Regional and international airlines flying to Windhoek, Namibia, this weekend found themselves having to either cancel or redirect flights or make other contingency plans as the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) evicted British company, Menzies Aviation, and – with immediate effect on Saturday, August 19 – announced that local company, Paragon Aviation would commence with ground-handling services at Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) in Windhoek.
This comes in the wake of a legal battle between NAC and Menzies Aviation. Paragon won the bid in 2021 but Menzies took the battle to court in 2022.
The Namibian Supreme Court upheld a decision by the Windhoek High Court earlier this year that gave the Deputy Sheriff of the High Court the authority to enforce the eviction order, demanding Menzies’ exit from both the airport and its premises.
However, CEO of Menzies Aviation Group, Philipp Joeinig, issued a statement on Thursday (August 17) in which he reiterated the company’s commitment to providing ground-handling services at the airport until it is required by law to vacate.
Menzies’ view is that it must still be given 12 months’ notice to vacate the airport.
“Menzies assures all concerned that it will always comply with the law, and if any new court order is obtained by the NAC, or by any other interested party, that Menzies should vacate HKIA at an earlier date, Menzies will abide by the law when such an order is enforceable,” Joeinig stated.
The NAC took a different view of this and evicted Menzies Aviation on Friday, August 18, issuing a statement that read: “Paragon's commencement to perform ground-handling services at HKIA heeds the Supreme Court's assertion to the effect that Menzies relied on unlawful self-help to stay put and had to date hereof occupied the premises unlawfully for about a year, despite the fact that Paraqon presently has the right in accordance with a bid awarded to it by the NAC to be placed in possession of the premises so as to render qround handling services at HKlA pursuant to the bid awarded to it by NAC.”
The statement continued: “All stakeholders are hereby requested and implored to fully co-operate with Paragon as the legitimate provider of ground-handling services at HKIA. The eviction of Menzies from HKIA was justified as it allowed Paragon to commence rendering ground-handling services at HKIA, coupled with the judgment of the Supreme Court that permitted the eviction of Menzies from HKIA. We will continue to closely liaise with all stakeholders to ensure seamless provision of ground handling services at HKIA.”
Newspaper, The Namibian, quoted Desmond Amunyela, the company’s Business Development Executive Director, as saying: “We are in operation. Everything is working smoothly, especially in the luggage collection department. There have been no delays.”
Bottlenecks, contingency plans and flight cancellations
Independent regional airline, Airlink, meanwhile issued a statement on Saturday (August 19) apologising for the delays and inconvenience experienced arriving at and departing from Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport.
“We are alive to the situation at the airport where all operations are being affected. They follow the eviction of ground-handling company, Menzies, and its overnight replacement by Paragon, a new service provider,” read the statement.
Airlink highlighted that while the delays were beyond Airlink’s control, it had deployed a team of personnel from Johannesburg, Gqeberha and Cape Town in addition to its Windhoek staff to ensure its flights to and from the Namibian capital were not disrupted.
“We anticipate further teething issues as Paragon becomes fully resourced and equipped to deliver all of the services it has assumed. These include passenger check-in, boarding and disembarkation of flights, security on the aircraft parking apron, baggage-handling, cleaning and provisioning of flights,” said the airline.
Tourism Update further understands from industry sources that Eurowings Discover and Qatar Airways had to divert flights to Johannesburg on the morning of August 19.
The airlines were reportedly informed of the change of ground-handlers at very short notice.
Eurowings Discover has cancelled its Frankfurt Windhoek flights for August 19, 20 and 21.
On August 11 this year, ch-aviation.com reported Menzies had sought to fight its eviction from the airport, claiming the awarding of the tender for ground handling services to Paragon Investment Holdings was unlawful, as that company had its own joint venture with Ethiopian Airlines, implying a conflict of interest in the tender allocation.