Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) No-Confidence Statement on Kenya Airways Management over Hiring of Foreign Crew and Retrenchment


As has widely been reported, Kenya Airways has retrenched/declared redundant about 600 of its’ employees in its’ staff rationalization program. KALPA takes great exception to the inhumane manner in which it was conducted.

It is instructive to note that Kenya Airways is in the process of hiring flight attendants from India, Rwanda and Ghana in addition to the existing foreign crew from Ghana, Cameroon and Thailand, who have ‘The Pride of Africa’ to thank for creating employment in their respective countries. KALPA takes great exception to this and would like to seek the intervention of the concerned Government offices particularly
the Ministry of Immigration, who issue work permits, and the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), who issue the foreign licences, to stem the exportation of Kenyan jobs. 

This is happening in a country that has abnormally high unemployment rates, and is struggling to keep the pace in achieving vision 2030. Annual reports indicate that jobs creation still falls way below target if the Vision is to be achieved. It is appalling that this issuance of documents to non-Kenyan nationals is happening while Kenya Airways retrenches the same cadre of workers. Kenyans who have for more than a decade given sacrifice after sacrifice trying to help achieve Kenya Airways’ vision, ‘To consistently be a safe and profitable airline that guarantees World Class service: The Pride of Africa’. This exercise has also seen the targeting of young families.
To quote some of the reasons given for this exercise, it doesn’t take much to see where the real problem lies. ‘...downturn in passenger volumes occasioning sharp shortfalls in expected revenue streams...increasingly competitive environment... direct operating costs being very high, employee costs and other overheads continued to rise disproportionately to rise in revenues..’ If indeed Kenya Airways is in such a precarious position, how did it get there? 

We as pilots are deeply concerned about the future of our national carrier and will not stand by and watch as it sinks whether due to intentional mismanagement or negligence. We do not believe that the same Management and Executives that have steered our airline to this position are the ones best qualified to lead us out, and for good reasons.
1. Kenya Airways is at a loss on how to fend off increased competition through misadvised decision-making and knee-jerk reactions to situations as they develop. Once the airline with the youngest fleet in Africa, Kenya Airways now plays second fiddle to our competitor, and it will take a lot more than luck to keep up in this hostile environment. Our competitor Airline is now the first African carrier to operate the Dreamliner. Kenya Airways was to be the launch customer in Africa, but lost its chance years ago as management continuously fixates itself fighting employees. 

By the end of this year our competitor will have 5 Dreamliners, and by the time Kenya Airways acquires its first one, our competitor will have all 10 of theirs. Their fleet also boasts of 5 brand new Boeing 777-200LRs compared to the 4 Boeing 777s Kenya Airways has had since 2004. Between 2004 and now
management has been busy acquiring vintage Boeing 767s in a view to save money. This shortsighted thinking has put the airline in the position it is in now, and it is clear for all to see that the chickens have come home to roost.
2. Once again regarding aircraft acquisition, Kenya Airways is in the process of receiving several Embraer aircraft. However, KALPA is concerned with the apparently large numbers of aircraft on order vis a vis our route structure and passenger profile and has communicated the same to Management. 

The pilots, having looked at some of the planned routes for this aircraft have since raised fears that this will exacerbate an already serious problem of misconnecting passengers’ baggage and cargo. While the Embraer is a pretty ‘bird’ it is unable to operate out of high altitude JKIA with substantial payload, even for the routes it is planned for. Is the Embraer the aircraft of choice in an environment littered with Dreamliners and Airbus A380s?
3. Kenya Airways is once again considering setting up a low-cost subsidiary that would operate on domestic and regional routes, by the name Jambo Jet. Other than a name change, KALPA does not feel that management has any viable plan. 

Aircraft that operate on this business model often operate with minimum set of optional equipment, further reducing costs of acquisition and maintenance, as well as keeping the weight of the aircraft lower and saving fuel. Often, no in-flight entertainment systems are made available and some airlines even use only nonreclining seats. For example EasyJet’s aircraft cabins are configured in a single class, high-density layout. The airline’s main fleet, comprising Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft, carry up to 156 and 180 passengers respectively, depending on layout. A typical A319 carries 140 passengers in a single class configuration. FastJet (as Fly 540 is soon to be known) will be operating these same A319s.
Kenya Airways plans to compete with its newly acquired Embraer 190s. These aircraft, other than having leather seats, have full touch-screen on demand entertainment systems for each passenger and are configured in two classes, business and economy carrying a total of 96 passengers with 12 in business class. Is Jambo Jet really going to be able to compete with other low cost carriers with this equipment? Again, according to KQ management, Jambo is supposed to operate all flights falling under 4 hours flight time duration. Out of 56 destinations that Kenya Airways operates currently, about 80 percent are destinations within the Africa region of which about 93 percent fall within the 4 hour flight time range. Are we seeing the killing off of Kenya Airways for the birth of Jambo Jet?
4. The main reason given for the problems bedeviling Kenya Airways is employee costs. A casual look at the financial results for the year ending March 2012 will reveal that there was a rise of a mere 2.2 billion in employee costs, while there was a staggering rise of almost 24 billion in Direct operating costs. While most
of this was attributed to fuel costs at 40.7 billion, there is still another 36.5 billion that is not accounted for. Is the cost of delayed flights and hotel accommodations included here? Is the cost of misconnected baggage included here? Is the cost of cancelled flights included here? According to European Union regulations (EU
Regulation 261/2004) passengers can get up to €600 as compensation for flight delays. That amounts to Ksh. 20 million per delayed/cancelled flight. The point here is, if management dedicated half the effort towards addressing this cost as it does towards employees costs, Kenya Airways might just get on the right path.
5. Kenya Airways corporate culture leaves a lot to be desired. Whatever the industry, the best companies have at least one element in common: a highly motivated, enthusiastic workforce that delivers exceptional service day after day. Most successful airlines have demonstrated the value of fully engaging every employee. Kenya Airways is bedeviled with employees that have low morale, and are constantly looking over their shoulder to avoid losing their jobs. Engineers in particular have been frustrated to the point that they are constantly looking for jobs with middle eastern carriers. Delays caused by technical problems can attest to this. When it comes to flight attendants, management has decided to outsource this essential service, a practice that stands in diametric opposition to good corporate culture. It is still a mystery where Career Directions Ltd sprouted from.
While Kenya Airways is a private company listed in the stock exchange, it still is a Kenyan company and as such must comply with the laws of the land. KALPAs message here is two fold. The work permits and crew certificates issued to foreigners have directly led to the retrenchment of Kenyans who have performed the same tasks for the last 20 years. We call upon the Government of Kenya to act within the democratic framework of this republic and hence ensure that its actions protect, and do not in any manner undermine, the livelihood of the working people of this country who constitute the republics vast majority. 

Secondly, Kenya Airways pilots remain dedicated to the success of our national carrier and are always at the frontline in ensuring the airline lives up to its vision. We have grown wary of a management that does not seem to have the national carriers interests at heart, and we, as all other employees, stand the most to lose if Kenya Airways does not survive. 

KALPA would like to state that we no longer have confidence in management’s ability to successfully restructure the company.
For and on behalf of KALPA
Capt Ronald Karauri
General Secretary & CEO
22nd September 2012

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