NCCI condemns Ondangwa airport closure

The Namibia Airports Company (NAC) will continue with its planned closure of the Ondangwa Airport runway, despite warnings of an estimated N$19m loss of revenue by the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) last week.

According to NCCI Northern Branch chairman Thomas Koneka Iindji, the suspension of air travel - which will subsequently be enforced by the closure of the runway - will cripple the economy of the northern parts of the country in particular and Namibia in general.

“The NCCI Northern Branch is disappointed in the decision taken by the Namibia Airports Company, and wishes to condemn them for mismanagement and the inconsiderate decision to close the Ondangwa airport at such very short notice, and without consideration of the considerable costs, which include 4,100 estimated passengers affected by the closure and a N$19 million loss of revenue by Air Namibia,” Iindji charged.

He further argued that the NAC failed to properly consult stakeholders in order to understand the impact of their decision while maintaining and doing construction work on the runway at the Ondangwa Airport.

Phase 1 of the construction activities on the central portion of the runway will mean that Air Namibia’s Embraer ERJ 135 will not be able to land or take off at the Ondangwa Airport until construction is completed.

“This delay and negligence is costing the public considerable amounts of money, whilst displacing thousands of travellers and delaying businessmen and women who rely on these domestic flights to manage their operations on a very tight schedule,” he stated further.

The NCCI thus called on the NAC for a meeting in order to discuss alternatives which they feel could be more effective solutions than a full closure.

These include a reduced number of flights per week instead of full closure, a possible delay of closure until January or a time of reduced air traffic demand, and the evaluation of all options to reduce the lengthy airport closure to the shortest possible period.

“Businessmen and women of the North commonly use these short commuting flights to quickly and efficiently conduct business trips to and from the capital city. As a result, they will now be forced to use the congested Namibian roads, just as the holiday season is picking up.

This is also close to the end of many entities’ fiscal year, and companies are urgently conducting business to finish their year and meet their goals,” he stressed.

Iindji again called on the NAC to deliberate on how to involve the relevant stakeholders to organise Phase 2 of rehabilitation to ensure all concerns are heard and all needs are met in light of the short notice of the announcements of the runway closure, which the NCCI condemns.

However, Tamer El- Kallawi from the Office of the CEO at the NAC was adamant that stakeholders were properly consulted. “Several meetings were held with all our relevant stakeholders to inform them of the consequent date and closure. The initial expected closure period was 12 November to 17 December 2015.

However, due to technicalities pertaining to risk and quality assurance as well as the Runway at Ondangwa Airport accreditation process, we experienced a slight delay in the runway rehabilitation process,” El-Kallawi said.

The runway rehabilitation project commenced on 16 March 2015, while its completion is envisioned for July 2016.

Rehabilitation includes an upgrade from Category 3 C to Category 4 C, and will be widened to 45 metres and 2.8 kilometres in length.