Plans by Fly Etosha (Windhoek Eros) to debut around June 2023 on domestic and regional routes have hit a snag with its main competitor FlyNamibia opposing its license application, citing the startup's alleged "lack of financial resources, aircraft, maintenance facilities, ground handling services, insurance cover, and personnel".

In a statement shared with ch-aviation, FlyNamibia said it had lodged a formal objection to FlyEtosha's plans with the Transportation Commission of Namibia on February 14, 2023. In doing so, it exercised its right to object to a new license application as per the country's Air Services Act.

As first reported by ch-aviation, Fly Etosha plans to conduct domestic, regional, and international flights from Windhoek International and Windhoek Eros. It intends to operate a varied fleet of 33 aircraft, including regional turboprops and a mixture of leased narrowbodies and widebodies.

Domestic destinations would include Windhoek, Ondangwa, Rundu, Katima Mulilo/Caprivi, Walvis Bay, Luderitz and Oranjemund. The regional network would include Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls, plus Johannesburg O.R. Tambo and Cape Town International in South Africa.

Founder and accountable manager William Ekandjo told The Namibian newspaper he was unconcerned about FlyNamibia's objection. "That is their opinion and their right as well. All we are doing is following the prescribed minimum requirement by the law," he said. A former acting Senior Manager of Flight Operations and pilot at defunct state carrier Air Namibia, Ekandjo said Fly Etosha was an initiative of a group of former Air Namibia employees. He said funding would be raised on the Namibian Stock Exchange.

Ekandjo earlier told Namibia's Business Express that Fly Etosha aimed to start with a fleet of at least four [undisclosed] aircraft by mid-2023, pending the finalisation of its licensing and certification from the Transport Commission of Namibia. "We are in the process, and we are sure that in the next three months, we will be all set to take to the skies," Ekandjo said. He said a company board was being assembled and hinted that a shared ownership system may be established for future employees.

"Our airline will be beneficial to everyone, including our competitors because sufficient air service can only grow the industry. We should be able as a country to provide adequate and competitive air transport for Namibians and others," Ekandjo said.

"With others who may appear as competition, we may even join hands to fight high regulatory and market entry costs so that if those reduce, the charges passed on to clients can be far less, making flying affordable and growing the industry. We are looking forward to working well with all stakeholders," he added.

Since the collapse of Air Namibia on February 11, 2021, the Namibian domestic and regional market has been dominated by privately-owned FlyNamibia, a joint venture between Westair Aviation (WAA, Windhoek Eros) and Airlink (South Africa) (4Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo). The partners operate a combination of Embraer regional jets, including E135s, E140s, E145s, and E190s, according to the ch-aviation schedules module.

South African Airways (SA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) has resumed services between Johannesburg and Windhoek with an A319-100, while South African budget carrier FlySafair (FA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) has announced daily services on the same route from 2Q23 using B737-800s.

In its objection, FlyNamibia said its chief concern was whether Fly Etosha could offer a safe, satisfactory, and reliable service. "The application as it currently stands has raised serious concerns about the planned airline's ability to ensure the safety of passengers. An unreliable airline with serious safety concerns could negatively affect the entire Namibian aviation industry and create a negative public perception of the reliability and safety of all airlines and aircraft operators currently operating within Namibia," the airline said.

"FlyNamibia rejects any claims made by members of the public that the airline has launched this objection to deter another airline from starting operations and thus discourage competition. FlyNamibia currently competes directly with a number of airlines, and we foresee and welcome more competition on the horizon with the imminent arrival of other regional airlines to Namibia," it stated.