Air Namibia a hard sell - Jooste

16 October 2019 | Transport

Public enterprises minister Leon Jooste says Air Namibia may not be an easy sell, even if the government were to consider selling the embattled airline.

This follows a newspaper report that three airlines are courting Namibia's national airline with a view to buying a stake in it.

Asked for comment, Jooste said all he could do was to present various scenarios to Cabinet for a decision. He was quick to add that he did not try to influence whatever decision government would ultimately take about Air Namibia.

He also said that if government decided to bail out Air Namibia, such an intervention would cost a lot.

The Munich Regional Court of Appeal recently ordered Air Namibia to pay Challenge Air N$400 million for the cancelled lease of a Boeing 767 in 1998.

Air Namibia also found it increasingly hard to sustain operations when three of its Airbus A319 aircraft were seized for non-payment of mechanical bills in June this year.

The Institute for Public Policy Research noted in a September 2017 report that Air Namibia had received more than N$6 billion in government bailouts since 1998. Meanwhile, TransNamib CEO Johnny Smith said at a recent press conference that the parastatal was not liable for the settlement Air Namibia must pay Challenge Air.

Air Namibia was made part of TransNamib in 1997 when the rail operator was restructured.

The two companies were split again 1998, with Air Namibia given the responsibility to manage government's commercial aviation business while TransNamib would operate the rail business.

“The two companies were divorced and whatever went to Air Namibia went to Air Namibia. There was a clear split, so that contract is Air Namibia's,” Smith said last Friday.

When asked to comment on the fact that TransNamib had been cited as a respondent in the Challenge Air lawsuit, Smith was adamant that it was Air Namibia's responsibility to deal with.

“For us, our perspective in terms of that is there was also a board resolution taken that said all the aviation business goes to Air Namibia. That is our stance,” said Smith in response.