The Namibian (Windhoek)

23 August 2006

Namibia: Air Namibia Takes Leave of Md11 Aircraft

AIR NAMIBIA'S plan to switch to using Airbus aircraft on its flights between Namibia and Europe passed another milestone last week, when the airline said goodbye to its McDonnell Douglas MD11 jet.

The jet has been used to service the national carrier's intercontinental routes for the past two years.

The MD11, which has been flying on Air Namibia's routes between Hosea Kutako International Airport and Frankfurt since September 2004, with flights between Namibia and London Gatwick Airport added from mid-2005, made its last flight for the airline last Tuesday, Air Namibia's General Manager: Commercial Services, Helois //Hoabeb, told The Namibian.

The gap left by the MD11's departure will be filled in the interim by a Boeing 747 which has previously flown for Malaysia Airlines, //Hoabeb said.

The leased Boeing 747 joins an Airbus A340, also leased, on the routes between Namibia and Europe.

A second Airbus is now being reconfigured to Air Namibia's specifications to replace the MD11 in the longer term.

The date when the airline would receive this aircraft had not been set yet, according to //Hoabeb.

The plan to switch to Airbus aircraft between Namibia and Europe is one of the major pillars supposed to support Air Namibia's strategy of piloting the loss-making airline away from successive years of unprofitability.

Between 1999 and September 2004 Air Namibia used a Boeing 747 aircraft on its routes between Namibia and Europe.

The time that this aircraft was in service coincided with the airline's descent into major financial losses, with large annual Government bailouts - totalling more than N$1,6 billion by the end of this year - needed since 2000 to save Air Namibia from a crash-landing in bankruptcy.

Switching from the Boeing 747 to Airbus aircraft - claimed to be more cost-effective than its American-made rival - is a key part of Air Namibia's strategy that aims to turn the airline around and stem the tides of red ink on its balance sheets.

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