Kenya's airport strike leaves thousands stranded

Kenya Airways flights were disrupted on Saturday as a strike by its pilots demanding better working conditions grounded over a dozen planes, affecting thousands of passengers, the country’s transport minister said.

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 Kenya Airlines Pilots Association (KALPA) said that no Kenya Airways flight flown by its members had departed Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport starting from 6:00 am (0300 GMT) on Saturday.
“The strike is fully in force,” KALPA union secretary general Murithi Nyagah said in a statement released on Saturday.

The pilots announced the strike in defiance of a court order against the industrial action and have given no indication of how long it will last.

Kenya’s newly appointed Transport Minister Kipchumba Murkomen told reporters at the airport on Saturday that the strike was unwarranted and “akin to economic sabotage”.

He said around 10,000 passengers had been affected by the strike, which had led to the grounding of 15 planes.
“I am not saying their concerns are not valid,” he said, but added that their actions were drastic as he appealed to the “goodwill of the pilots to terminate the strike.”
Kenya Airways on Saturday reported high call volumes at its service centre due to the “ongoing unlawful industrial action”, urging customers to only contact the airline if they were travelling in the next 48 hours.

The pilots, who have had a particularly fraught relationship with management, are pressing for the reinstatement of contributions to a provident fund.

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