Lobby faults Kenya Airways on hiring of 20 foreign pilots

From left-Kalpa assistant general secretary
From left-Kalpa assistant general secretary Dzochera Warrakah, first officer Mwenda Mabura, Executive Council member Mathew Karimi and secretary-general Murithi Nyagah during a press briefing in Nairobi on November 12, 2019. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG 

Kenya Airline Pilots Association (Kalpa) wants the ongoing hiring of at least 20 foreign pilots for Kenya Airways’ #ticker:KQ Boeing 737 planes stopped, terming the exercise illegal.

A shortage of pilots has cost the airline Sh5 billion in about 12 months through flight cancellations and delays amid plans by the national carrier to cut down routes in a race to improve efficiency.

But the union says inasmuch as the airline would want to hire more pilots to avoid cancellation or delay of flights, hiring foreign pilots was in breach of mutual agreements.

“KQ is in breach of clauses 37, 42 and the seniority and promotion policy set out under schedule VI of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Of importance, however, clause 37 makes it very clear that engaging contract pilots should not prevent or interfere with the promotion of any suitable national Pilot in KQ,” said Kalpa secretary-general Murithi Nyagah in a statement yesterday.


The airline, which has been losing Sh5.18 billion ($50 million) annually as a result of the shortage has been operating with 435 pilots while its flight frequencies require 497 personnel.

The current number of pilots based on its fleets is 435 against a requirement of 497 pilots, thus leaving a deficit of 62 pilots, according to the airline’s director of operations Paul Njoroge.

Forty-four of these pilots are also undergoing training due to the current ongoing promotion policy.

Kenya Airways has had to forego revenue to compensate passengers in the form of accommodation.

In order to bridge the pilot’s deficit, the airline has announced plans to recruit 20 contracts captains for the Boeing 737 in compliance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) provisions for a period of two years.

Kalpa argues that it does not make sense to hire foreign pilots to operate the Boeing planes yet there is enough local talent in the country.

The union warned that in the event that KQ goes ahead and hires the foreigners, local pilots currently on Embraer planes will not have an opportunity to progress in their careers.

“This move obviously stops Kenya captains on the Embraer from proceeding to their rightfully earned positions on the Boeing 737,” said Mr Nyagah.