Despite Air Namibia’s call for increased consultation when it comes to opening Namibia’s airways, the Ministry of Works and Transport is adamant that the national airline is well represented on the committee that decides on who to allow to fly to the country.
Air Namibia recently called for increased consultation following the announcement that Qatar Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines, would soon introduce regular flights into Hosea Kutako International Airport. Other foreign airlines flying to Namibia include South African Airways, Condor Airlines and Blue Crane.
According to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Transport, Willem Goeiemann, his ministry established a Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) Consultation Committee, which meets once a month, excluding December and January.
Goeiemann explained that the function of the BASA Consultation Committee is to provide a platform, which enhances information sharing among all stakeholders, including Air Namibia, the Attorney General’s Office, the Transport Commission of Namibia and the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation. The committee also serves as an advisory team by providing written recommendations to the PS for decision making, prior to legal review of the draft BASA, either during negotiations and/or signing of an agreement.
“Air Namibia, being a member to the BASA Consultation Committee, is represented by the General Manager for Commercial Services and the Manager for International and Government Affairs. Air Namibia has been sufficiently invited and fully represented during all consultation and negotiation meetings,” Goiemann told New Era Weekend.
Goeiemann also updated New Era Weekend on the status of foreign airline operations that are soon to provide healthy competition to the national airline.
Condor Airline is the only airline already fully operational, while a Foreign Operators Permit (FOP) has been issued to Blue Crane, whose security programme has been submitted and is subject to approval. A FOP has also been issued to Qatar Airways but its security programme is still in the process of being submitted. Goeiemann noted though that applications for KLM and Ethiopian airlines FOPs have not yet been received, hence their security programmes cannot be processed yet.
Air Namibia’s acting Managing Director, Mandy Samson, recently told New Era that increased competition in the aviation industry could potentially lead to the collapse of the national airline. “These foreign airlines move to other areas once your market is done and the cost of restoration of what was there before becomes unbearable, resulting in permanent loss of air transport infrastructure and accessibility to a once well-connected country. This risk is real. Not only to the local airlines but to the whole economic system,” said Samson.
Samson also noted that the new competition would not bring in new traffic flows but would be “cannibalising” existing traffic flows, which Air Namibia is already carrying from established source markets. “Air Namibia has spent quite a lot of money in developing and promoting the country as a tourist destination and we have managed to grow the market for the country as a route more than four times over the past 12 years or so. Now the foreign airlines have spotted a developed market and that is really what is attracting them here,” Samson lamented.