FIVE of the 10 Air Namibia aircraft were grounded for technical and financial reasons, the airline's spokesperson, Paul Nakawa, confirmed yesterday.
Nakawa said the airline only started operating with five aircraft on Monday due to the maintenance of the planes, but those measures have been put in place to ensure continued operations.
The Namibian sought Nakawa's comment in light of public enterprises minister Leon Jooste's statement that the airline has been working with half its fleet. The minister was responding to questions in the National Assembly last Thursday.
Nakawa explained that the Airbus fleet consists of two aircraft which are 12 years old, and four aircraft that are six years old.
“Heavy maintenance calendar inspections are set at a six-year interval. This is the reason why the aircraft maintenance checks happen at the same time,” he said.
According to him, the airline has a well-balanced fleet in respect of aircraft age, with an average of 12 years, just like is the case the world over.
Jooste first mentioned the airline's dilemma in terms of the fleet complement's challenges after Popular Democratic Movement parliamentarian Jennifer van den Heever had expressed concern over recent flight delays and cancellations.
“When this situation arose, the airline started to operate since 3 June 2019 with two Airbus A330-200s for the Windhoek and Frankfurt route, and with one airbus A319-100 for regional routes for Windhoek, Johannesburg and Cape Town, and Walvis Bay routes, whilst two ERJ 135 were used for domestic routes as well as the Victoria Falls, Harare and Lusaka routes,” said Jooste.
Making reference to a recent incident at Hosea Kutako International Airport where a flight to Victoria Falls was cancelled, the minister said this was due to the current challenging situation at Air Namibia, where the airline is experiencing a shortage of aircraft.
“Many of Air Namibia's fleet had been grounded for technical and/or financial reasons [...] Air Namibia has 10 aircraft in its fleet. So, it was a challenging time as five of the aircraft were undergoing heavy maintenance at various locations outside Namibia,” said Jooste.
He said on 21 June 2019, one of the ERJ 135s also had a technical breakdown, causing a delay on the Durban, Gaborone and Windhoek route, which caused a knock-on effect until Sunday, 23 June 2019.
“The scheduled flight to Victoria Falls had to be cancelled because of restrictions with regard to airport operating hours. At the time that the ERJ was available, the flight could not be undertaken due to the non-availability of an alternative airport,” said the minister.
The airline got assistance from the government to pay for three of its A319 Airbus planes and one A319-200 that could not be released from maintenance because of the non-payment for services.
By: Ndanki Kahiurika