KQ’s Europe capacity cut 22pc as global staff shortage bites


Schiphol airport in Amsterdam on August 20, 2017. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG

Kenya Airways has been forced to fly with empty seats to Europe after Amsterdam-based Schiphol International Airport reduced the national carrier’s passenger capacity by about 22 percent this summer on the back of aviation turmoil in Europe.

Schiphol, a major international transit hub in Europe, said at least 13,000 seats would be slashed daily as the busy summer season begins. This will affect thousands of travellers who could be staring at possible cancellation of their trips to different destinations.

Kenya Airways chief executive officer Allan Kilavuka said Amsterdam has restricted the number of outbound passengers to enable the airport to handle the security with manpower shortages.

“We are not able to carry full capacity. Our flights have been capped by approximately 22 percent in July- August. This is due to the airport staffing constraint, mainly experienced at security,” Mr Kilavuka told Shipping&Logistics.

The move, which is bound to substantially impact the carrier’s bottom line in the wake of the high cost of fuel, has been occasioned by a shortage of manpower at the security checks on arrival and departure gates, forcing airports in Europe to cap the number of flights that airlines can operate in a day.

Passengers have had to either miss their connecting flights or their luggage on the back of delays at Europe’s major airports of Schiphol and Heathrow.

The shortage of manpower is due to a rising number of passengers at airports as the effects of Covid-19 cool off.

The effects of disruptions have hit Kenya Airways operations, leaving hundreds of its passengers highly inconvenienced by delays in transfers of their checked-in belongings including bags and suitcases.

The hitch has been blamed for a huge pile-up of luggage at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s Terminal 2 since last month.

“This has affected the processing of baggage in time to reach flights before they depart and unfortunately several customers’ bags have been delayed,” said KQ in a statement.

“It has also affected most airlines and the baggage transfers from other airlines to Kenya Airways.”

Passengers travelling to European countries, America or Canada normally use Europe as their main connecting hub to these countries. However, the disruptions may see travellers use other routes such as Qatar and Dubai.

Kenya Airways has more than three daily flights to Schiphol with the majority of them being operated by their SkyTeam partner KLM Airline.

Some African airlines have already avoided flying to Schiphol and are using other airports to avoid the disruptions at Amsterdam.

For instance, Air Maroc is now flying to Rotterdam as opposed to Schiphol following the move by the airport to limit the number of both inbound and outbound flights per day.

Schiphol International Airport has capped the number of flights and passengers who can travel through the Amsterdam-based port to curb congestion that would see transit passengers miss on their flights due to delays in security clearance.

Lufthansa has announced canceling at least 770 flights in the coming week, bringing the total number of flights scrapped this summer to nearly 4,000.

Some analysts have linked the chaos to Brexit, saying it has led to a lack of EU workers in the UK, although the British government has downplayed the claims.

International Air Transport Association said recently that the number of passengers seeking air travel had picked in the first quarter of this year compared with the previous period.

IATA data for March 2022 showed strong growth in passenger traffic compared to 2021, with Europe leading the recovery.

In March 2022, traffic measured in revenue passenger kilometers rose 76 percent compared to March 2021, an improvement on the 45.5 decline recorded in February.

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