Namibia’s national carrier, Air Namibia has ceased operations and entered into voluntary liquidation, with effect from Thursday, 11th February 2021. The Namibian Cabinet has since approved the move.
Following the announcement, all flight operations have been cancelled, and aircraft have been ordered to return to the airline’s base in Windhoek. Customers with outstanding bookings were told ‘register their claims for refund’ by calling the company’s offices.
Close to 600 workers will lose their jobs, with the airline spokesperson saying they will receive an ex gratia payment equal to twelve months of their salary, but they will not receive benefits.
The airline had long struggled to secure profitability, which was only compounded by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty about when demand would return. Due to unprofitable routes, an undesirable fleet, high employee numbers and other ongoing issues within the company rendered it almost doomed to fail.
Given the pandemic, Air Namibia had nearly grounded its entire fleet, opting only to operate some domestic routes. As of earlier this month, just two of its ERJ-145 aircraft remained in service, while the other seven aircraft remained parked.
From its hub at Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport, the airline operated flights to neighboring South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, Zambia, and Botswana. It also flew to Frankfurt, Germany.
At the time of its collapse, the airline’s fleet entailed two A330-200s (both leased from Castlelake), four A319-100s (two are owned, and two are leased from Deucalion Aviation Funds), four EMB-135ERs (financially leased from HOP! (A5, Paris Orly) but unencumbered since October 2020), and one inactive B737-500 (owned).
In the past two decades, the Namibian Government has given the 75-year-old airline about $485 million in bailouts.
Air Namibia isn’t the first airline to collapse as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Flybe collapsed in March 2020. Virgin Australia applied for voluntary administration but was later sold to private equity firm Bain Capital. Avianca and LATAM both filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S., and Norwegian Air filed for bankruptcy protection in Ireland.