Independent South African airline Airlink has acquired a 40% strategic stake in Windhoek-based FlyNamibia.
FlyNamibia is the scheduled airline of Westair Aviation, which originally started as an aircraft maintenance facility in 1967 but has grown into Namibia’s most experienced aviation company. It began scheduled passenger operations in June 2019 after being granted transport company status by the Namibian Transport Commission.
- Airlink is acquiring 40 per cent of FlyNamibia, Namibia’s only domestic scheduled airline, in an agreement announced at the end of September aimed at expanding service both inside and outside the Southern African country.
- The acquisition will bring the two airlines closer together as all FlyNamibia flights will switch to using Airlink’s IATA code ‘4Z’ to increase revenue and improve international connectivity.
The acquisition is for an undisclosed amount as part of a strategic equity partnership aimed at filling the regional short- and medium-haul market gap created by the collapse of Air Namibia. It is also expected to accelerate Namibia’s post-pandemic recovery and drive the expansion of efficient scheduled air services to, from and within Namibia.
Airlink will also provide additional flight operations, technical and commercial training and development support to FlyNamibia.
Commenting on the development, Rodger Foster, Airlink’s Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, said Airlink sees the merits of partnership and building a sustainable, co-branded network air system.
“Airlink sees the benefit of building a sustainable air transport system with a common brand network across the region. It has been discussed in many forums that the way to achieve this is via collaborative partnerships between the more established airlines and smaller airlines, the scale and associated efficiencies leading to robustness. We believe this relationship will produce others in the region,” he said.
“Namibia is unique not only in terms of its natural, mineral and human wealth, but also in terms of its relatively small population relative to the size of its territory. With this in mind, we will be well positioned to achieve the economies of scale to make it economically possible to connect and serve Namibia’s smaller towns and cities to Windhoek and other regional destinations while maintaining convenient and easy access to other markets around the world around the world. This will also support our and Namibia’s common longer term effort to establish Windhoek as a central connection hub and base. By doing so, we will help make air travel and transport more efficient and improve Namibia’s competitive position as a destination for trade and tourism,” added Foster.
FlyNamibia’s newly appointed Managing Director, André Compion, added: “Namibia’s economy is expanding and has the potential to grow rapidly with new offshore drilling and mining, the resurgence of tourism and its establishment as a pioneering producer of green hydrogen for the global energy market To realize its full economic potential, Namibia will increasingly rely on air links to transport people and goods between markets. By joining forces with Airlink and becoming part of their global network, we will be even better able to serve foreigners and locals alike to serve tourists and businesses . In addition, we will build capacity, develop flying skills and create direct and indirect employment opportunities.”
Some of the terms listed include:
FlyNamibia will adopt the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Airlink ‘4Z’ designation for its ticketing and scheduled flights under a commercial franchise agreement. Although it will continue to operate at its own commercial risk.
Namibia’s only scheduled airline will retain its own corporate identity, branding and livery.
According to an announcement at a press conference in Windhoek on September 28, 2022, FlyNamibia’s inventory will be promoted on Airlink’s reservation system and through its international codeshare partnerships and the changes will come into effect as soon as possible.
Airlink and FlyNamibia will also optimize their flight schedules to offer the most convenient connections between their respective flights and with long-haul intercontinental services offered by Airlink’s other trading partners, which include more than 20 of the world’s leading global airlines.
FlyNamibia aims to expand to Ghana in West Africa, Kenya and Malawi in East Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in Central Africa. Airlink already has an extensive regional network with more than 45 destinations in 13 countries across Southern Africa, Madagascar (currently suspended due to COVID-related travel restrictions) and the island of St. Helena.
Namibia’s airports handled 1.16 million domestic and international passengers in the 2019-20 financial year, with air travel accounting for 683,551 (42.8 percent) of tourist arrivals.
According to the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism Tourist Statistics Report 2019, there was a slight increase of 1.3 percent of 1,681,336 foreign travelers to Namibia compared to the previous year (2018). Tourist arrivals increased 2.5 percent from 1,557,279 in 2018 to 1,595,973 in 2019. Of these, 1,595,973 (94.9 percent of arrivals) were foreign tourists, including 344,193 from overseas. The others were day visitors (3.3 percent), returning residents (1.4 percent), and others (0.4 percent). Of these, 19.9 percent arrived in Namibia via Hosea Kutako International Airport and entered the country.
Namibia attracts the largest percentage of tourist arrivals from the SADC countries (Angola, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana) and both the African and Chinese markets saw growth in 2019. Europe and North America saw a drop in tourist arrivals. According to the Department of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, the decline in North America is due to the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA-N) expiring in 2014, and no new aggressive marketing efforts have continued for this particular market. The decline seen in the European market could be due to source markets having peaked and Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) having to venture into new potential markets such as Asia and the Middle East countries. Zambia, Germany, Zimbabwe, Botswana, France, Great Britain, USA and China.
In 2019, Namibia’s top 10 source markets for overseas holiday travelers were (in descending order): Germany, France, UK, USA, Netherlands, China, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium and Scandinavia.
Over the same period, China was Namibia’s largest source market for overseas business travellers, followed by Germany, the UK, the US, Scandinavia, France, Canada, Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands.
Southern Africa’s airline market continues to transform as the region emerges from the pandemic.