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Reality hit Air Namibia in the wings on Friday

The Air Namibia early morning flight to Cape Town was delayed this Friday. That in itself is not very significant, airline flights are delayed all the time the world over for various reason. This could be anything from weather to technical problems to operational problems to security. It could even be the result of an abrupt policy change like what happened when the USA decided it will no longer receive visitors from certain Muslim countries.

Air Namibia’s Cape Town flight was delayed because one of the engines on the Airbus A319 would not start. This is the type of problem the pilot only detects after all the passengers are in the cabin. One does not start a jet engine when passenger are still crossing the apron. Everybody had to disembark while the engineers tried to finger the fault. But the flight was not delayed for half an hour or so, it was first delayed until 15:00 on Friday afternoon. But late on Friday afternoon, it was still stuck in Windhoek after the passengers have been sitting for almost two hours in the “replacement” unit.

Whereas any big international airline will simply reschedule or redirect other aircraft to stand in for a stranded unit in their fleet, with Air Namibia it is unfortunately far more complicated. The airline operates only four A319s and only ten airliners in total. So, in terms of a substitute jet or a flexible schedule your luck is out if you happened to be one of the passengers on the grounded early morning Cape Town aerie. Big airlines have the operational depth to ride out or manage around unforeseen events, Air Namibia does not.

The serious delay had some immediate ramifications. The mid-morning Johannesburg flight was also delayed as the airline scrambled to make alternative arrangements but if you only have four units available, and each one is fully committed to a daily schedule, there is little room to manoeuvre, in fact there is none.

The delay also had a myriad of secondary ramifications.

The reason why people fly so early is typically because they are on a business trip. They have a set number of meetings which they have to attend and many business people still try to catch the late evening flight back to Windhoek. When the flight goes, and there are no alternative options, then the meetings go. It is rather difficult to reschedule a Friday meeting when you arrive  in Cape Town in the evening. Unless you have very flexible partners, it means the meeting can only take place on Monday, that is if everybody is available. So business people who go to Cape Town for a very specific reason, have lost the day and may find that the next meeting can only take place in a few days or so.

Although Air Namibia was very gallant assuring their Cape Town passengers it is just a matter of pinpointing the fault then everybody could get back into the aeroplane, by 12:00 it was clear to everybody that the fault is serious. This was confirmed when the hostesses started dishing out lunch tickets for some sustenance at Hosea Kutako’s restaurant. By that time, many passengers have returned to Windhoek, waiting for another day, after failing to find another flight by another airline to get them to Cape Town. By that time, many of them realised the day has been lost.

But not all the passengers are on a business trip. Some were booked for Cape Town for a normal leisure weekend. These were not affected so much, still many of those had to catch connecting flights to other destinations, not only in South Africa but also overseas. Obviously all these connecting flights were missed.

This brings us to the final round of unforeseen consequences, or number three in the list of ramifications. Those passengers who were booked on connecting flights quickly had to make alternative arrangements pestering travel agents to change bookings and reserve tickets. But those tickets have to be paid before they will be issued. What then is the use to fly to Cape Town late on Friday afternoon when you can not pay for another set of tickets to carry on with the intended journey, when all the money went into the first booking.

And this is where the costs start mounting astronomically for the poor Air Namibia. Now those connecting flight tickets will have to be refunded. If passengers have to stay over in Cape Town, those few who could actually inch in another set of tickets on the maxed credit card, then Air Namibia stand liable to cover those costs as well.

When these travellers have to rent a car to get to Cape Town from the airport, to get to their one-night hotel for which they had no intention to stay there, it becomes another added cost.

Eventually, the costs just keep piling up and a simple lunch ticket at Hosea Kutako will not suffice to appease Air Namibia’s disgruntled infrequent former flyers.

What the remedy is, I do not know. What is clear, however, is that our national airline must make up its mind in which niche it wants to operate and then stick to that slot. If it wants to go big, heaven forbid, then it must have the fleet and the people. If it only wants to stay regional, then it must be contend to fly to Ondangwa and Rundu and perhaps twice a week to Gaberone and Harare.

The choice is theirs, not the passengers’.

About The Author

Daniel Steinmann

Brief CV of Daniel Steinmann. Born 24 February 1961, Johannesburg. Educated at the University of Pretoria: BA, BA(hons), BD. Postgraduate degrees are in Philosophy and Divinity. Editor of the Namibia Economist since 1991. Daniel Steinmann has steered the Economist as editor for the past 29 years. The Economist started as a monthly free-sheet, then moved to a weekly paper edition (1996 to 2016), and on 01 December 2016 to a daily digital newspaper at www.economist.com.na. It is the first Namibian newspaper to go fully digital. Daniel Steinmann is an authority on macro-economics having established a sound record of budget analysis, strategic planning and assessing the impact of policy formulation. For eight years, he hosted a weekly talk-show on NBC Radio, explaining complex economic concepts to a lay audience in a relaxed, conversational manner. He was a founding member of the Editors' Forum of Namibia. Over the years, he has mentored hundreds of journalism students as interns and as young professional jourlists. He regularly helps economics students, both graduate and post-graduate, to prepare for examinations and moderator reviews. He is the Namibian respondent for the World Economic Survey conducted every quarter for the Ifo Center for Business Cycle Analysis and Surveys at the University of Munich in Germany. He is frequently consulted by NGOs and international analysts on local economic trends and developments. Send comments to daniel@economist.com.na

Following reverse listing, public can now acquire shareholding in Paratus Namibia

Promotion

20 February 2020, Windhoek, Namibia: Paratus Namibia Holdings (PNH) was founded as Nimbus Infrastructure Limited (“Nimbus”), Namibia’s first Capital Pool Company listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange (“NSX”).

Although targeting an initial capital raising of N$300 million, Nimbus nonetheless managed to secure funding to the value of N$98 million through its CPC listing. With a mandate to invest in ICT infrastructure in sub-Sahara Africa, it concluded management agreements with financial partner Cirrus and technology partner, Paratus Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd (“Paratus Namibia”).

Paratus Namibia Managing Director, Andrew Hall

Its first investment was placed in Paratus Namibia, a fully licensed communications operator in Namibia under regulation of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). Nimbus has since been able to increase its capital asset base to close to N$500 million over the past two years.

In order to streamline further investment and to avoid duplicating potential ICT projects in the market between Nimbus and Paratus Namibia, it was decided to consolidate the operations.

Publishing various circulars to shareholders, Nimbus took up a 100% shareholding stake in Paratus Namibia in 2019 and proceeded to apply to have its name changed to Paratus Namibia Holdings with a consolidated board structure to ensure streamlined operations between the capital holdings and the operational arm of the business.

This transaction was approved by the Competitions Commission as well as CRAN, following all the relevant regulatory approvals as well as the necessary requirements in terms of corporate governance structures.

Paratus Namibia has evolved as a fully comprehensive communications operator in Namibia and operates as the head office of the Paratus Group in Africa. Paratus has established a pan-African footprint with operations in six African countries, being: Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

The group has achieved many successes over the years of which more recently includes the building of the Trans-Kalahari Fibre (TKF) project, which connects from the West Africa Cable System (WACS) eastward through Namibia to Botswana and onward to Johannesburg. The TKF also extends northward through Zambia to connect to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which made Paratus the first operator to connect the west and east coast of Africa under one Autonomous System Number (ASN).

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