Passengers stranded as pilots at Kenya Airways strike


Passengers attempt to book other flights after their Kenya Airways flights were cancelled during a strike by Kenya Airways pilots, organised by Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA), at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport in Nairobi, Kenya November 5, 2022. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Thousands of flights were disrupted and passengers stranded as pilots at Kenya Airways PLC (KQNA.NR), one of Africa’s biggest carriers, began a strike on Saturday, despite the government urging them to call it off.

The strike that commenced at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) will affect thousands of business and leisure travellers at one of Africa’s most important aviation hubs.

The Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) said the carrier’s management declined to listen to their proposals on how resolve their grievances.

“No KQ (Kenya Airways) aircraft has departed Jomo Kenyatta International Airport flown by a KALPA member from 6 a.m. this morning,” the union said in a statement. “The strike is fully in force.”

An airline official did not respond to a call seeking comment. Before the action the company had called the planned strike unlawful and warned it could jeopardise its recovery from the pandemic, saying it could lose at least 300 million shillings ($2.5 million) a day.

A stranded passenger at the airport in the capital Nairobi, who identified himself as Lawrence, said he had arrived at 5 a.m. to take a flight to Johannesburg in South Africa but “unfortunately they’ve just told me that it’s cancelled due to the strike”.

Other passengers told Reuters early on Saturday that the previous night was chaotic as travellers sought to travel before the strike started. Hundreds of passengers who had arrived in transit were trapped inside the airport as their connection flights failed to take off, they said.

The pilots union had said it would call a strike over a dispute on pensions contributions and settlement of deferred pay for its members after a 14-day notice had passed without the airline’s management addressing their grievances.

In last-minute talks to avert a strike, Transport Minister Kipchumba Murkomen had issued a plea to the pilots union not to go ahead with the industrial action.

One of Africa’s largest airlines, Kenya Airways carried over 8,000 passengers daily in the first half of this year, according to the airline.

Reporting by Thomas Mukoya; Writing by Akriti Sharma and Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Michael Perry and William Mallard