Air Namibia has become the latest airline to fall victim to the COVID-19 pandemic, after being placed into liquidation on 11 February 2021.
All flights have been cancelled and new bookings have been suspended. Affected passengers have been advised to register their claims for refunds by emailing Air Namibia.
The national airline of Namibia, based in the capital Windhoek, was founded in 1946. But it has reportedly been consistently unprofitable for decades and the company was weighed down by a growing mountain of debt. The Namibian government, which owned 100% of the airline, therefore made the decision last week to place the airline into voluntary liquidation.
“It is therefore important for the nation to understand that the current debt of Air Namibia is unsustainable and will jeopardise the [nation’s] economic recovery plan,” Namibian Finance Minister Iipumbu Shiimi said.
Air Namibia will compensate its 644 redundant employees with one years’ worth of salaries.
Although COVID-19 has worsened Air Namibia’s financial problems, it was already in financial trouble for years. There were media reports that Air Namibia would imminently declare insolvency in September 2019, however these were denied by the airline at the time and it continued to operate despite 15 of the airline’s 19 routes reportedly being loss-making.
In an editorial, Namibia’s largest newspaper The Namibian argued that the decision to liquidate the airline was the right thing to do because “Air Namibia has operated as an insolvent business for more than two thirds of its existence since Namibia’s independence” around three decades ago. It argued that the taxpayer funds being used to prop up the airline could be better spent providing electricity, running water, decent housing, healthcare or transport to hundreds of thousands of Namibians who don’t currently have those things.
Air Namibia operated a small fleet of Airbus A319s, A330s and Embraer ERJ-135 jets which flew a range of regional routes and, before COVID-19, to Germany.
Not the first airline, and sadly won’t be the last…
While Air Namibia is the latest airline to go out of business, it’s not the first since the COVID-19 pandemic which has decimated demand for air travel began and is unlikely to be the last.
Many other airlines including Virgin Australia, Avianca, LATAM Airlines and Thai Airways have been placed into voluntary administration to allow for restructuring, but continued to operate limited flights. Almost every airline around the world has cut jobs.
Meanwhile, Norwegian Air recently announced the end of all long-haul operations, resulting in the loss of over 2,000 jobs. It will instead focus purely on regional European flights in the future.
In South Africa, which neighbours Namibia, South African Airways could emerge from bankruptcy in the coming weeks after receiving repeated government bailouts and securing a new equity partner.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Which Airlines may be next to Fold?