new route will allow connections to its regional flights, connecting West Africa via Windhoek to Johannesburg, Cape Town, Luanda, Harare, Lusaka, Vic Falls, Gaborone Walvis Bay and Durban.
“This much needed service will give our passengers better alternative travel options, and will reduce travel times between Namibia and West Africa by more than 60 percent,” said Advocate Mandi Samson, Air Namibia Acting Managing Director.
Air Namibia previously operated flights connecting Windhoek and Accra, but suspended the service in 2013 because of low traffic. Air Namibia is convinced that combining Accra with Lagos will increase traffic volumes.
Nakawa admitted that passenger numbers on other African routes (excluding South Africa) had declined due to a slowdown in economic activities in countries like Angola.
Oxford Economics said in a recent report that the airline carried over 560,000 passengers in its 2015/16 financial year. About 480,000 of these passengers were on its international routes.
During that period, Air Namibia transported 136,746 passengers along its Windhoek-Johannesburg route, 118,226 passengers on the Frankfurt route, 99,647 on the Cape Town route, and 53,712 passengers on the Luanda route.
On the Windhoek and Harare (via Lusaka)route 8,997 passengers were carried, while Windhoek and Lusaka (via Harare) accommodated 10,916 passengers.
The airline has reduced some of its frequencies, especially on the Windhoek-Luanda route, citing the current economic hardship in the neighbouring country.
“However, we ought to keep some frequencies in order to continue providing much needed fast and convenient air transport,” Nakawa said.
Public Enterprises Minister, Leon Jooste, recently said the airline is losing more than N$300 million per year on the Windhoek-Frankfurt, which he said was unsustainable.
The airline received a N$579 million subsidy from Government in the 2015/2016 financial year and is forecasted to receive further bailouts with N$486 million allocated in the 2017/2018 budget.