Kenya Airways Flights Disrupted as Pilots Union Goes on Strike

Kenya Airways was forced to cancel 10 flights and delay others as the airline’s unionized pilots went on strike Thursday demanding the resignation of Chief Executive Mbuvi Ngunze.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest carrier plans to cut 600 jobs in May and has shrunk its fleet by almost a third to help reverse a 25.7 billion-shilling ($253 million) annual loss it reported in July. The measures are part of a reorganization plan developed by McKinsey & Co. 

Members of the Kenya Airline Pilots Association defied Thursday a court order outlawing their strike and rejected an agreement signed by union officials and the airline putting the strike off by a month.

“We are currently experiencing delays and cancellation of ten flights to various destinations in our network and we are advising our guests on the mitigating measures,” the carrier said in an e-mailed statement.

Uniformed pilots gathered at their union’s headquarters from early Thursday morning despite efforts to avert the strike by the airline’s management and government officials. The company’s shares are down 18 percent this year.

Kenya Airways operates a fleet of 36 aircraft and flies 4 million passengers a year to 53 destinations worldwide, 10 of them outside Africa, according to a statement by the company last week.

The carrier could use the strike to let go of some pilots, Eric Musau, a research analyst at Standard Investment Bank, said by phone.

“Unless nipped in the bud quickly, we could see serious franchise erosion, very soon,” Aly-Khan Satchu, chief executive officer of Rich Management, a Nairobi-based adviser to companies and wealthy individuals, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

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