HOSEA KUTAKO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - Chaos errupted at the Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) over the weekend after baggage handler Menzies Aviation was ousted from the airport, leaving hundreds of passengers distraught.
Weekend travel plans for a big number of passengers were also thrown into disarray when Eurowings Discover and Qatar Airways flights were abruptly cancelled, causing significant disruptions to international travel as the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) evicted Menzies to pave the way for new baggage handler, Paragon Aviation. The eviction was enforced after a lengthy court battle.
However, responding to questions yesterday, NAC’s spokesperson, Dan Kamati said everything was under control. “The cancelations are purely the decision of the airlines. Many flights came, were handled professionally by Paragon, and departed. Henceforth, we believe that all the airlines and other related parties will work together to ensure a seamless transition,” Kamati said.
When the New Era team visited HKIA yesterday, a number of Qatar Airways’ passengers were seen in the terminal to check in after the airline resumed its operations. Some passengers for Eurowings Discover were seen sitting idle, hoping for a solution after their travel plans were thrown into limbo.
However, businessman Lazarus Jacobs and owner of Paragon Aviation, which took over from Menzies, said a special Airlink aircraft landed yesterday at the international airport to collect Eurowings Discover’s passengers who could not leave Windhoek due to flight cancellations.
“This is the first time this particular aircraft landed at our airport, hence the water spray. We are informed that the plane is here to collect Eurowings passengers who didn’t leave Windhoek yesterday due to flight cancellations. This special flight is returning to Johannesburg. Paragon Aviation Services, in collaboration with Airlink, will manage the ground handling,” he stated.
Furthermore, some passengers were diverted to South Africa on Saturday. Meanwhile, Qatar Airways has resumed its operations at the airport, bringing new passengers and collecting those who were stranded.
Eurowings Discover informed its passengers about the cancellation of its flights to Windhoek, and pledged to assist in finding alternative flights. It is speculated that Eurowings Discover will resume its Windhoek flights today. Some passengers who spoke to New Era vented their frustrations.
“It has delayed our programme, and we have to rebook for accommodation at our destination,” said a group of Namibians travelling to Rome. This reporter observed that other airlines such as Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airlines were operating as usual, with Paragon executing the ground handling on site.
Airlink apologised to customers for the delays and inconvenience experienced during arriving at and departing from Windhoek’s biggest airport yesterday.
“We are alive to the situation at the airport, where all operations are being affected. They follow the eviction of the ground handling company Menzies, and its overnight replacement by Paragon, a new service provider,” stated Karin Murray, Airlink’s marketing manager for Africa.
Murray continued. “While the delays are beyond Airlink’s control, to avoid bottlenecks and minimise delays, this morning we deployed a team of personnel from Johannesburg to Windhoek to assist with the handling of our flights to and from the Namibian capital.”
Airlink operates up to four flights a day between Johannesburg and Windhoek, and up to three a day between Cape Town and Windhoek.
“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, and cleaning and provisioning of flights,” the statement added.
About 10 planes landed at the airport since the eviction of Menzies Aviation Namibia on Saturday.
In a judgement delivered in the Windhoek High Court near the end of June last year and upheld by the Supreme Court on 9 June this year, the High Court authorised the deputy sheriff to evict Menzies from the airport and from all premises occupied by the company at the airport. - email@example.com