National carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) is set to cut flights on a number of its routes due to a shortage of pilots in a move which could result into a bitter brawl between the airline and the pilot's union.
The airline's director of operations Paul Njoroge in a letter addressed to the Kenya Airlines Pilot Association (KALP) secretary-general and Chief executive Murithi Nyagah said the recruitment process to hire the pilots has started and is set to be completed in the next few days.
The airline, which has been losing Ksh5.18 billion ($50 million) annually as a result of the shortage of pilots has been operating with 435 pilots while its flight frequencies requires 497.
"The current number of pilots based on our fleets is 435 against a requirement of 497 pilots thus giving a deficit of 62 pilots. 44 of these pilots are undergoing training due to the current ongoing promotion policy.
"This system is ineffective and archaic, and it does contribute to the current shortages as on average nearly 10 per cent of pilots are always on training thusmaking the total current shortage to be 106 pilots.
"In order to bridge the pilot's deficit, the airline has also announced plans to recruit 20 contracts captains on the Boeing 737 in compliance with the CBA provisions for a period of two years," said cap Njoroge in the letter dated September 9, 2019.
Under the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the airline and the pilot's union, pilots can be absent for up to 48 hours producing any medical evidence.
The agreement also limits KQ management from hiring more pilots and flight crew, which has forced it to operate with limited staff.
KQ is said to have delayed 40 per cent of the flights in the first seven months of 2019.
The cancelled flights cost the airline Ksh118 million ($1.1 million). The cancelled flights were 52 in the first 18 days of August alone.
"This situation has resulted into the airline losing colossal amounts of money not to mention customer's goodwill. KQ management does not understand why good faith has been taken for granted and abuse," says Mr Njoroge in the letter.