Doug Birch/LONDON


South African regional Nationwide is preparing to launch crossborder services, with an expansion of its network into neighbouring Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Nationwide managing director Vernon Bricknell says that the airline aims to introduce services to Windhoek, Namibia and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, with Livingstone and Ndola in Zambia following later.

Bricknell has visions of building a strong regional African network, which promises better yields than domestic routes, but acknowledges the need for a stable strategic partner. Nationwide has alliances with Sabena, TAP Portugal and Alitalia, but is "in talks with Virgin Atlantic and others", he says.

Unworried by the prospect of challenging flag carrier South African Airways in its own backyard, Bricknell says: "I want to become a thorn in the flesh of some of our bigger competitors. We have a philosophy of ignoring the opposition and doing our own thing."

Nationwide, which has a domestic market share of less than 8%, projects this to rise to about 10% within the year. Part of this rise can be accounted for by the fallout from the collapsed Sun Air operation.

The carrier's load factor has increased steadily, from a low of 52% in May, to 75% in September, when a record number of 40,000 passengers will be carried. "We are making money," says Bricknall, "but this is nothing to do with the demise of Sun Air. Our yields are up 16% due to improved management, restrictions on lower fares, a tight rein on overheads, and a slight hike in prices."

Nationwide's fleet includes two Boeing 727-100s, one 737-200 and eleven BAC One-Eleven 500s. A second 737-200 will be delivered in October with a third to follow later. The 727s and 737s are deployed on the airline's prime high density, low yield Johannesburg-Cape Town route and will be transferred on to international services when they get under way.

Source: Flight International