20 Aug 2023
Hundreds of Namibia holidaymakers were unable to land in or depart from Windhoek over the weekend. Eurowings Discover diverted two flights to Johannesburg and cancelled eight connections. Qatar Airways postponed one flight from Saturday to Sunday.
The reason was an abrupt change in flight handling at Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) near Windhoek on Saturday morning. Employees of the previous handling company Menzies Aviation (Namibia) were prevented from entering the airport premises by court order. Instead, the company Paragon Aviation Services took over the service.
They were informed of the change by Menzies on Saturday morning, Eurowings Discover told Namibian.org News. At that time, the two aircraft that had taken off from Frankfurt the previous evening were already on approach. As there was no contract with Paragon, they could not have been handled at the airport near Windhoek.
They therefore flew on to Johannesburg. The passengers were accommodated in hotels there. Eurowings Discover arranged for them to fly on to Windhoek with the private South African airline Airlink from Sunday. Airlink apparently flew in its own staff to ensure smooth ground handling.
Eurowings Discover cancelled eight other return flights on the Frankfurt - Windhoek and Windhoek - VicFalls routes that were scheduled from Saturday evening until this morning. The airline stressed that "the absolute priority is to find solutions for those affected. We are working at full speed on this."
The state-owned airport operator Namibia Airports Company (NAC) issued a statement on Saturday. On six pages, the NAC described the background of the unusual event.
According to the statement, Menzie's contract to handle flights at the international airport had expired at the end of 2021. In the tender process, Paragon Aviation Services had won the contract. It is a joint venture between Paragon Investment Holdings and Ethiopian Airlines.
Since then, Menzies has taken legal action against the decision and its implementation, but has suffered several defeats so far. The latest ruling and the termination of the NAC based on it stipulated a handover until 10 September.
According to NAC, Menzies had again contested this. On 18 August (Friday) Paragon then obtained an eviction notice for the following day (Saturday). A decision on an urgent application by Menzies is apparently to be made today. According to media reports, the company demands a notice period of twelve months.
Eurowings Discover flies ten times a week directly from Frankfurt to Windhoek. Three of the flights continue to VicFalls in Zimbabwe. From there, it is back to Windhoek the same day and then back to Frankfurt by night flight.
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