Air Namibia is today launching a route from Walvis Bay to Johannesburg using its newly acquired Embraer ERJ 135 regional jets to take advantage of increased demand between the two countries.
“The route will be serviced by the new Embraer ERJ 135 aircraft six times per week with the exception of Saturday. The additional route capacity is a direct result of our market research which showed a significant increase in regional travel between Namibia and neighbouring South Africa,” the airline said in a statement earlier this week.
At the moment, Air Namibia operates three flights per week between Walvis Bay and Cape Town, on Sundays, Wednesday and Fridays using a Boeing 737-500. It is focusing its Walvis Bay route to cater for increased demand.
Over the last several years Air Namibia has been expanding its fleet and destinations, and has been assisted by the government’s massive airport upgrade project. Over the coming five years Namibia will invest N$1.5 billion (R1.2 billion) on upgrading five of the country’s airports.
Earlier this year Air Namibia said it would “refine its business model, which entails upgrading and modernising our fleet, improving connectivity of our network, as well as introducing flights on new city pairs in the region.”
In February Air Namibia introduced domestic flights to include Rundu on the Windhoek-Katima Mulilo route as part of its “expansion and strategic action plan”, AllAfrica reports. The Rundu route will be serviced by a Beechcraft 1900 until June when it will be replaced by an ERJ 135.
“This route is to further economic growth of the area and increase popularity of business travel and tourism between Namibia, Africa and beyond,” the airline said.
Late last year, Air Namibia recorded an increase in passenger numbers between Windhoek and South Africa and an above average performance on the routes to West Africa. Introduced nearly a year ago, the routes continue to perform relatively well, “with passenger numbers growing positively” and the quest is to “to grow the routes to profitability,” Air Namibia said.
Air Namibia is leasing three ERJ 135s configured with 37 seats to replace its four 19-seat Beechcraft 1900s. Deliveries were scheduled for February 14, April 14 and June 3. The decision to phase out the Beechcraft in June is in line with the decision to increase profitability in the region and on domestic routes. “Some of our domestic routes have outgrown the Beechcraft 1900,” said Xavier Masule, General Manager: Commercial.
The regional jets are being leased from Air France subsidiary Regional – Compagnie Aerienne Europeenne. The deal was organised by ECC Leasing Company Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Embraer, in accordance with the exclusive Remarketing Mandate awarded to ECC by Air France Regional.
Air Namibia’s fleet will soon consist of nine aircraft – two Airbus A340s, four Boeing 737s and three Embraer ERJ 135s.
Air Namibia is wholly owned by the Namibian government and serves as that country’s national airline. Masule recently told the Windhoek Observer that the airline continues to make a loss and is reliant on government subsidies. The state has given N$3 billion to the national airline since the 2001/02 financial year, AllAfrica reports.
Air Namibia was established to develop the tourism sector and facilitate trade. Masule said that despite its financial problems, the airline contributed 1.9% (N$1.5 billion) to Namibia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and accounted for 2.5% of total employment in the country.
Muse said Air Namibia had suffered along with other airlines during the recession but that traffic was nearing pre-recession levels. Although they are high, they are still 10-15% less than pre-recession levels, the Windhoek Observer reports. Nevertheless, Air Namibia is making a concerted effort to improve its performance and public image.