The former cabin crew of the now defuct Air Namibia has rejected and questioned Namibia’s discussions with Ethiopian airlines to restart a national airline for the country.
This is after President Hage Geingob has met with the chief executive officer of Ethiopian Airlines to discuss avenues of cooperation in Namibia’s efforts to restart a national airline.
In a press statement this week after concluding the African Union (AU) summit, Geingob through his office said that the matter of reviving a national airline would be properly tabled before the cabinet for decisions and operationalisation.
Namibia Cabin Crew Union (NCCU) president Reginald Kock, in an interview with The Villager, termed it “an embarrassment”.
“What an embarrassment for the government, what an embarrassment to Geingob,” Kocksaid.
Kock questioned whether he (Geingob) a decision maker went to the extent of asking or consulting the ex-workers of the now-defunct Air Namibia before closing down air Namibia.
“Now one year down the line, Air Namibia has not been officially closed because the liquidation process is not fully complete. All of a sudden he has this brilliant idea to engage Ethiopian Airlines to see whether to open a national airline. Now the question arises, what was the real reason to close down Air Namibia in the first place?” Kock questioned.
“Geingob must tell us why did he signed off Air Namibia. He did not ask; did we do proper research, NO! Now he wants to come and put some whatever around our mouths to feel like we should not be unhappy.”
According to Kock, if one looks at the research in the aviation industry, Ghana, Botswana, and Zambia airways closed down and they could never revive their airlines as it is a more expensive process.
“Imagine we have lost a very unique code, SW, you will never get it back. All the operating licenses and the routes we had between Southern Africa and Europe are lost. It will be expensive to gain back because you will have resistance from other airlines,” he argued.
“Now that we are closed he is trying to smile with us, we are not smiling with him. He must take that airline money and build or renovate hospitals. You made a decision, live with it, that will be your legacy,” Kock said.
However, Kock said should the revival of a national airline become a reality, the ex-employees of Air Namibia will be willing to return to work.
“We are on the streets. We are the only expertise in the aviation field. Obviously, we will be standing up and saying take us back because we are not finding jobs. Yes, we will stand up and say we will go back but we are not happy,” he said.
Recently former pilot William Ekandjo launched an application for an air transport service license for an airline named Fly Etosha Airways. Currently, Fly Namibia is the only airline operating in Namibia.
When asked whether there is room for three airlines to operate in Namibia with the application of Fly Etosha and discussion to revive a national airline, Kock said one should not shy away from competition because the aviation industry is very expensive.
“So the customers will be grateful for the competition because there will be competition in the prices but if you understand the aviation industry you will say no there is no room. One of those airlines will be severely affected because they might have the same routes.”
Air Namibia was liquidated on 26 March 2021, after no opposing papers were filed against a liquidation application brought by the Namibia Airports Company (NAC).
The national airline owed N$714 million to the NAC in outstanding aeronautical and ground handling charges and has been in provisional liquidation since 6 February 2021.
At the time of the liquidation being approved, Air Namibia had assets valued at N$1,04 billion and liabilities amounting to nearly N$5,4 billion.
Meanwhile, the former employees are still owed roughly N$105 million in severance packages.
On Tuesday, international relations analyst Marius Kudumo told The Villager that the former employees of Air Namibia are in a form of distress and that they have lost their jobs in the time of Covid-19 as well as the cost of living is increasing and they don’t know what tomorrow holds for them.
“So their response will be emotionally charged but I don’t think that stops us to look at reviving the airline if it is necessary,” he said.
Kudumo added that one must understand that Ethiopian Airways is one of the performing airlines in Africa.
“So if the president is discussing with them it might be sharing experiences from them in terms of how is it possible in a globally competitive airline industry, they are still competing,” he noted.
He emphasised that there is nothing wrong with learning from working systems but he understands the position of the former employees.
Kudumo further said in international relations some interests come up however he said one asks the question; “Was it not too quick to liquidate, have we considered all the available options?”
According to him, if Namibia had considered all those options such as learning from other airlines that are functioning which he said should have been an option.
“I think in policy-making, you consider all the facts before you take the option that you are taking,” he said.
Kudumo concluded that if Namibia is considering reviving Air Namibia then it implies that it has not considered all the factors that should have been considered before it took the decision.