Namibia: National Airline Scrambles to Stave Off South African Airport Ban

Windhoek — “The reason for suspension is because our accounts are in arrears. We owe them money however we made a partial payment today”, was part of the blatantly honest and direct response from Air Namibia as it staved off a suspension by the Airports Company of South Africa on Wednesday. The suspension could have had devastating consequences for already cash-strapped Air Namibia because it meant that the national airline would not have been able to service its most lucrative route, to King Shaka Airport in Durban, as well as its regular flights to OR Tambo in Johannesburg and to Cape Town International Airport.

However, the fact that Air Namibia was able to act fast to secure flights to regional economic powerhouse, South Africa, speaks volumes, particularly on the importance of maintaining an air link with the Namibia’s southern neighbour.

In a statement released late yesterday afternoon, Air Namibia’s manager for corporate communications, Paul Nakawa, confirmed that the airline will continue to fly in and out of South Africa.

“The decision not to allow us to operate into and out of their airports has been lifted, and we will continue to operate as per published schedules. The decision to allow us to continue operating was met in good faith from their end because of good long-standing relationship we have with them for more than three decades,” read Air Namibia’s statement.

Nakawa added that Air Namibia continues to engage the Airports Company of South Africa in order to rectify the status of their account.

“We believe a lasting solution will be found and the business operations of Air Namibia into and out of South Africa airports will continue without any disruptions”, the statement read.

On Wednesday the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) confirmed Air Namibia’s suspension from using its airports due to non-payment. ACSA said that as a cash client, Air Namibia knows it is obliged to settle any amounts owed each Monday. These weekly payments include items such as ACSA’s landing fees, parking fees and passenger service charges for Air Namibia’s flights.

“However, Air Namibia has not adhered to its acknowledgment of debt nor the cash basis terms for using airports owned by ACSA,” the statement read. ACSA noted that it regretted the decision but said it became necessary and that the suspension of an airline takes place only after considerable engagement with an airline’s management.

ACSA recently reported that its profit declined by almost 60 percent, down to N$227 million for the 2018/19 financial year, mainly as a result of a weak South African economy.

During September, ACSA’s chief executive, Bongiwe Mbovu, said the company’s profits were negatively impacted by lower-than-expected traffic volumes and non-aeronautical flows. However, despite declining profits, ACSA reported a 5.6 percent revenue increase to N$7.1 billion for the year ending 31 March 2019.

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