A Namibian court has reserved judgement in a case where ground handler Menzies Aviation (Namibia) (PTY) Ltd is battling its abrupt eviction from Windhoek International on August 19, which left scores of passengers stranded as airlines cancelled or diverted flights.

This followed an announcement on August 19 by the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) that it had evicted Menzies with immediate effect and that Paragon Investment Holdings had commenced providing ground-handling services at Windhoek International (also known as Hosea Kutako International Airport). It stated the eviction was justified as Menzies had "occupied the premises unlawfully for about a year".

Having had no prior warning, EW Discover (Frankfurt International) announced eight flights from Frankfurt International, Germany, and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe would have to be cancelled, and two more flights from Frankfurt were diverted to Johannesburg O.R. Tambo, South Africa. Passengers were accommodated in hotels while solutions were found for their onward journey. Meanwhile, Qatar Airways (QR, Doha Hamad International) also diverted a B787-8 flight from Doha Hamad International to Johannesburg on August 19. Meanwhile, Airlink (South Africa) (4Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) dispatched staff from Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town International to Windhoek to assist with ground handling functions for its four-daily flights to/from the Namibian capital.

Menzies reverted the matter to court, which postponed the hearing to August 21 before reserving judgment until September 1, 2023. In the meantime, Paragon Aviation would continue to render ground handling services at Windhoek, well-placed sources told ch-aviation.

Menzies held the ground handling contract at Windhoek from January 1, 2014, to June 30, 2022. In April 2022, the NAC awarded the tender to Paragon Investment Holdings, its own joint venture with Ethiopian Airlines (ET, Addis Ababa International). Menzies has contested the lawfulness of the NAC's decision for more than a year, implying a conflict of interest in the tender allocation.

On June 29, 2022, the High Court of Namibia ruled that Menzies' contract would indeed end on June 30, 2022, and ordered Menzies to vacate the airport premises at the end of that day. Menzies immediately appealed to the Supreme Court of Namibia, effectively suspending the eviction order. According to Menzies, on June 30, 2022, and despite the eviction, the NAC published that Menzies would continue to render ground handling services, thus effectively entering into a new agreement with Menzies.

On June 9, 2023, the Supreme Court dismissed Menzies' appeal against the eviction order. On the same day, the NAC notified Menzies to vacate the premises within four days. On June 12, 2023, Menzies lodged another urgent application with the High Court.

On August 8, the Windhoek High Court dismissed Menzies' application to stay the execution of the June 29, 2022, court order that ended its ground-handling contract. Still, the court ruled as invalid that Menzies vacate the premises on short notice and determined 30 days was a reasonable period. The court also found that by notice to all stakeholders that Menzies would continue to provide ground handling services until further notice, the NAC had created a "legally binding obligation".

Menzies, in a statement on August 17, argued the practical and legal effect was that the NAC must give new notice to Menzies to terminate the "new" agreement. It claimed its new lease agreement, stipulated a 12 months' notice period, which had not been received.

Meanwhile, on August 23, Airlink notified customers it had been forced to suspend cargo operations at Windhoek following the change in the airport’s ground handling and cargo service provider. "While Airlink is ready to work with Paragon, the new service provider, the safety and security of its passengers, personnel, and aircraft are paramount. We can only restore cargo operations when Paragon’s aviation security - including dangerous goods handling – and other cargo handling certifications, approvals, and protocols are in place. If Airlink continues providing a cargo service at Windhoek without these, the integrity of its operations and international aviation safety and security will be compromised," the airline advised.

Airlink said its passenger services to Windhoek were continuing, but flights incurred delays due to a shortage of ground handling equipment.