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An Air Namibia Airbus A319-100 (Photo: Air Namibia)

An Air Namibia Airbus A319-100 (Photo: Air Namibia)

Air Namibia Terminates Flight Operations, Plans for Liquidiation

On February 10, Air Namibia announced the end of its flight operations along with its upcoming liquidation. The airline plans to halt all services on February 11, marking 74 years of service.

The last commercial flight on Air Namibia was Flight 126 from Rundu, Namibia to Windhoek, Namibia. The flight landed at 4:45 P.M. local time using V5-ANH, a 21-year-old Embraer E-135, according to data from FlightAware.

Before its halt in operations, the airline operated a fleet of three Airbus A319s, two Airbus A330s, and four Embraer E135s.  Meanwhile, its route network consisted of regional connections within Namibia; flights to Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe; and flights to Frankfurt, Germany using its Airbus A330s.

Local Namibian news reported that 636 employees learned that they would be receiving basic pay for the next 12 months following their layoff.  However, these employees will not receive any benefits.  Furthermore, the local news agency reported that a joint union committee of multiple Air Namibia-related unions stated that the government was instrumental in the collapse of the airline.

Insolvency and Liquidation

According to the Namibian, the initial insolvency began when Air Namibia terminated its lease with Challengair, a defunct Belgian airline, in 1999 over maintenance issues with its Boeing 767-300.  In 2005, the conflict between the parties was referred for arbitration, later ruled in Challengair’s favor in 2011. In 2015, the award was declared enforceable in Germany, according to courts in Munich.

Challengair and Air Namibia reached a settlement in 2019 to repay about $21.4 million in debt in separate installments until September 2021.  However, the Namibian carrier acknowledged that they only paid $9.6 million, with multiple payments not made in full. Anicet Baum, a lawyer representing the liquidator, filed a case against Air Namibia, arguing that the airline was insolvent and unable to make its payments, proposing to have it liquidated.

Later, in January 2021, the two parties reached a $12 million settlement, minutes before court proceedings regarding the liquidation of Air Namibia began. As part of the settlement, its first payment was scheduled for February 18.  

However, the Namibian government didn’t support this out of court deal, causing a conflict with the board of Air Namibia. Furthermore, it opposed a previously proposed restart plan worth $303.8 million, aimed at helping the airline in its turnaround efforts.  These two factors resulted in the liquidation of the airline and the resignation of the board at the Namibian carrier.  According to ch.aviation, the government, unions, and airline executives plan to convene on Thursday to negotiate the finer details of the liquidation.

In an address to citizens in 2020, the president of Namibia, Hage Genibob, supported the liquidation of the airline.  He stated, “Air Namibia must be liquidated, we have a serious problem, it must be restructured, it is not making any profits and it is just being bailed out.  We must do something about it.”

Despite being given continuous aid from the Namibian government for the past two decades, the airline has struggled to make a profit. According to Reuters, in the last few years, Air Namibia was unable to produce financial statements. Additionally, the Namibian government reported that 15 out of its 19 routes were loss-making.

Future of Namibia Aviation

Unfortunately, the loss of Air Namibia leaves a gaping hole in Namibia’s aviation sector.  Currently, the only carrier in Namibia, FlyWestair, flies to South Africa and one regional destination in Namibia multiple times a week.  However, this frequency does not facilitate regional connections.

Internationally, Windhoek is well served with flights to Europe via Eurowings flights to Frankfurt, and future flights on Condor.  Additionally, flights to South Africa are well-served via Airlink, but nonstop connections to Bostwana and Zambia are left unserved.

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