Kenya Airways faces surge in refunds amid flight delays, cancellations

Kenya Airways aircraft

Kenya Airways aircraft grounded at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi on April 3, 2020.

Photo credit: Tony Karumba | AFP

National carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) is expected to face a surge in refund claims as a consequence of widespread delays and flight cancellations.

The company has attributed the disruption to a shortage of cabin crew and engine parts.

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

Customers who don't want to travel after missing their original departure time can apply for a refund through their original form of payment.

In a notice issued to its customers, the carrier said it does not have enough crew to operate its flights while two of its Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner type of planes have been grounded due to lack of engines as well as other parts.

The cancellation and delays of flights that started Sunday morning, means that the airline is staring at losing revenue by compensating affected passengers currently stranded in different towns.

“We would like to inform our customers that we are experiencing some disruption in our flight schedules, which are leading to abnormally high levels of delays,” reads a statement from the airline Sunday evening.

“The main reason for these disruptions is the unscheduled and extended grounding of two of our 787 Dreamliners due to delayed engine and engine components delivery. The flight disruption has also been impacted by the unavailability of our flight crew for some regional flights.”

To address these disruptions, KQ is readjusting its network as well speeding up the recovery of the grounded aircraft.

KQ’s chief executive Allan Kilavuka said one of the aircraft was grounded in John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) due to an incident by the jet bridge operator that damaged the skin of the engine inlet of the aircraft before departure.

The aircraft, a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, operates KQ’s long-haul routes, such as New York, Paris and Amsterdam and medium-haul routes, such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Lagos and Mauritius.

“This has led to a downgrade to a smaller fleet due to unavailability, some delays and some cancellations,” he said.

KQ declined to respond to questions on the extent of the disruption of its flights by the time we were going to press.

However, this publication independently established that scores of flights had either been delayed or cancelled since Sunday.

The flights that were cancelled include flight KQ404 from Nairobi to Addis Ababa on May 19, KQ262 from Nairobi to Antananarivo on May 16, KQ 418 on May 20th from Nairobi to Entebbe and a flight which was initially scheduled to depart Nairobi to Paris on May 19 at 23:50 was cancelled too.

The airline also cancelled KQ514 on May 19 from Nairobi to Accra and KQ 726 on May 19 from Nairobi to Lusaka just to mention but a few.

The shortage of cabin crew at KQ comes at a time when the airline’s latest disclosures shows the company hired 598 additional employees in the year ended December 2023.

The new hiring saw the airline close December 2023 with 4,828 employees, overtaking the 4,775 workers it had before mid-February 2020 when the Covid-19 disruption triggered massive job cuts.

KQ 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. The airline grew its sales 52.8 percent to Sh178.4 billion as it rebuilt its route network and capacity from the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic that hit the global aviation sector.

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