Air Namibia’s latest acquisition, the Airbus-A330-200 that was handed over to the airline on Wednesday in Toulouse, France, may not bring in much profit but will certainly reduce operating costs.
The French city is home to the European plane maker’s headquarters and the biggest of its several manufacturing plants across Europe. The plane is expected to make its maiden flight to Namibia in the first week of October. The second Airbus-A330 is expected to be delivered to Air Namibia in November this year.
While the bad news for the taxpayers is that the new planes will not make the loss-making airline profitable, the good news is that they will reduce Air Namibia’s operational costs by 13% calculated at about N$8,5 million a month or about N$510 million over a six year period.
The two planes are being leased from the US based Intrepid Aviation over a 12 year period. The planes will be used on the Windhoek-Frankfurt route, which mostly caters for German tourists coming to Namibia. The modernisation of the airline’s fleet is part of a new business plan that was adopted in July 2011 with the aim of making Air Namibia financially sustainable.
Air Namibia’s managing director Theo Namases told reporters that the airbus delivered on Wednesday will have 244 seats compared to 278 seats on A340-300 currently being used on the Frankfurt route, which translates to more comfort for the travellers.
She said the A330 consumes less fuel which accounts for 42% of Air Namibia’s operational costs.
|Fast facts: Airbus A330-200|
|Tail height||17.39 m|
|Cabin width||5.28 m|
|Cargo volume||136 cubic meters|
|Maximum cruise speed||913 km/hr|
|Takeoff distance at MTOW||2 770 m|
|Maximum fuel capacity||139 090 L|
When elaborating on the modernisation of the fleet, Namases said in 2010, the average age of its planes was 18 years. This has been reduced to six years now and is expected to reach two years in 2015.
“We will not make profits but we will reduce and contain the amount of subsidies we receive from the government,” said Namases.
While most taxpayers do not see the need for government to support Air Namibia at a time when the state has other pressing social needs like improving the quality of education and health, the tourism industry remains Air Namibia’s biggest supporter and the airline is crucial for the tourism industry.
Figures released by the Namibian Tourism Board in Toulouse showed that a large number of the 1,2 million tourists who visit Namibia, fly Air Namibia.
Airbus and Intrepid officials said the new planes give Air Namibia an opportunity to open more long haul routes.
Among the features of the A330-200 is that in the business class the seats can be turned into flat beds. The A330 also has two engines compared to four on the A340-300, which Air Namibia has been using for the last seven years.
Namases said the two Airbus-A330-200 are the last phase of fleet modernisation. Namibia’s Ambassador to France Nangula Frieda Ithete said the government expects the airline to become profitable.
“The expectation of the government is clear. The airline needs to become profitable,” Ithete said during the handover ceremony.
Date: 27 September 2013