The planned closure of Ondangwa Airport for more than a month has taken on a new twist after the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) placed renovation plans on ice until mid-December.
New Era reported yesterday that there would be no flights between Eros and Ondangwa airport from November 12 to December 17, as Ondangwa Airport will be temporarily closed to allow for rehabilitation works on the airport’s runway.
Official sources yesterday said the date has been shifted to December 20 until the end of January 2016. Although he did not confirm or deny the new dates, NAC chief executive officer Tamer El-Kallawi yesterday confirmed that the dates have been shifted to some time in December.
“That is right. It was postponed because the contractor will not be ready on 12 November, but I do not know why Air Namibia went ahead to announce this because we agreed that they would wait until we confirm the date,” El-Kallawi said.
The news triggered concerns yesterday from the northern business community, who condemned NAC for taking such a drastic decision on such short notice.
Despite El-Kallawi indicating on Monday that the NAC was left with no choice but to temporarily close the airport to allow for rehabilitation works on the runway, the business community in the north is not impressed by the planned closure.
Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry northern branch chairman Tomas Iindji yesterday issued a statement, in which he expressed disappointment on behalf of the northern business community.
“We at the NCCI northern branch are disappointed in the decision taken by Namibia Airports Company and wish to condemn them for mismanagement and the inconsiderate decision to close the Ondangwa airport at such very short notice, and without consideration of the considerable costs,” said Iindji, whose branch represents the business interests of at least 1 200 businesspeople in northern Namibia.
Iindji accused the NAC of failing to properly consult stakeholders in order to assess the impact of their decision, while maintaining and doing construction on the runway at the Ondangwa airport.
“We hold our public management officials in highest esteem and, therefore, expect them to exercise sound business judgment before making such decisions. This delay and negligence is costing the public considerable amounts of money, whilst displacing thousands of travelers and delaying businessmen and women,” he said.
Air Namibia on Monday told New Era that the airport closure would affect at least 4 100 prospective passengers and would result in losses of millions of dollars in revenue, while it also revealed that 250 bookings have already been confirmed for the period that the NAC initially wanted to close the airport.
“The NCCI northern branch hereby provides NAC five days to come up with alternative solutions, as we cannot allow this to happen,” Iindji charged. He further said: “We condemn the short notice of this announcement. We condemn the untimely closure of this airport at a time of high demand. We condemn the absent-minded position of NAC toward their customers and we condemn the disregard for the economic impact this will have.”
The Ondangwa-Eros route is mostly utilised by business people who prefer the 45-minute trip, instead of travelling by road, which can take up to eight hours.
According to Iindji: “Businessmen and women from the north commonly use these short flights to quickly and efficiently conduct business trips to and from the capital city.
“As a result, they will be forced to use the congested roads, just as the holiday season is picking up. This is also the end of the fiscal year for many, and companies are urgently conducting business to finish their year and meet their goals.”
Air Namibia currently operates two flights on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, as well as three flights on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a single flight on Saturdays.