By Hilary Mare
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is reconsidering its continuation of flight operations to Namibia, due to a lack of improvement in security performance by Namibian authorities and the unforeseen substantial extra costs incurred for having to contract secondary security screening controls, Confidente can exclusively reveal.
With the airline having expanded its scheduled service to Windhoek in October 2016, Namibia is poised to lose the services of a carrier that welcomed a record 32.7 million passengers aboard its flights in 2017, whiles ubsequently attaining a record load factor of 88.4 percent over the year, as a whole.
Documents in possession of Confidente reveal a detailed report that lays bare security deficiencies that forced KLM to resort to hiring a private security firm, at its own expense, in a bid to protect its brand and reputation.
KLM Security Director and Deputy Vice-President, Ronald Augustin, wrote a letter to the Namibian government on 18 January, bemoaning the poor aviation security performance at Hosea Kutako International Airport, and further highlighting that the airline had incurred expenses for the secondary security controls, through November 2017, of approximately N$4.7 million.
The letter was copied to Nampol, the Public Enterprises Minister Leon Jooste, Works and Transport Minister Alpheus !Naruseb,the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), as well as the Namibia Airports Company (NAC), in which it highlighted the poor security screening controls conducted by Nampol, the NCAA’s supervisory role, and the absence of security threat awareness, training and understanding by all stakeholders, which had placed KLM’s flight operations at considerable risk.
“KLM seeks support from the relevant government leadership. We would like to see a solid plan of improvement from the appropriate Namibian authorities, with clear timeframes and measurable milestones, to finally achieve an acceptable aviation security framework and performance, reflecting international standards,” warns the letter.
In the same letter, Augustin went on to emphasise that KLM believed it is fair that they be compensated by the Namibian government for the costs they incurred for the necessary secondary security controls that are required, in order to maintain the minimum acceptable level of security for its passengers and crew.
Bemoaning the lack of positive response from Namibian authorities on the security status quo, Augustin noted, “At the commencement of KLM operations to Windhoek in October 2016, a KLM security inspection revealed inadequate security controls at Hosea Kutako International Airport, particularly in the area of passenger and staff screening, including their accessible property, the security controls are dramatically inconsistent (sic). When we addressed these concerns and observations with the authorities, Nampo land the NCAA, they rebuked these observations.”
He further indicates that KLM ultimately decided that a secondary security control was required in the departure hall, and contracted NPS, a local security provider, to implement this, before adding that NPS operations were supervised by KLM security officers, in order to achieve a minimum acceptable level of security.
“Since then, no improvement in the security controls executed by the Namibian authorities has been observed.During the first couple of months, KLM addressed to the NCAA its concerns about the poor level of security controls and presented as evidence multiple prohibited items confiscated from passengers at its self-implemented secondary controls in the departure hall.
“Thereafter, ironically, KLM only encountered hindrances in realising the secondary security controls. KLM security staff encountered immigration hurdles, and was not allowed to conduct a security training scheduled for our local security vendor. Nampol and the NCAA did not respond to KLM’s invitation to partake in a joint security workshop in November 2017, which was agreed to several some months earlier. For more than a year, KLM Security Services monitored the primary (Nampol and NCAA) and secondary passenger and staff screening controls. In 49 week reports, no improvements have been made,” explained Augustin. Namibian Police Inspector-General, Sebastian Ndeitunga, on Tuesday refuted the airline’s allegations.
“We haven’t seen that letter and we are on top and in the forefront of the security and law enforcement at our airports in our country, despite multiple challenges facing the force. We had a preparatory meeting yesterday, before we met the KLM delegation, and such allegations were refuted.”
KLM spokesperson Koen van Zijl told Confidente on Wednesday that over the past couple of days, a high-level delegation from KLM’s head office had several meetings with Namibian authorities on the highest level, before adding that the atmosphere at these meetings was “pleasant, open-minded and constructive”.
“We have been promised a roadmap several of improvements, with clear milestones and accountabilities. This roadmap should also lead to a much more passenger-friendly process.
“Currently KLM has to take extra security measures at the airport, to guarantee the level of security up to international standards,” he explained further.
Jooste acknowledged receiving the letter, while further noting that government was taking steps to address the situation.
“I received the letter and enjoyed a pleasant meeting with them this morning (Tuesday). Operations at the airport are of a multi-stakeholder dimension, making it more complex than one might imagine.
“We are grateful that KLM shared their experience with us and also that they made some recommendations, which will be considered.
“A roadmap will be developed within the next few days to address the concerns and we will ensure that these measures are implemented without delay.
“Airport security is not static and is something which is continuously reviewed, to identify ways to enhance the systems. I don’t believe that there is a threat of KLM exiting the destination, as we have agreed to pursue the matter and to rectify any potential weaknesses,” Jooste said. “KLM has equally shared their commitment to continue with the service to Windhoek and these interactions are part of normal stakeholder consultations, as we all strive to improve the quality of service delivery.”
Founded on 7 October 1919, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is the oldest scheduled airline in the world still operating under its original name.
In 2016, the KLM Group operated worldwide flights with over 200 aircraft, generating €10 billion in revenues and employing 32 000 staff from its Amsterdam basis.
Windhoek is KLM’s twelfth destination in Africa, which also flies to Luanda (Angola), Johannesburg and Cape Town (South Africa), Nairobi (Kenya), Kilimanjaro and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Entebbe (Uganda), Kigali (Rwanda), Lagos (Nigeria), Accra (Ghana) and Cairo (Egypt), among others.
The airline also, together with its partners (Sky Alliance), serves 56 different destinations in Africa and currently operates three return flights to and from Namibia.
In 2017, KLM was able to expand its network by 15 destinations, to meet its customers’ needs. This brought the total number of KLM destinations to 165 worldwide. NAC board chairperson Rodgers Kauta and NCAA director Angeline Simana had not responded to questions sent them, at the time of going to print.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015