Kenya Airways pilots extend strike
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Kenya Airways pilots on Sunday extended their strike and warned of "major flight disruptions", forcing fresh cancellations as the carrier's deadline for disciplinary action against those participating lapsed.
Thousands of passengers were stranded as a result of the strike by the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA), which earlier said that no Kenya Airways flight flown by its members had departed Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport from 6:00 am (0300 GMT) onwards on Saturday.
The pilots announced the strike in defiance of a court order against industrial action and have given no indication of how long it would last.
On Saturday, the airline's managing director and CEO, Allan Kilavuka, had urged the protesting pilots, who make up 10 percent of the workforce, to return to work by 10:30 am on Sunday.
"Failure to do so will lead to immediate disciplinary action," he warned.
But KALPA said on Sunday that its members would remain on strike "until their voice is heard."
"The public should expect major flight disruptions to continue," it said on Twitter, blaming the airline's management for failing to resolve the stalemate.
The airline, part owned by the government and Air France-KLM, is one of the biggest in Africa, connecting multiple countries to Europe and Asia, but it is facing turbulent times, including years of losses.
The pilots' strike has thrown over 9,000 passengers' plans into disarray, according to the airline, with travellers turning up to the Nairobi airport on Sunday, only to find out that their flights were cancelled.
"I came here at around 5:25 in the morning... but I have been informed that the flight has been cancelled," passenger Erick Muhanda, who was due to travel to South Africa's port city of Cape Town, told broadcaster Citizen TV.
"It's quite inconveniencing," he said.
- Ground staff strike called off -
But in a measure offering some relief to the travel sector, the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU) announced Sunday that it would withdraw a planned strike by ground staff over a separate, long-running dispute with the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) over salary increases.
"We backtracked on our decision because it was being construed as KAWU joining KALPA in their strike action," the union's secretary general Moss Ndiema told reporters at the Nairobi airport.
KAWU had earlier said that ground staff would strike from 2:00 pm onwards on Saturday.
The pilots are pressing for the reinstatement of contributions to a provident fund and payment of all salaries stopped during the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Monday, the airline won a court injunction stopping the strike, but an official at KALPA, which has 400 members, told AFP the pilots "were acting within the provisions of the law" and that they were yet to be served with a court order.
The carrier has warned that the strike would jeopardise its recovery, estimating losses at $2.5 million per day if the pilots went ahead with their plans.
The airline was founded in 1977 following the demise of East African Airways and flies more than four million passengers to 42 destinations annually.
It has been operating in large part thanks to state bailouts following years of losses.