The hope that Southern African carrier, Air Namibia may be revived like other carrier in region that have been resuscitated after going under, seems to been laid to rest with the re-launch of privately-owned airline, West Air as Fly Namibia.
According to theindependent.co.zw, it’s been yet another gruesome year for the African travel industry as the novel coronavirus continues to petrify the industry, whose aggregate losses are expected to hit US$1,9 billion on the “Richter” scale this year. This has translated to seismic shifts for African carriers which have been forced to shape up or ship out by the pandemic.
The latest victim has been Air Namibia, which ceased operations earlier last year due to the global pandemic. What was meant to be a seasonal break to curtail the virus, later turned out to be a total resolve of the 10-aircraft airline.
After several government bailouts, the government shut down Air Namibia earlier this year, owing to accrued losses spanning over several years. Contributing to this of course was the rough terrain in which African airlines are forced to operate, but was exacerbated by the pandemic.
Air Namibia, like many national carriers, was the nation’s pride and joy, as well as a safe harbour for 700 employees. In 2019, the travel and tourism industry contributed 10% of the nation’s GDP and constituted 28% of the total employment within the country. A significant fraction of this was owing to the national carrier, Air Namibia, as the country recorded 1,5 million visitors.
South African Airways (SAA) went under in September last year. The airline went into liquidation after years of mismanagement, corruption and perennial losses, but swift actions were taken to bail out and restructure the airline enough to bring it back to life in September this year.
SAA this month signed a partnership agreement with Kenya Airways (KQ) to establish a pan-African airline in what sceptics deem to be a case of the blind leading the blind as KQ’s bottom line has been in the red recently.
Timelines for a bounce back tend to vary widely, with the likes of Zambia having just resurrected their national airline this month, after almost 30 years of lying dormant.
Uganda Airlines also came back to life in 2019 after spending 20 years inoperative. The trend seems to indicate a bounce back, which is why given the precedent, there was still some hope for the hundreds of employees exiled from Air Namibia.
However, these hopes were squandered last month when privately-owned airline, West Air relaunched as Fly Namibia, operating a fleet of just three narrow body aircraft.
Being the only scheduled airline in the country at the moment, the airline is poised to replace the old, Air Namibia and usher in the new, lean and profitably running, Fly Namibia.
Speculation has it that the airline hopes to get the government to buy into their idea and help grow the airline which can only absorb a fraction of the employees laid off from Air Namibia.