Mberirua advises against Air Nam liquidation

17 November 2020 | Transport

OGONE TLHAGE



WINDHOEK

Air Namibia’s interim CEO Theo Mberirua has cautioned against liquidating the national flag-carrier.

He said once the airline’s legacy debts have been addressed, the company will be on course for success.

“It is possible to create a self-sustaining, lean airline; all we need is operational expenditure,” he said during a sit-down with Namibian Sun as he made a case for the future of the airline.

Mberirua acknowledged that government’s patience with the airline could be growing thin, but said, with a last throw of the dice, there was still hope for it to be turned around successfully.

“We don’t need billions to restart, we need close to N$300 million. Most of that is also for maintenance. Air Namibia, as a business, there is nothing wrong with it. It cannot be closed because of the past. If we are thrown a lifeline, it may be the last time; we cannot mess around any more,” he said.

Ring-fencing

Aiding the airline’s planned turn-around was the fact that leases on two of the four Airbus A319 aircraft in its fleet had also been honoured, he said.

Air Namibia’s fleet currently includes two Airbus A330 aircraft it uses to fly to Frankfurt, Germany; four Airbus A319s it uses for regional flights to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia, and four Embraer 135 regional jets deployed domestically and between Gaborone, Botswana and Durban, South Africa.

“Going forward, we will have six aircraft belonging to Air Namibia, fully paid-off. The burden of the lease [agreements on the two aircraft] or hire purchases goes away. These were huge amounts. All we need is operational expenditure,” Mberirua said.

With a reduction in the demand for air travel, Air Namibia, he said, would look at leasing its bigger aircraft in favour of smaller aircraft.

‘Not as easy as it sounds’

“There are potential asset swaps for the A319s. Once demand recovers, the aircraft will be returned. That will be the chess game that we will be playing,” Mberirua pointed out.

Cautioning against the airline’s liquidation, he further said government would be saddled with having to honour guarantees Air Namibia had backed while also leaving its 700-strong staff complement unemployed.

“Liquidation is not as easy as it sounds,” he said, citing the South African government’s efforts to restart its national flag-carrier, South African Airways.

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