Aviation workers fault cargo deal


Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Aviation workers have faulted the deal that allows Ethiopian Airlines to operate passenger planes grounded by the coronavirus for shipment of cargo from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi to Europe and Asia.

Through their lobby — Kenya Aviation Workers Union (Kawu) — the workers warned Thursday that the move could kill Kenya Airways (KQ), which is currently struggling to stay afloat.

The national carrier has been relying on freight business, which generates about Sh11 billion annually, as the only revenue stream after the State grounded international passenger travel in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Does the government imagine that the Ethiopian government would be reciprocating the gesture by granting KQ permission to lift cargo from Addis Ababa?” posed Kawu secretary-general Moss Ndiema in a statement yesterday.

On April 6, the Ministry of Transport allowed Ethiopian Airlines to vary its licence for passenger planes and use six aircraft to ferry cargo from Nairobi and Mombasa to overseas at a time when carriers are charging a premium for the service.

Kenya Airways is worried that Ethiopian Airlines will take a huge chunk of the business of shipping flowers, fresh fruits, and vegetables like green beans as the coronavirus pandemic hampers global movement.

The Ethiopian carrier has already received permission from the aviation regulator, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), to start operating the cargo service.

But Mr Ndiema now wants the deal, which they termed as illegal, stopped as KQ — whose top managers took a pay cut of up to 35 percent in March to preserve cash and cut costs amid the coronavirus — will go broke.

He says that the State should have consulted KQ before varying Ethiopian Airlines licences, bearing in mind that JKIA is the hub of the national carrier.

“KQ’s only source of revenue to pay the meagre salaries to the suffering employees was supposed to come from the cargo business which, sadly, has now been auctioned to Ethiopian Airlines,” he said.