AirNam asks for N$180-m bailout

AIR Namibia has asked Government to throw it a N$180 million lifeline in this year's National Budget.

That is the loss that we think we might have, Managing Director Kosmas Egumbo said in an interview yesterday.

He called it an improvement in the assistance we have been requesting from Government.

In last year's budget, Government bailed out the troubled national airline with N$150 million.

Egumbo feels the request has to be seen in the context of the global
recession, in which the aviation industry has suffered massively.

For example, Lufthansa has recorded a 63 per cent decline in their profit margins, Egumbo said.

Air Namibia has received a bailout every year since 2000, long before the financial crisis started.

One of the consequences of the current drop in figures, according to
Egumbo, is that the airline has shelved its plans to increase flights
to Frankfurt. It has also reduced its flights to London.

Intercontinental flights are Air Namibia's main loss maker, while local and regional operations are running at a profit.

Asked whether the airline would consider suspending international
operations altogether, Egumbo said it would be considered if a certain
threshold is reached.

He said a decision on the matter would have to be weighed up against what the impact could be on tourism.

He said that Air Namibia remains a net contributor to the Namibian economy through the tourists it brings to the country.

Egumbo said the financial crisis had significantly disrupted the
airline's operations, and without its impact the airline had been well
on course for positive margins on international markets in two years.

On a spate of recent groundings and delays of Air Namibia flights in
Frankfurt, Egumbo responded that they were due to technical troubles
that could not be foreseen.

One of the delays was due to birdstrike, the other due to a foreign object in the engine.

He maintained that the incidents had nothing to do with the airline's
maintenance operators, who are internationally recognised.

On the story reported in The Namibian in February that Air Namibia was looking to recruit European pilots, Egumbo said there was nothing untoward about that.

He said of the 89 pilots currently employed at Air Namibia, 74 per cent
are Namibian, which he called an enviable percentage compared to
other national airlines.

He said foreign pilots were brought in for their experience and infusion of good practice.

On the allegation that pilots are leaving the airline because they are
unhappy with the working conditions, Egumbo responded that in the 13
months up to January this year only five pilots had resigned.

Only two of these were Namibian, he said, one leaving to become a farmer and the other to a rival airline.

The Namibian

Post published in: Economy

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