WINDHOEK, July 8 (Reuters) - Cash-strapped Air Namibia will have its planes grounded at midnight on Wednesday after it failed to secure enough funding to remain solvent, voiding its air licence, the transport authority said.
The airline, which operates 10 aircraft on continental and one international route, with a staff of close to 800, requires around 8 billion Namibian dollars ($469 million) to stay afloat, but only received a tenth of that in last month’s budget.
“This is scarcely 12% of the amount stated as needed by the management of the airline,” the head of the Transport Commission, Eldorette Harmse, said in a statement.
The withdrawal of its air licence means it is prohibited from operating commercial flights. It will however be permitted to undertake humanitarian evacuation and repatriation flights under its non-scheduled air services licence, which is valid for the duration of the State of Emergency due to the coronavirus.
The firm’s financial woes pre-date the COVID-19 pandemic which has ravaged air travel around the world due to the stand-still in tourism. It has failed to produce financial statements in recent years, a requirement of Namibia’s Air Services Act.
In January it faced serious allegations around safety, operations, and its finances, contained in an audit report published by German airline Lufthansa. It has yet to resolve those issues.
Air Namibia also owes its main creditor, the now-defunct Belgian company ChallengeAir SA, 12.3 million euros ($13.88 million). The European firm has applied to the Namibian High Court to have the carrier liquidated.
In addition to its Windhoek-Frankfurt offering, the carrier operates busy regional routes to Cape Town, Luanda and Harare, attracting buying interest from bigger carriers like Ethopian Airlines, Lufthansa and South African Airways, according to local media reports.
$1 = 17 Namibian dollars) (Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa, editing by Mfuneko Toyana and Angus MacSwan)
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