Xavier Masule is the Chief Commercial Officer for Air Namibia. He brings over 15 years of airline experience to the table, with previous roles in finance as the Senior Manager at Air Namibia. Xavier received his MBA from the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) in Cape Town, South Africa.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What inspired you to pursue a career in the travel industry?
Xavier Masule (XM): After graduation, I worked in the Central Bank of Namibia and for Deloitte & Touche. After that, I joined Air Namibia and fell in love with the airline world. I started in the financial arena, progressed into business development, and now currently I’m in the commercial arena. It has been a good flow, and all I can say is “there is no business like the airline business, if you can appreciate adrenaline surges and dips!”
TRO: How has Air Namibia changed and progressed since you took on the role of Chief Commercial Officer?
XM: It has been an exciting journey! Air Namibia has been through a lot of challenges, like all small airlines, but we hope that is a thing of the past. Now we are going through a lot positive changes, and overall the airline is heading in a good new direction. I have a young and committed team, who are very proud and passionate to be working for our National Airline, which makes my job a lot easier. We are looking at various options for the expansion of our route network to provide our customers seamless connections to come to our country, especially from the USA.
TRO: What do you think is the most common misconception about Namibia as a travel destination?
XM: A lot of people imagine or presume Namibia to just be one big desert. But in reality, Namibia’s topography from the north to the south is incredibly diverse; there are few places in world like Namibia! Our Kaprivi Strip meets Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Angola, and we border the famous Victoria Falls. In the southwest region you have the awe-inspiring Fish River Canyon, and in the middle of the country you have the Namib Desert (the oldest known desert in the world), which is by no means empty – it has the oldest living fossil in the world, known as “Welwitchia” plants. Many people do not realize that there is plenty of wildlife in the desert, even lions! Many avid photographers and adventure seekers come to Namibia. Some of the most popular adventure activities include sandboarding over our amazing red dunes and quad bike riding, tandem sky diving, paragliding, ballooning, as well as camel and horseback riding. Those interested in culture and history appreciate visiting the Himba women in their natural tribal environment, while others may just come to hang out by the seaside and drink a good Tafel or Windhoek Lager. These are just some of the diverse experiences Namibia offers!
TRO: What are the advantages to flying to and from South Africa with Air Namibia?
XM: Air Namibia is a great way to move your clients to Namibia and all around the Southern African region. We have a beautiful new product with excellent onboard cuisine, service, and crew, all of whom embodies our friendly Namibian spirit. We just introduced our brand new Airbus 330-200 in September 2013. These aircraft are just 2 years old and operating on the main FRA to WDH route. Our A330 Business class cabin comes with 30 full 180 degree lie-flat bed seats in a 2-2-2 configuration with state-of-the-art “ContourAura Lite” seats that are engineered for maximum passenger comfort. In both cabins guests have unique S-shaped outer arm rests that provide a significant increase in personal space and create privacy screens. IFE screens are in the back of every seat, with both video and audio on demand. There is ample shoe storage, literature pocket, individual PC power port and headphone jacks, plus an in-seat reading light.
TRO: Tell us about Air Namibia’s new A-330-220 aircraft.
XM: Air Namibia’s new flying experience is on an A-330-200 wide body aircraft which offers a wide range of enhanced comfort and style for our passengers. Everything on the new aircraft experience is designed around the passenger’s well-being, while the low noise and emissions levels will make flying greener and quieter and allow our passengers to be able to work, eat, play, relax, and sleep, all in world class comfort and style. The new aircraft provides all of our passengers with a much more spacious and improved cabin interior with added headroom and shoulder room, plus an enhanced illumination throughout the plane. There is generous leg room on the A330 with an economy seat pitch of 31 inches. Business class seats, when in full recline, offer a full flat bed. Air Namibia’s service offering is synonymous with Namibian hospitality. Our exceptional cockpit, cabin crew, and ground staff provide optimum assistance at all boardings or departures en route to your destination. Our in-flight service includes a variety of refreshments, meals, and entertainment, and are duty-free on selected flights. Together with the professional and friendly service from our highly trained cabin crew, we give our passengers a superior on-board experience. Rest assured, safety is our cornerstone and at the center of everything we do; we comply with all regulatory and environmental requirements and laws. We are committed to providing all our stakeholders and passengers the highest level of safety and comfort. Our entire fleet is serviced by some of the most advanced technical teams in the industry, with a safety record second to none.
TRO: What is one aspect of Air Namibia that you want travel agents to know?
XM: We are a multiple year winner of the “Best Regional Airline in Service Excellence Award,” and rank in the top 10 of Global Airline ratings for on-time performance. In 2014, Air Namibia was the #1 in on-time performance among all major African airlines. We are a proud member of IATA and are fully IOSA certified (meaning we meet the highest operational safety standards). We also want our travel agent partners to know about Reward$®, our excellent frequent flyer program that enables passengers to accrue free miles every time they fly with Air Namibia.
TRO: What is your favorite travel destination to date?
XM: I love my home city of Windhoek the most! Windhoek, which is the capital of Namibia, is also referred to by many as one of the cleanest cities on the African continent, and is located at the geographic center of the country surrounded by rolling mountains. The influence of German colonization is still present in language, architecture, and restaurants where one can savor traditional dishes, bread, and beer. During the day the city center has a European culture feel, laid-back and eclectic, with a pedestrian precinct, bustling shops, and market stalls. It all makes for great people watching, and because of Namibia’s complex and intertwined history, you will see people of all colors and cultures. Away from the cafes, guided tours are available of many of Windhoek’s’s main attractions, including Namibia’s National Museum at Alte Feste (Old Fort), the Christuskirche (Christ Church) of the Lutheran Parish from the year 1896, and Katutura. This suburb built on South Africa’s apartheid policy in the 1950’s is now a crowded mix of people from different cultures living together in peace and harmony. The same can be said of the entire city, which is why it is one of my favorite places!
TRO: What is on the horizon for Air Namibia?
XM: Air Namibia has plans of working with partner airlines to expand in all directions! The USA is definitely on the horizon!