Kenya Airways faces new refunds crisis on flight delays and cancellations

Kenya Airways plane pictured at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on April 30, 2024.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

National carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) will be forced to refund millions of shillings to customers who could not fly on schedule on diverse dates in the past week due to widespread flight delays and cancellations.

Multiple sources who spoke to this publication in confidence have attributed the disruption to a shortage of cabin crew and lack of engine parts for five planes currently grounded at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

The airline has a policy that allows customers to seek refunds for cancelled flights or delays of more than eight hours.

Customers who don’t want to travel after missing their original departure time are allowed to apply for refunds through their original form of payment.

“KQ is in crisis as we talk as they have cancelled or delayed many flights in the last one week and this means they have to pay affected customers. Five of their planes are currently grounded at JKIA because they have not been able to get engine parts to run them,” said a source in the industry.

The five planes currently stuck at JKIA without engine parts to run them are a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, two Embraer E-190s and two Boeing 737-300s.

A Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner operates on long-haul routes while an Embraer E-190 operates short-haul and medium routes. Boeing 737-300 aircraft operates medium haul routes.

The airline’s officials had not responded to our query by the time of going to press.

On June 30 alone, at least 16 flights were either cancelled or delayed.

This includes KQ604, KQ608 and KQ618 to Mombasa, which were canceled. KQ270 to Mauritius was cancelled while KQ886 to Bangkok was delayed by eight hours and 50 minutes. On July 1, 2024, several flights were affected too. This includes flight KQ362 to Mogadishu and flight KQ 594 to Douala.

The national carrier has grappled with inadequate staffing and equipment in the wake of the global travel's recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that broke out in early 2020.

Kenya Airways had let go of some of its employees in 2020 to cut costs due to depressed earnings caused by the pandemic but has been hiring more in the past few years.

The airline is under pressure to deploy more crew members and aircraft to service routes that were idle during the Covid-19 period.

The country is also staring at a peak tourism season, which started early this month. The airline currently flies to 45 destinations and faces stiff competition, not just from major players like Qatar Airways, Emirates and Turkish Airlines, but from African carriers as well.

The government-owned Ethiopian Airlines is the biggest regional threat and flies to more than 120 destinations.

Both Uganda and Tanzania have poured cash into their flag carriers in the past three years, joining countries such as Rwanda and Togo, which have also ramped up investment in their own carriers.

KQ, which has been surviving on State bailout since the Covid-19 pandemic, narrowed its net loss by 40.6 percent to Sh22.6 billion in the year ended December 2023, helped by a surge in revenues. The company had made a net loss of Sh38.2 billion the year before.

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