So last week, low cost carrier, FlyAfrica got barred from operating on the Windhoek Johannesburg route, in the wake of the court interdict following an application lodged by national air liner, Air Namibia.
When I first heard of this move, I was like “Seriously?”. What in the world is wrong with a little bit of competition in this country? As I recall in one of my interviews with an Air Namibia communications officer, I was lucidly told Air Namibia welcomes the competition; ‘competition is competition’ they said. Now I begin to wonder after this stunt, what happened to ‘welcoming competition’?
As soon as Air Namibia heard that FlyAfrica had landed they scurried to the judge for an interdict to stop them from operating.
Okay, I can only assume why Air Namibia did so – they are afraid to lose those little clients that they often ferry, but truth be said, if FlyAfrica continued they were clearly going to take Air Namibia to the cleaners. The FlyAfrica Johannesburg Windhoek return ticket was going to be in the range of N$1,500 – not even half the amount charged by Air Namibia.
Thinking back, in February, Air Namibia’s Chief Operations Officer and acting Managing Director Rene Gsponer at that time, proclaimed that Air Namibia is not fazed by newcomer discount airline, FlyAfrica. “We are not troubled, we will approach FlyAfrica in the same way that we approached Condor. We are a top class airline while FlyAfrica is a non-service airline with a 20-year-old fleet, ” he said.
After hearing a bold statement like that, one would think they were ready for competition, but it seems they took FlyAfrica’s intentions as a bluff. Now faced with the actual competition they scurry around and look for the tinniest of details to clip FlyAfrica’s wings and then you actually ponder if they are the top class airline they claim to be.
I basically think Air Namibia can not stomach a little bit of competition. I once came across something that said that competition leads to innovation. If you are the only player in your field, it can be difficult to improve and if you are working in a crowded market, you won’t succeed by continuing to do the same thing and this is clearly what is going to happen to Air Namibia.
Why did they not leave FlyAfrica even for two months and assess how they will be performing rather than barring them on their first flight?
Meanwhile in some major findings of a Value for Aviation for Africa econometric report commissioned by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and presented earlier this year, it was suggested that airlines in Africa fail because there are no passenger volumes or frequent flyers.
Imagine if FlyAfrica was granted the opportunity to operate , people actually would have had a choice and would actually opt to fly to South Africa rather than go by road.
The cheaper the flight the more people will eventually want to use this mode of transport and in the long run, the traffic of people actually increases resulting in more business. I know that a whole lot of people have never been on a plane because it’s not affordable. FlyAfrica would have been the best opportunity for previous non-flyers to try out the air. But alas Air Namibia could not stomach the competition.
Maybe I am wrong and they may have had another possible reason to barring FlyAfrica operating in Namibia but with what I know and how Air Namibia reacted, it reflected very negatively on the national airliner.
It seems like they are afraid of the competition and usually, like the saying goes, if you can not handle the heat get out of the kitchen, not the other way round. Air Namibia should just grow a pair and begin to look at more innovative ideas to better their services and their rates to get more clients.