Huge debt grounds Air Namibia planeBy: DENVER KISTING
DEBT reportedly amounting to more than N$3,2 million (or US$400 000) led to the grounding of an Air Namibia aircraft at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe on Monday.
This was confirmed by people in the know about Air Namibia’s dealings with the Zimbabwean authorities.
The money was owed to the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) for outstanding landing, route and passenger fees. A total of 24 passengers were stranded for four hours in Zimbabwe as a result of the incident.
However, Paul Nakawa, Air Namibia’s spokesperson, yesterday denied that they owed CAAZ money.
Instead, he blamed “a slight misunderstanding” as having been behind the grounding of the aircraft.
“Air Namibia flight SW 792 was denied clearance at Victoria Falls on Monday, September 17 2012 due to a slight misunderstanding of the payment procedures of service fees between Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe and Air Namibia.”
He added that “the issue in question has been settled and Air Namibia flight was cleared and took off four hours behind its normal schedule”.
According to him, the CAAZ documents had not been updated.
Nakawa declined to comment on information that Air Namibia owed CAAZ US$400 000 since 2009.
“Financial matters between Air Namibia and its service providers are confidential and should be treated as such, and they cannot be divulged to third parties.”
New Zimbabwe reported that the aircraft, a 37-seater Embraer ERJ-135, which had just landed, was due to turn back and fly to Windhoek when it was denied permission to take off.
CAAZ general manager David Chawota, told New Zimbabwe on Monday: “The aircraft was supposed to pay money for services rendered to it. Once the payment is done, the airline can take off.”
Air Namibia flies seven flights to Victoria Falls per week – four morning flights and three afternoon flights.
The company also started flying to the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, five months ago.
According to Nakawa, since Air Namibia resumed its flights between Windhoek and Harare, “the airline has received positive market feedback and it’s determined to continue delivering excellent service to the satisfaction of its passengers and prospective clients.