Air Namibia wary of Condor
National carrier, Air Namibia says it is cognizant of the threat posed by German low-cost airline, Condor Airways on the Windhoek Frankfurt route.
Condor Airlines, Germany’s third biggest airline, recently announced plans to include Windhoek on its schedule. The airline which is part of the international Thomas Cook Airline Group, will fly twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays at very competitive fares, beginning 10 November 2014.
According to an announcement by Condor, passengers can buy an all-inclusive, one-way flight from Frankfurt to Windhoek for as little as 379.99 (N$5,688 at N$14.97/Euro) in Economy Class, 549.99 (N$8,210) in Premium Economy Class and 1 249.99 (N$18,660) in Business Class.
Condor also announced that a cabin upgrade of its Boeing 767 long haul fleet will be finished by European summer 2014 in time for passengers to enjoy a new cabin with in-seat entertainment in all classes, as well as new, modern seats and the new business class with reclining seats.
Xavier Masule, General Manager for Commercial Services at Air Namibia told the Economist that the coming of Condor onto the Windhoek Frankfurt route is a threat to the national carrier’s business.
“Like any other business, there is always a threat when a competitor enters the market. What matters though is how we position ourselves in order to protect our market share. The entry into the market by a direct competitor will also naturally remove an element of complacency and force us to be more efficient and improve our competitiveness, something which customers in any given market will appreciate,” Masule said. He said it is important to note that Air Namibia is not the only airline that offers air services between Germany and Namibia as Lufthansa and South African Airways (SAA) also offer the same services although their passengers go through Johannesburg.
“So we should expect that the market share to be captured by Condor will be from all three airlines (SAA, Lufthansa and Air Namibia). Air Namibia’s position is, however, stronger given that we offer a direct and non-stop service between Frankfurt and Windhoek, compared to Lufthansa and South African Airways.”
Interestingly, Masule said the aviation industry was unique in that when a competitor enters the market, they also bring traffic which would not normally have come to Namibia.
“So the size of the cake will grow, and we will also aim to capture part of the market they are bringing. They will take from us and we will take from them too. I must also say that the entry into the market by Condor is good for Namibia as a tourist destination, because it means that the destination will now be marketed by two airlines. Air Namibia’s mandate is to market Namibia as a destination in collaboration with Namibia Tourism Board. For lack of a better phrase, I will say that the coming of Condor in the market will help us in the discharge of our responsibility, i.e. promoting Namibia as a destination and physically providing air transport to passengers in this market.”
Rene Gsponer, Chief Operating Officer at Air Namibia said the airline’s young fleet should help it to compete favourably against its competitor. He said: “We have a brand new aircraft, and we have flat beds in the business class. We have more space, legroom, and entertainment both in the economy and business class like most major and reputable airlines. So that is a huge customer service experience right there. If you want to have a five star experience then Air Namibia has that on the wide body (the A330). I can safely say we offer the best available service in the business and economy class.”
Gsponer said the fact that the competitor will have two flights a week, and flying the Windhoek leg during day time will also act to Air Namibia’s advantage.
“We have a big advantage that we fly both legs at night.
If you have only two flights a week and if something goes wrong, you don’t have much alternative, so that is something that people have to consider.”
The Air Namibia COO also said competition on the Windhoek Frankfurt route is good for the customers. “ It is good for the customer; you can pick a low cost airline or you can pick a “five star” experience. For the public it is good to have many options and from our side we will be prepared for the competition; we are not scared of competition.” Gsponer said the market for the Windhoek Frankfurt route is growing which allows for two airlines to compete. He said the only problem is Condor’s entry is during the low season so both airlines have to do more marketing.