National carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) has announced plans to lay off 207 of its 414 pilots in a bid to trim its operational costs and cushion the airline against the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the airline, the pilots, who make up 10 percent of its workforce, account for nearly half of its payroll costs, and relieving them of duty will save the national carrier approximately Ksh. 3.24 billion.
On average a KQ pilot earns approximately Ksh. 1.3 million. When combined, the 401 pilots take home an estimated Ksh. 6.48 billion which is 45 percent of the airline’s overall payout to staff.
“Based on our three-year projection, we will require 50 percent to 60 percent of pilots to efficiently support the reduced operations. 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 said in a statement.
“We are reducing our network, our assets, and our people. The reduction will not be like for like, meaning that the shrinkage will not be uniform across the three areas. We are doing this because we will not be able to afford to run the current size of operations based on the anticipated revenue,” the KQ CEO added.
The announcement is in line with the airline’s planned restructuring exercise to trim its operational costs which commenced last month. The first phase of the restructuring exercise, which is targeting at least 1500 employees, saw the airline let go of 700 staff members made up of pilots, cabin crew members, and technical specialists.
It remains unclear how the airline, which is in the process of nationalization, plans to lay off workers with full benefits when it is struggling to pay salaries and this has led to objections from various bodies such as the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA), the Kenya Aviation Workers Union- KAWU and the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU).