Air Namibia Ceases Operations

Filed Under: Other Airlines

And sadly another one bites the dust…

Air Namibia is going out of business

Per a public notice, Air Namibia will be ceasing operations, and the airline plans to enter voluntary liquidation.

As of Thursday, February 11, 2021, Air Namibia will be canceling all flight operations, with aircraft returning to base. The reservations system for taking new bookings has also been suspended.

Unfortunately Air Namibia had been losing money for years, even pre-pandemic. Air Namibia’s liquidation will lead to over 600 job losses — employees will stop getting benefits effective immediately, though they will receive one year of severance pay.

Air Namibia’s fleet consisted of 10 planes, including two A330s, four A319s, and four ERJ135ERs. While the airline primarily operated domestic and regional services, I’ve long been fascinated by the flag carrier’s one long haul route, between Windhoek and Frankfurt.

We’ll see what the future holds for Namibian aviation:

  • The Frankfurt to Windhoek route is also served seasonally by Condor, so there’s still a way to fly nonstop between the two countries
  • Westair has been increasing domestic service within Namibia, and will only continue to grow, so could potentially take over much of Air Namibia’s network
  • We’ll see if another airline steps in to offer regional services; maybe Ethiopian Airlines will step up service to & from Namibia

An interesting opportunity for Southwest Airlines

This might sound random, but Southwest Airlines potentially has something to gain from Air Namibia going out of business. As noted by Live and Let’s Fly, Southwest Airlines’ two letter IATA code is “WN,” though the airline has always wanted the code “SW.” Unfortunately for Southwest, that code was already being used by Air Namibia, which is an older airline.

Southwest Airlines has tried several times in the past to get Air Namibia to change its code so that the airline could take it over, but didn’t have any luck. With Air Namibia liquidating, this might finally be Southwest Airlines’ chance to get the “SW” code.

I’ll be curious to see how quickly we see developments on this front.

Bottom line

It’s sad to see yet another flag carrier cease operations. In this case Air Namibia is going out of business, and over 600 jobs will be lost as a result. While Air Namibia’s international network can quite easily be replaced by other airlines, this leaves a big gap in domestic aviation, so we’ll have to see how that plays out.

This also presents an opportunity for Southwest Airlines, as the airline has long wanted the “SW” IATA code, but it was taken by Air Namibia. Let’s see if the airline can get the code now.

What do you make of Air Namibia ceasing operations, and do you think Southwest Airlines will finally change it code?

(Featured image courtesy of Kambui)

  1. WN switching to SW might be the most Inside Baseball airline tidbit of the year, so far. That should not be interesting, but it is. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Namibia is a large but very sparsely populated country. And Windhoek is very small for a national capital. International traffic is reasonably served through JNB, Condor, and KLM … but yes the domestic void will definitely be need to be filled somehow.

    Beautiful county btw… been twice and would love to go back again.

  3. @Ryan – Westair had more than filled the void for the last few months on domestic routes already using their ERJ-145s and are taking another aircraft just this week. They also flew to Cape Town prior to the pandemic and had plans for Johannesburg. I think the local/regional market will be no worse off. The longhaul market had already deserted Air Namibia for Ethiopian and Qatar primarily (and less so to KLM), so there won’t be that big a hole there either. Sometimes markets need a right-sizing and this may be it for Namibia.

  4. That’s so interesting. I guess Air Namibia was able to get SW since the country used to be called Southwest Africa at one point I believe. Anyway, given how Air Namibia has been losing money even before pandemic, I’m surprised they didn’t sell the code SW to Southwest (similar to how Heathrow slots could be sold… but perhaps it’s not allowed to sell airline codes?)

  5. SW’s flights ex FRA were a delight. I flew thrice with them, they did not have the fanciest C/Cl on the market but always a very friendly cabin crew . Sad.

  6. SW was a very poorly run airline. Their customer service was worse than AC and that is saying something. After numerous bad experiences on them, we flew BA every time we could, regardless of cost. SA was a back-up.
    Hopefully others will realize that even if you have close to a monopoly, customer service matters. Customers should always come first.

  7. Air Namibia started out as South West Air Transport (which, in turn, probably had something to do with the country’s former name under German rule, Südwest Afrika). Now that SW ceases operations, it’s time for the “younger” Southwest Airlines to step in and have the code transferred to them.

  8. Qatar launched flights to Windhoek a few years ago, and I assume they still have the flight, so that’s another way to get there, and I’ll fly Qatar any time it’s an option.

  9. I wonder if Air Botswana follows Air Namibia down the hole? The countries are fairly similar in a lot of respects and both airlines were losing a ton of money. I know Botswana is heavily dependent on tourism (along with Diamonds) economically, so I’d be curious to see if it gets cut loose. I can’t imagine the Maun and Kasane routes are doing particularly well without people trying to go to the Okavango, Chobe, or the Conservancies.

  10. We flew them from windhoek to Johannesburg in Oct 2019. The flight was fine, but there was masking tape on the wing and a nail that was sticking up half way. Thought that was a bit unusual. Still have a picture on my phone.

  11. This is sad news.

    I’ve flown SW many times, and while it wasn’t the most polished airline, it offered value for money, and they did some arcane flights like Windhoek to Walvis Bay, etc.

    I know that others will fill the void, but I always viewed them as the “scrappy yet not fully polished national carrier of Namibia,” my favorite country in the world.

  12. I was an exchange student in Cape Town a few years back when I flew Air Namibia from Cape Town to Windhoek and then domestically from Windhoek to Walvis Bay. It was an interesting experience flying on a small airline. What I remember most though was the awful breakfast from Cape Town. I had eggs, but its was more like yellow gruel.

  13. @heather I was thinking the same thing. TPG has an article about this as well including two emails to request refunds.

    Biggest drawback in terms of routes for vacationers is probably WDH to VFA which I was planning to take this summer for hopping over to Zimbabwe. Oh well, much could change before then.

    One other development maybe worth mentioning is that Rwandair has applied for a route from KGL to WDH which could add at least some capacity to a post Air Namibia world.

  14. One of the country I didn’t get to before Covid hit. It was on my list for 2021. Along everything on my list in 2020, it looks like much of the 2021 is going down toilet as well. Japan and Myanmar along with Philippines was suppose to happen in a month or so but looks like Myanmar (military taking over the country) will be off that list along with Namibia (covid) for quite awhile. Sadly due to covid, I think Africa will be off my list until most of the population on that continent gets vaccinated. It’s regrettable as I’ve been going to Africa for several years in a row lately. Beautiful continent with beautiful people.

  15. Sad. I had one of the best regional air experience on CPT-WVB, comfy seats, awesome catering (what airline serves full hot meal in economy with 3 main dish choices, on a mere 2hr flight), unlimited drink refills, and friendly crew. Will miss them a lot.

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