Court dismisses case seeking to block KQ from sending trainee pilots abroad


KQ inks deal with Royal Air Maroc to grow the reach. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya Airways can send its trainee pilots to South Africa for practice after a High Court dismissed a petition seeking to block the carrier from sending learners abroad.

KQ has been sending pilots under the Ab Initio Pilot Trainee Programme to South Africa for training. The programme was suspended indefinitely in June 2020 because of Covid-19.

Kenya Airways prefers South African facilities as the base for the training because of the quality of facilities and the capacity of instructors.

Further, South African airspace gives cadets a more challenging learning environment. Busia Senator had faulted KQ for sending the trainees outside the country yet there are flight schools in the country.

Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah had argued that the airline has been bailed out several times by the government, making it a public entity and was therefore wrong to use taxpayers’ money to send pilots for training outside the country.

Justice Hedwig Ong’udi dismissed the petition saying the airline was not a public body and Mr Omtatah has failed to show how KQ violated his rights.

The judge further noted that the programme has since been suspended and the court cannot, therefore, issue an order prohibiting the airline.

Mr Omtatah had claimed that KQ was a recipient of public funds, and by sourcing its pilot training services from South Africa, it was violating the national values and principles of patriotism and equity.

The legislator went to court following an advertisement on December 11, 2019, inviting applications for trainee pilot positions.

The airline has been sending its Ab Initio Pilots Training Programmes students out of the country since 1998. The programme is funded by Co-operative Bank.

KQ defended itself saying the airline is governed by its constitutive documents and internal processes on procurement and administration.

The airline denied allegations that it uses public monies to fund the pilots' training programme as it obtains loans from Co-op Bank.

KQ said Wilson Airport, which is where the majority of the Kenyan-approved training organisations are located has no ground-based navigation aids.

This then means that the trainee pilots must try and get a slot in the already busy JKIA airport with these systems, making it difficult for the students to get adequate practice on these navigation aids.

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