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Pilot hiring order pushing business to rivals, says KQ

Kenya Airways
A Kenya Airways plane at the JKIA in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenya Airways (KQ) #ticker:KQ on Thursday stated it has a shortage of up to 106 pilots, arguing that an order blocking the airline from hiring pilots on contract basis risks further ceding passenger and cargo business to its rivals.

Arguing before Justice Onesmus Makau, the company through lawyer Peter Ondati said that barring the firm from taking on more pilots would lead to widening of losses.

“The shortage of pilots means lower utilisation of aircrafts, which directly results in the claimant’s fixed costs and expenses being spread over declining revenue leading to increase in losses.”

Documents filed in court showed that the airline has already lost Sh5 billion in about 12 months through flight cancellations and delays owing to a shortage of pilots.

He also noted that a CBA between KQ and the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (Kalpa) gave the company a discretion to engage pilots on up to two years fixed-term contracts to facilitate route expansion, training of current pilots and reduction of pilots’ accumulated leave.

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Mr Ondati told Justice Makau that whereas KQ faces a shortage of 62 pilots, 44 of the staff are currently undergoing training taking the deficit up to 106.

He said the biggest reason for flight cancellation is the shortage of pilots.

He maintained that the CBA allowed the airline to employ pilots on specific contract terms to facilitate route expansion, training of current pilots and reduction of accumulated leave adding that the contracts will not interfere with the promotion or continued employment of any suitable national pilot working with the airline.

According to KQ, hiring pilots on a contract basis will give room to the existing ones to undertake training leading to pilot roster stability among other benefits.

In the dispute, Kalpa accused the airline of breaching the Collective Bargaining Agreement dated August 2, 2017 and a memorandum of understanding dated November 28, 2018.

The union said the breaches also violated section 59 of the Labour Relations Act, and its members’ constitutional rights.

Kalpa through Irene Kashindi said the recognition agreement expressly provides at clause 3 that the matters to be covered in the CBA include the Kenyanisation of the aviation industry.

She said in as much as they admit that the airline has been making losses, it is their claim that the company has adopted unrealistic flight schedules in order to create an artificial shortage so as to justify the recruitment of contract pilots, which she added is being carried out in blatant violation of the CBA and MOU.

The judge will rule on the matter on November 29.

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