Air Nam denies operational hiccups

The airline says its current challenges are normal practice.

31 May 2019 | Transport

Air Namibia says current operational challenges are all due to the economic slowdown experienced by all government institutions, but insists that it is business as usual.

The airline does not deny that it has failed to pay over the pension fund contributions of 700 employees to its pension fund administrator, Alexander Forbes, over the last two months. The outstanding payments amount to between N$3 million and N$4 million.

It also has not denied information received from insiders that it has ceased paying subsistence and travel (S&T) allowances to its pilots.

“These are difficult and challenging times, not only for Air Namibia but the whole country. Government is also having challenges, including pressure from the drought we are experiencing,” was all that Air Namibia's manager of corporate communications, Paul Nakawa, would say when asked.

He added: “Like any other organisation we do once in a while delay payments to some of our suppliers due to timing differences between when we get cash from our customers and when we are expected to pay our suppliers. In the end we do pay, even if payments are made late.”



Trouble with planes

Insiders claim that the airline is also struggling to keep its planes in the air. They claim that only five of the ten planes in Air Namibia's fleet are currently operational while the rest are grounded because of technical issues.

Nakawa said seven of the ten aircraft were currently “serviceable”.

He said two A319's and one Embraer ERJ 135 were undergoing scheduled heavy maintenance checks. Nakawa said one A319 underwent a C-check in Cyprus and has been out of service.

A C-check is performed every 20 to 24 months, or after a specific number of flight hours as defined by the manufacturer. This is a maintenance check more extensive than a B-check, requiring a large majority of the aircraft's components to be inspected.

The delay in the repairs, Nakawa said, was due to the availability of unique parts which have a long delivery time.

He added that the work on the A319 was now complete and that the aircraft was expected to be returned as soon as it was signed off.

Nakawa said another A319 underwent a check in Johannesburg. There was a delay because a replacement part had to be sourced.

“In between we had one or two more aircraft grounded for short periods of time (one to three days) when we experienced component failures. These are attended to and the aircraft enter service as soon as the faults get fixed. This is a continuous and normal practice,” Nakawa said.

He denied that one A319, considered to be a “no-flight item” because of technical faults, remained in operation.

“We operate in accordance with regulations and the safety of our passengers, employees and the general public and as such we cannot be compromised under any circumstances. The information received from your source is untrue and malicious,” Nakawa said.

Nakawa also denied the claim by insiders that the Embraer currently in the hangar was being used for spare parts. Air Namibia rents its Embraer aircraft, and is not the owner of these planes.

The insiders further claimed that only one A330 is currently being used to operate the Windhoek-Frankfurt route because the window of the other A330 is damaged.

Nakawa acknowledged the damaged window. He said a new window was sourced from Europe and had to be installed in Johannesburg, but this plane was still serviceable and was due to resume normal operation on Monday, 27 May.

The insiders further claimed that Engen, Air Namibia's fuel supplier, refused to refuel its aircraft at Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) on 23 May because of non-payment.

“Air Namibia operations are not disrupted. We have a good business relationship with Engen; they value us as an important client of theirs, and between us and them it is business as usual,” Nakawa said.

CATHERINE SASMAN

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