Normalcy Returns to Kenya Airways After Court Order Ends Pilots Strike

Flights by Kenya’s national airline, Kenya Airways, resumed Wednesday after a court order ended a pilots’ strike. The four-day strike led to the cancellation of scores of flights by one of Africa’s largest carriers and stranded thousands of passengers.

Following the court order, the pilots’ union, Kenya Airlines Pilots Association, withdrew the strike notice and in a statement urged its nearly 400 members to resume duty.

Employment and labor relations court Judge Ann Mwaure had on Tuesday directed the pilots to resume their duties “unconditionally.”

Senior Counsel John Ohaga is representing Kenya Airways in a contempt of court case against the pilots.

“The airline was beginning to send out notices of disciplinary action,” said Ohaga. “So what the court has said is that, pending the determination of the matter, we should not harass or intimidate them. I’m not sure how to construe that, but that’s what the court has ordered.”

The pilots’ union launched the strike at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport late last week over pension and deferred pay disputes.

The strike is estimated to have cost the airline about $12 million in losses, but economists say that figure could be higher as Odhiambo Ramogi, an economist in Nairobi, explained.

“There might be some court cases against KQ for losses to be mitigated. So that computed value might go higher,” Ramogi said.

Kenya Airways, sometimes referred to as KQ, is one of Africa’s largest carriers, commanding a good market share of west and central Africa as well as the larger East Africa. Analysts say labor actions could harm the airline’s reputation in the region.

“They might need to do a lot of shuttle diplomacy, just to reassure their clients across the region,” said Ramogi.

The court has directed the pilots and the airline to engage in talks to resolve their disputes.

“It will have to be resolved one way or the other because the pilots depend on the airline for their livelihoods and the airline depends on the pilots to fly the planes and generate the revenue that is required for Kenya Airways to stay afloat,” said Ohaga. “So it will have to be resolved. I cannot say that the resolution will be amicable but there will have to be some give and take on both sides.”

Kenya’s national carrier flies more than four million passengers to 42 destinations annually, according to its records. The partially state-owned carrier, however, has had financial problems in recent years.

Victoria Amunga contributed to this report.

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