Air Namibia wants its wings unclipped

09 July 2020 | Transport

OGONE TLHAGE

WINDHOEK



Air Namibia has written to the Transport Commission of Namibia, demanding to know why the national carrier's air services licence has been temporarily suspended.

The airline wanted a response from the commission by 17:00 yesterday.

Air Namibia spokesperson Paul Nakawa said they have all the necessary certifications needed to fly in and out of the country.

The transport commission announced on Monday that it had already resolved to suspend Air Namibia's air services licence last November because of concerns about the airline's financial situation.



Failed audit

“The commission had, apart from its concern about Air Namibia's financial situation, also become aware of a failed International Air Transport Association (IATA) operational safety audit, and therefore addressed this matter with you in a correspondence,” the commission said in a letter to the national carrier.

The commission also referenced comments made by President Hage Geingob in his State of the Nation Address that intimated that Air Namibia may be liquidated. An airline insider said there were perceptions that Westair was being favoured, to the detriment of Air Namibia.

The transport commission also mentioned that Air Namibia has admitted it was insolvent and, despite a cash injection of between 50 and 60% of the N$8 billion required to implement its business plan, this would not solve the airline's problems.



Jooste denies Westair favouritism

Public enterprises minister Leon Jooste denied speculation yesterday that Air Namibia was being sacrificed in favour of rival airline, Westair.



Westair launched passenger services in June, directly competing with Air Namibia. The airline flies to Ondangwa, Oranjemund and Cape Town and uses the Eros airport as a hub.

Jooste said his ministry was aware of the speculation around Westair.

“The speculation that Air Namibia is being sacrificed to position Westair for the future is known to us, but is entirely unfounded and we can only assume that the speculation is driven by individuals with agendas only known to them. The reality is exactly the opposite, as the current, struggling airline (Air Namibia) is in fact providing fertile ground for competitors to gain traction,” he said.



Cash flow woes

In October 2019, Air Namibia was forced to cut operating costs to the bone after treasury refused it a N$2 billion bailout, and the airline warned in November that it may be forced to shut down its operations if it did not receive a rescue package.

The situation has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 lockdown and travel restrictions, which saw the airline freeze operations for about two months.

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