Cabin crew at Air Namibia have petitioned their country's Ministry of Works to protest the long hours they say the airline is forcing them to work -- sometimes 48 hours at a stretch. They claim that current schedules do not give them enough time to rest between trips, and that safety is being compromised as a result.
Members of the Namibian Cabin Crew Union (NCCU) said that they took this formal action after their employer, Namibia's national flag carrier, would not listen to their concerns. NCCU claims that cost-cutting measures at Air Namibia have resulted in crews flying more hours, with a reduced number of crew members on board each flight.
An article on the AllAfrica.com news website quotes Ellaine Muinjo, President of the Namibian Cabin Crew Union, who said that Air Namibia crew do not get enough time for rest and this affects their performance. "There is no space for fatigue or mistakes. Should Air Namibia have one airline crash, then it is over for Air Namibia. As the frontline staff and the last ones to deal with Air Namibia's passengers who pay our salaries, we cannot jeopardize their safety," Muinjo said.
Air Namibia spokesman Ellison Hijarungu disputes the contentions of the cabin crew, claiming that crew rosters are optimally planned and managed.
Hijarunguru said crew flying on intercontinental routes such as Windhoek to London get an average rest of three and half hours in a specially designed and isolated crew rest area.The NCCU president disagrees, saying that crew operating on overseas routes are on duty for at least 13 hours and rest "a few hours" before heading back in the opposite direction.
Once they reach their destination, he said, they are booked into upmarket hotels to rest for a minimum of 12 hours.
He said upon returning home the same crewmembers get three to four days off before their next flights.
"It remains a simple fact that no Air Namibia crew member has flown or operated and will operate for 48 hours before retiring for the mandatory rest at any given time," Hijarunguru said.
A related article about the Air Namibia cabin crew protest on Afriquenligne, mentioned the concern among crew members that compromising safety standards could ultimately result in the Air Namibia being blacklisted in markets such as the European Union (EU).
Air Namibia is wholly owned and operated by the Namibian government.