Air Namibia to shut down

Air Namibia Airbus A330
One of Air Namibia's two Airbus A330-200s at Frankfurt Airport. Photo: © Marvin Mutz

The Namibian government announced on Wednesday, February 10, that it would shut down flag-carrier Air Namibia as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic and its unprofitability. Every one of the airline’s 600 employees will be paid twelve monthly salaries and refund requests will still be processed.

Over the past decade, the Namibian government injected almost US $500 million into the company, which until recently only operated a fleet of nine aircraft; four Embraer ERJ-135 jets that were mostly deployed on domestic and a few international routes, three Airbus A319s for international flights and two Airbus A330-200 aircraft for the only long-haul route to Frankfurt.

During a press interview, the Namibian finance minister revealed that of Air Namibia’s 16 routes, only three were profitable with the Frankfurt-route amounting the biggest losses. Additionally, the airline was involved in a lengthy court battle with long-defunct Belgian Challengair which sued Air Namibia for more than US $20 million over unpaid leasing fees for a Boeing 767 going back to the late 1990s.

The carrier was originally founded in 1947 as South West Air Transport, merged with Oryx Aviation in 1957 to form Siudwest Lugdiens, before merging again with Namibia Air seven years later. It officially became Namibia Air in 1978. The name Air Namibia was adopted during the early 1990s and coincided with the launch of flights to Europe using 747SP, later the 767 mentioned above, 747-400 Combis, MD-11s and later settled with two Airbus A340-300s which were replaced by new A330 aircraft in 2013 and 2014.