Air Namibia reschedules flights due to maintenance

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Air Namibia reschedules flights due to maintenance

THE SouthernTIMES Mar 20, 2018

    Annines Angula & Timo Shihepo

    Air Namibia on 18 February suspended some of its flights following the withdrawal of two of its Embraer Jet (ERJ) airplanes for scheduled maintenance checks that started last November.

    The national air carrier has been using only two of its four Embraer Jet (ERJ) fleet for domestic and regional routes, as the other two planes are undergoing scheduled maintenance and are expected to be completed by June this year.

    As a result, Air Namibia has suspended direct flights between Johannesburg and Walvis Bay during the maintenance period since February 18. Passengers on this route will be transported via Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport.

    “Given the afore-stated maintenance activities, the airline will from February 18, 2018, be operating two of the four aircraft only, as the other two will be inducted for maintenance,” said Paul Homateni Nakawa, Air Namibia manager corporate communications.

    The ERJ fleet services all domestic routes and regional routes such as Lusaka, Harare, Victoria Falls and Johannesburg to Walvis Bay.

    Flights to Lüderitz and Oranjemund will be reduced to three per week ‑ Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Nakawa said.

    “The direct service between Johannesburg and Walvis Bay will be suspended during the indicated period, and our clients on this route will be transported via Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport. All other flights on the entire route network remain unchanged and unaffected by the on-going maintenance activities,” he said.

    The rescheduling of flights comes at a time when Air Namibia is already receiving a backlash from frustrated travellers who criticised the airline of using old aircraft, especially on the Windhoek-Harare route.

    The travellers allege that it has become common practice to experience delays on this route and that between August 2016 and January 2018 alone, more than 20 flights from Windhoek to Harare have either been delayed or cancelled indefinitely.

    The latest delay, which happened on January 21, saw passengers on the Windhoek to Harare flight delayed for more than eight hours because the aircraft (ERJ 135) was failing to take off.

    Passengers had to wait for a different aircraft to return from the southern part of Namibia from 08am and eventually left at at 4.40pm. Despite this prolonged delay, frustrated passengers still had to stopover at the Victoria Falls International Airport to drop off some travellers.

    The incident comes after the same ailing ERJ 135 aircraft allegedly had to circle for 20 minutes around the Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare because it could not land after it developed a mechanical fault mid-air.

    Travellers who frequent the Windhoek-Harare route told The Southern Times that most of the time they end up missing their scheduled events due to Air Namibia’s frequent delays and cancellations.

    Air Namibia has, however, dismissed allegations that it has been using an old aircraft on the Windhoek-Harare route. 

    "It is not true that we are using an old aircraft on that route. (At Air Namibia) we operate four ERJ aircraft that are equally utilised on domestic and some regional routes,” Air Namibia’s corporate communications officer, Twaku Kayofa, told The Southern Times.

    The travellers on the route have warned that the continued flight delays could cost the airline.

    The Windhoek-Harare route brings in a modest income for the airline. A return ticket on the Windhoek-Harare route costs R4,850. Air Namibia could, therefore, on a good day easily make R179,450 (before tax) per round trip, and R538,350 (before tax) over three days that it flies to and from Zimbabwe, if seats are sold out.

    A snap survey has revealed that in October 2016, flights between Windhoek and Harare were suspended for almost two weeks because the ERJ 135 aircraft was not able to take off.

    Between December 2017 and January 7, 2018, flights between Windhoek and Harare were also cancelled but the airline attributes this to low demand.

    Kayofa said as an airline, they sell schedule integrity. However, sometimes due to circumstances beyond their control, some flights may be delayed for safety reasons.

    “The safety of our passengers remains key in our operations. The challenges are not unique to this route, but we continue to do everything within our powers to contain the delays and continue transporting passengers to their respective destinations on time. Air Namibia would like to apologise to the affected passengers for the inconvenience caused,” Kayofa said. 

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