Air Namibia Relocates Frankfurt Flights to Lusaka … As Nac Scrambles to Satisfy Stringent Icao Requirements

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) flexed its muscles yesterday over the downgrading of Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA), forcing the national airline Air Namibia to immediately relocate its intercontinental flight operations to Lusaka’s Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Zambia. The ICAO withdrew the exemption that the Namibian Directorate of Civil Aviation had given the airline to operate its larger aircraft, A330-200, from Namibia Airports Company’s HKIA. “Today’s review by ICAO has re-enforced the downgrade and revoked any exemptions that might have been granted,” Hilia Sikanda, Air Namibia’s Head of Corporate Communications, said in a statement yesterday. Namibia Airports Company (NAC), which cancelled an impromptu press conference at the 11th hour late yesterday afternoon, was at pains to explain when contacted for comment yesterday that it “is addressing all issues identified [by ICAO and the DCA]” within the given 15-day deadline. The airport was found to be severely ill-equipped to handle emergency landings and take-offs, as required for international airport standards to handle modern large aircraft, with non-functioning fire trucks, inadequate firefighting equipment at its disposal, poorly trained firefighters, poor maintenance of the runway and other crucial facilities, among a host of other standards that NCA miserably failed during the ICAO audit. As a result Air Namibia would be ferrying passengers to Frankfurt, from HKIA to Lusaka in smaller aircraft – two A319-100’s – to board the bigger A330-200 to Germany. Passengers from Germany would also be ferried from Lusaka in smaller aircraft.

South African Airways (SAA), which too has applied and was waiting for the granting of an exemption for its bigger planes, is in the same quandary, as its bigger aircraft cannot bring in passengers. The DCA downgraded HKIA from Category 9 to Category 5 last week, after the ICAO routine audit. The downgrading caused Air Namibia to divert its large aircraft en-route from Frankfurt, to Gaborone, Botswana, an exercise that saw the national airline work around the clock to sort out new flight plans and baggage handling, as Botswana does not have the capacity to handle large aircraft. A ministerial intervention saw the DCA grant an exemption for the airline to use the large aircraft at HKIA, an exemption that ICAO has not reversed. The downgrading has already resulted in the suspension of two NAC managers Jerome Mouton and Raymond Isaak. NAC spokesperson Dan Kamati said “the training of firefighters is going very well” and is scheduled to end today [Thursday]. “We have been given 15 days [to meet the requirements] and we are still working on them,” said Kamati.

“We wish to apologize for the inconvenience caused to all travellers and relevant stakeholders, and once again reiterate that this is as a result of something outside our control and not of our own making. We are committed to deliver excellent service and offer assistance to all our stakeholders despite these challenges,” Air Namibia apologised.

Source : New Era