Namibia Economist (Windhoek)

20 December 2012

Namibia: National Airline Enters New Era

Photo: Fastjet
An artist's impression of a Fastjet Airbus.

As part of its fleet modernisation programme, national airline, Air Namibia has entered a new chapter in its history by acquiring two brand new Airbus A319 - 100 aircraft for the first time since disposing its jumbo jet in 2004.

The airline management represented by Xavier Masule, the General Manager for Commercial Services and Paulus Nakawa, the Head of Corporate Communications accompanied a group of local journalists to the Airbus factory in Hamburg recently for the symbolic handover of the new aircraft.

The aircraft, powered by CFM International's CFM56-5B6/3 engines, are coming in to replace the ageing Boeing B737 fleet. With a total seat capacity of 112 seats: 16 Business Class and 96 Economy Class, the aircraft will be used in Air Namibia's regional routes between Windhoek and Johannesburg, Cape Town, Luanda and Accra.

Seating arrangement in business class is a classic 2 by 2 format, with no middle seats, affording business class passengers sufficient comfort, and good value for money. In economy class, seating follows a classic wide-body 3 by 3 configuration.

The two will complement two other Airbus A319-100 aircraft already in use since October 2011 through a lease agreement from a financial institution based in Germany.

It was not immediately clear when the aircraft will touch down on Namibian soil. According to Masule, the date will only be known after Air Namibia receives the delivery notification and all documentation has been signed, including the change of ownership.

"After looking at other aircraft types including the new Boeing B737-800 , Air Namibia settled for the Airbus A319-100 as the better from the options we had to select from.

"The Airbus A319-100 was found to be best-suited for our environment and market situation, primarily looking at correct cabin size, given the demand on the various routes where it will be deployed, cost effectiveness, commonality with the Airbus A340-300 used on the long haul flight to Frankfurt (this translates to cost saving ito crew training), dispatch reliability record, as well as new generation design and technology."

Early this year, Air Namibia announced that it had signed 12-year lease agreements with US-based lessor Intrepid for two brand new Airbus A330-200 aircraft. The two new aircraft, currently in production, are expected in the country sometime in October next year. They will replace the existing two A340-300 planes whose lease agreements will not be renewed.

Masule announced at the time that the A340 replacement was critical to long haul success as it will provide savings of up to N$510 million over five years. The two Airbus A330-200 aircraft will be used on the airline's flagship route between Windhoek and Frankfurt, as well as on future long haul destinations.

Speaking at the symbolic handover ceremony last week, the Namibian Ambassador to Germany, Neville Gertze said the decision by Air Namibia to purchase the two A319 aircraft from Airbus in order to service regional routes comes at an interesting time for Namibia and the African aviation industry as a whole.

He said: "The global air transport and aviation industry is changing and Africa is becoming an important and growing aviation market. The driving factors behind the growth of the African aviation industry are solid per capita GDP growth, increased wealth, urbanization, and increased consumer spending.

"According to the International Monetary Fund, Africa will have the world's fastest-growing economy during the next five years. The IMF forecasts also show that seven of the world's 10 fastest-growing economies will be African states.

"As a country's GDP grows, so does the desire of its residents for travel and more and more will be able to afford to pay the cost of air travel. Currently, only 10% of Africans travel by air but given the current rate of economic growth and emergence of the middle class, there will be high demand for services linked to air transportation."

Ambassador Gertze said the purchase of the two aircraft shows the commitment of the Namibian Government and Air Namibia to make a contribution to the growing African aviation sector.

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