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Kenya’s Largest Airline Will Lay Off Half Of Its Pilots To Ease Coronavirus Pinch


August 24, 2020

Another day, another coronavirus-necessitated layoff in Africa. Again, it is Kenya Airways (KQ), a national airline that is looking to sever ties with half of its pilots. The development is part of the carrier’s strategy to survive the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on its business.

Another Layoff Round?

KQ has intentions to let of up to 207 of its 481 pilot jobs, a section which accounts for almost half of its payroll costs. But the exercise will not be carried out all at once. According to the airline, the layoff will happen over the next 3 years.

If the process goes as planned, Kenya Airways expects to save KES 3.24 Bn. Though this is not the first time during this pandemic that KQ is letting of its employees, it could be necessary judging from how the grounding of flights and tight regulations on airspaces have affected African aviation.

Just last month (July), Kenya Airways was reported to have been in a rough HR situation as a result of the first phase of its rightsizing plans. KQ’s employees had endured months of receiving only 20 percent of their usual salaries. The company was, however, going ahead to lay them off after, giving birth to a employee conundrum that briefly shook the business.

So far, KQ has reportedly let of about 650 staff, most of which are trainee pilots, trainee cabin crews, technician trainees and newly hired employees that were on probation prior to the pandemic. Moreover, it plans to shed about 590 more in the second phase of the rightsizing procedure.

KQ Pilots

Pilots account for 10 percent of the workforce of Kenya Airways. Still, their salaries make up 45 percent of total payouts to the company’s employees. Based on the carrier’s wage bill for the year that ended December 2019, pilots took home KES 6.48 Bn of the firm’s annual remuneration.

“Based on our three-year projection, we will require 50 percent to 60 percent of pilots to efficiently support the reduced operations,” Mr Kilavuka said. Our target is to reduce the company’s overall total fixed costs, not just staff costs, by about 50 percent in response to our revenue projections.” KQ chief executive Allan Kilavuka told Business Daily.

In a plea letter sent to the Uhuru Kenyatta office by the Kenya Airline Pilots Association, they highlighted that the laying off would affect more than 4,000 families that rely on the carrier directly. The letter also pointed that it would also affected, indirectly, 620,000 others that depend on the country’s aviation sector.

Nevertheless, in early August, KQ said it had gotten the go-ahead from its board to carry out the layoffs. There is no trace of a public response from the Kenyan government from the issue and the loss-making airline seems quite forward with its downsizing plans.

Featured Image: Trust “Tru” Katsande Via Unsplash.

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