Airlines return to recruitment in easing Covid-19 turbulence

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An Ethiopian Airlines plane. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Aviation firms have returned to hiring to plug the staffing deficit in a gradual return to business after the recent turbulence caused by Covid-19.

Airlines that are currently absorbing workers include Emirates Airline, Qatar Airways and a host of aviation firms in the US in a move that offers a sigh of relief to hundreds of workers who were sent parking last year.

Locally, Dac Aviation, a carrier that resumed operations in 1993 to tap into the African humanitarian air transportation market has also resumed hiring.

A number of airlines last year sent home hundreds of workers while other opted to keep their staff members across board on reduced pay as part of cost cutting measures aimed at preserving cash amid unrelenting Covid-19 woes.

“Airlines resuming hiring is a positive development. Its shows that the aviation sector is continuing to recover,” Kenya Civil Aviation Authority Director-General Gilbert Kibe told Shipping & Logistics in an interview yesterday.

A senior official at Dac Aviation said the airline is looking for flight attendants, technical record staff, engineers and supply chain staffers to recruit.

Bigger industry

Emirates that operates passenger flights to and from Nairobi, in addition to special cargo services from Eldoret needs direct entry captains, first officers and national cadet pilot programme.

Qatar Airways on the other hand is looking for cabin crew members, cargo and airport operators, engineers, customer service officers as well pilot operators.

“New hiring in the aviation sector also mean that the industry is bigger than it was before. This is very encouraging,” said Mr Kibe.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Kenyan air travel industry is slowly unravelling with airlines projecting a steep climb back to normalcy after months of disruption.

The effects have been so dire that the domestic operators requested a financial loan of Sh10 billion to navigate the Covid-19 storm, with the industry data projecting that African airlines had as at May 2020 lost Sh860 billion.

Passenger numbers at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) declined by 72 percent last year as cargo recorded a marginal drop of three percent in the year to February.

Data from the Kenya Airports Authority indicates that the passenger numbers at JKIA dropped from 5.8 million in the previous year to 1.6 million last year as the aviation sector continues to reel from the effects of Covid-19.

The industry data showed aircraft movement in review period dropped by 53 percent from 80,580 previously to 37,895 with cargo declining to 253.1 million kilos from 245 million.

Global travel slump

However, February showed signs of recovery with a 5.2 percent growth compared with the same period in the previous year.

Moi International Airport recorded a 60 percent decline on passenger numbers, highlighting the impact of Covid-19 on tourism at the Kenya’s coastal city.

The slow return to business in the aviation sector saw Kenya Airways resort to a hiring freeze, unpaid leaves, pay cuts and retrenchments to survive the Covid-19 turbulence.

The airline disclosed in its latest annual report that it lost 1,123 employees to close the year with 3,652, in a period when coronavirus-related air travel restrictions saw it record the highest loss in its history.

KQ says half of the exits of 561 employees left through resignations or voluntary early retirements amid fears that the carrier’s recovery will take longer following the slump in global travel.

KQ froze new employment from February last year and sent part of its workforce on unpaid leave, with those remaining taking pay cuts of between 35 percent and 75 percent.