Things are developing rapidly in the Air Namibia saga. Midnight Wednesday, the airline was to be grounded by the Namibian Government, having failed to secure enough funding to be able to provide “a safe and reliable service.” However, just before the decision was to come into effect, it was overturned by a High Court ruling.
New hearing in August
This week, the Government of Namibia took the decision to ground its national airline, effective midnight Wednesday. However, on Wednesday evening, before the suspension of operations had the chance to come into effect, the Windhoek High Court ruled to overturn it.
“Air Namibia wishes to inform the flying public that the decision by the Transport Commission of Namibia to suspend Air Namibia’s Air Service Licence was overturned by the High Court of Namibia on the evening of July 8th, 2020,” the airline said in a statement shared with the Namibian Sun.
The carrier will thus continue to serve its domestic routes according to schedule. However, its service to the port city of Walvis Bay remains suspended due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The judge also prohibited the transport commission from withdrawing the license again before a hearing that is scheduled for August 3rd.
Political will dissipated
Last week, the country’s Finance Ministry announced that the airline would need some 8 billion Namibian dollars ($469 million) to keep operating. However, it only received about a tenth of that in last month’s budget.
While commercial aviation worldwide has taken a massive hit due to the current pandemic, Air Namibia’s financial woes predate COVID-19. It has, in fact, even failed to produce any financial statements in the past ten years.
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As such, the carrier has been heavily reliant on government support and continuous bailouts. With the outbreak of the pandemic, it seems the cup of the political will to keep supporting the carrier has finally run over. President Hage Geingob recently called for the liquidation of the airline. Although insolvency will itself be a very costly affair.
The carrier has a mixed Airbus and Embraer fleet, comprised of ten planes, and employs 800 people.
Besides worries about the airline’s acute financial distress, the transport commission called upon a failed IATA operational safety audit as a reason for revoking Air Namibia’s operating license.
Air Namibia wished to put such concerns to rest, and the carrier’s spokesperson told the Namibian Sun that,
“The safety of the passengers and employees remain at the heart of our operations. Air Namibia has a procedure to ensure that all its aircraft and ground support equipment are serviced and maintained regularly according to the manufacturer’s standards and has maintained an impeccable and unblemished safety record since inception.”
According to the same media outlet, there is industry speculation that compatriot airline Westair Aviation was being favored at the cost of Air Namibia.