Air Nam planes seized

A319s held back for debt

10 June 2019 | Transport

Only one of Air Namibia's four Airbus A319 aircraft is operational at the moment, with the remaining three having been seized in South Africa and Cyprus because of unpaid debts.

As a result, the national airline cannot keep up its regional flight schedule. As from 3 June, Air Namibia has suspended all flights between Windhoek and Luanda and reduced the number of daily flights to Johannesburg and Cape Town.

This is contained in a confidential letter seen by Namibian Sun, addressed to the ministry of works and transport's executive director, Willem Goeiemann, by Air Namibia interim CEO Xavier Masule.

The letter, dated 29 May, asks for government assistance to help pay at least N$20 million of the money owed to South African Airways Technical (SAAT).

According to Masule, the three aircraft underwent mandatory maintenance checks in South Africa and Cyprus and were seized there because of unpaid debt.

Masule informed Goeiemann that the aircraft V5-ANN is currently with South African Airways Technical (SAAT) undergoing a scheduled maintenance check. The maintenance work was completed on 7 June, but SAAT indicated the aircraft would not be released pending settlement of the account.

The aircraft V5-ANK is currently in Cyprus and the maintenance work was done but the aircraft will only be released once payment of N$5.1 million is received.

“Payment request is at ministry of finance at the moment, with a note that it will be paid this coming Friday. Once released from Cyprus, the aircraft will be flown to Johannesburg for an engine change to be done by SAAT before the aircraft can resume commercial flights,” Masule writes.

“SAAT indicated they will not perform the required work prior to the account status being clear. The V5-ANM aircraft is due to undergo a maintenance check from 3 June 2019, and has to be grounded on that day. SAAT will not accept the aircraft in their hangar for maintenance while our account in their books shows current status.

“The risk associated with this arrangement is one where if the aircraft should on any day develop a technical problem, the entire regional operation will be shut down (all flights to JNB and CPT). The further risk relates to fact that SAAT is the maintenance service provider on this fleet, and they might not be in a position to attend to the aircraft - as is the case with our other A319 aircraft.”





Namibian Sun could not obtain comment from Goeiemann or the Air Namibia head of corporate communication, Paul Nakawa, yesterday. Goeiemann directed Namibian Sun to Nakawa who undertook to provide full information today.

In the letter to Goeiemann, Masule writes that during April 2019, a payment of N$19 million was made to SAAT, and a further N$6.9 million was paid to them by 31 May 2019.

“SAAT will be in a position to reconsider and allow provision of required services if we make another substantial payment for minimum N$20 million with commitment on how the balance will be settled. The information shared herein is for noting, and also seeking assistance to speedy facilitation of payment of a further N$20 million payment towards SAAT during first week of June 2019,” Masule said.

Masule said on the Windhoek–Luanda route the airline would transfer passengers to TAAG Angolan Airlines using a revived codeshare agreement.

On the Windhoek–Johannesburg route there will be only one flight rotation per day instead of three.

On the Windhoek–Cape Town route there will be two flight rotations per day, one operated using an Embraer ERJ aircraft and the other using an Airbus A319 flying via Walvis Bay.

ILENI NANDJATO