Kenya Airways cancels flights on crew shortage
National carrier Kenya Airways faces a cabin crew shortage that has forced it to cancel and delay flights, threatening its revenues over the peak festive season.
Confidential correspondences between KQ, as the airline is known by its international code, and the cabin crew reveal that the airline is desperate for the crews to operate its flights amid a sharp rise in bookings.
The cancellation and delays of flights that started as early as December 3, 2023, means that KQ will have to forego revenue and compensate some of its passengers stranded in various locations and have to be accommodated in hotels as they wait for the flights.
“(Good) Morning, should you be in a position to assist? Below are uncrewed today, December 3, 2023; KQ708-1FP, KQ002-1FA,” the carrier in an internal memo.
KQ did not respond to questions on the extent of the disruption of its flights though a spot check revealed that on December 13, flights KQ102-FA, KQ792-FA, KQ250-FP, KQ310-FP, KQ2-FA and KQ 624-FA did not have enough crew as per the law to fly.
For December 14, flights KQ 706-FP, KQ 482-FP, KQ256-FP, KQ762-4FA, and KQ704-FP faced similar challenges.
Seventeen flights have also been delayed in the last two days.
They include KQ2580 which was delayed by 6 hours 20 minutes, KQ610 (2 hours 20 minutes), and KQ612 (1 hour 15 minutes).
Sources familiar with the details said flight cancellations, especially for passengers heading to European destinations come with a heavy financial burden to the airline as the carrier must pay about Sh92,000 per affected passenger in refund.
The shortfall in the number of cabin crew workers comes after KQ let go of some of its staff members in 2020 to cut costs due to depressed earnings caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
KQ chief executive Allan Kilavuka had on Tuesday hinted at the possible disruption of operations due to the crew shortage, coming just as the airline was recovering from interruptions caused by spare parts shortage that saw it ground some of its aircraft.
“The challenges of delayed spare parts delivery have eased… We are working closely with our partners and suppliers to expedite delivery and minimize further disruptions,” he said.
“In the wake of the flight disruptions, we are experiencing a ripple effect across our network, which in turn is impacting crew resources.” Mr Kilavuka said on Tuesday.
KQ reported its biggest half-year loss of Sh21.7 billion in August, weighed down by heavy forex losses and a pile-up of debt that has upset its turnaround plan.