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Global economic crisis sinks Namibia’s flag carrier

Namibia’s flag carrier, Air Namibia has cut its Londo n route and scaled down on its domestic flights, citing shrinking margins as pas s enger bookings dwindle because of the global economic slowdown.

Air Namibia said its revenue was being fried by a sharp plunge in bookings. Its management said bookings have gone down by an average ten per cent since the start of the year. The national airliner, which is heavily subsidised by the government, said that it had instituted fire fighting measures to remain afloat. Management said Tuesday it had stopped the milky runs to London, adding that the last flight on the London-Gatwick route will be on 3 June. “The current economic slow down has constrained demand for air travel services o n this route (London-Gatwick) even further. “In order to minimise losses as a result of these facts, Air Namibia has decided that the two flights per week operated on the Windhoek-London/Gatwick be withdr a wn,” said Theopolina Namases, Air Namibia acting MD. “Our presence in the UK market will continue, but will be served as an offline m arket,” Namases said.

She disclosed that passengers would be flown to and from Windhoek via Frankfurt, with connections to and from London-Heathrow airport using commercial agreement s with interline partners.

Apart from the London route which has been completely shut down, Air Namibia has also scaled down its second major route in the region, the Victoria Falls route from five to four flights a week.

The Windhoek/Johannesburg route, another milky run, has been reduced by one freq uency with flights being reduced from two to one on Wednesdays.

Namases said the perennial loss making national flag carrier would pin its hopes on increasing frequency on its Windhoek-Frankfurt and Windhoek-Luanda routes.

Management said the Windhoek-Luanda route has an additional frequency and the ro ute will be operated using a B737-500 aircraft.

This means that Air Namibia will operate four return flights per week on the Lua nda route.

Namases said Air Namibia will continue to operate five flights per week from its well established primary European gateway in Frankfurt.

Even with these fire fighting measures, Air Namibia’s fortunes would continue fl agging, management said, adding that “it is very difficult, even IATA, when they do their economic review, they expect the situation to be much worse.

“We are also expecting the same this side, it is difficult to monitor the situat ion but we are expecting the worst,” said an Air Namibia senior official.

Air Namibia GM (technical and operations) Ben Dahwa said that on the average, bo okings have shrunk by ten per cent.

Government says that tourism arrivals have gone down by nearly 30 per cent in th e first quarter of this year.

Tourism receipts are expected to shrink further as the global economic slowdown takes its toll on consumers in most tourism source markets.

Air Namibia, which is stuck with non-performing traditional markets, said it is now casting its net wide, seeking new markets in West Africa and Asia to boost i t s revenue base and plug yawning gaps left by the plunge in European bookings.

Management remained mum on the national airliner’s strategy out of the current f inancial quagmire but hinted that the West African market and Asia form the core of the airliner’s marketing forays.

It also remains unclear what course of action Air Namibia was considering for it s non-profit making Windhoek-Johannesburg route.

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