How Kenya Airways pilots are busy ‘eating’ away the airline’s future as they gobble up half of KQ’s payroll

Kenya Airways pilot Captain Irene Koki Mutungi. (Forbes Africa)
  • About half of Kenya Airways’ revenue is dished out to its pilots, who form the minority of the workforce, as fat salaries.
  • At the end of 2017, the airline had 414 pilots, out of its overall workforce of 3,548.
  • Staff under the umbrella of the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU) who accounts for the bulk of the workforce at 65 percent took home an estimated 30.5 percent of KQ’s payroll.

Kenya’s struggling national carrier, Kenya Airways is being eaten to the bones despite its miserable state.

About half of Kenya Airways’ revenue is dished out to its pilots, who form the minority of the workforce, as fat salaries.

According to an official document by the national carrier, it showed that although pilots accounted for just 13 per cent of the airline’s total workforce, they took home the equivalent of 45 per cent of the overall payout to employees.

Staff under the umbrella of the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU) who accounts for the bulk of the workforce at 65 percent took home an estimated 30.5 percent of KQ’s payroll.

Going by KQ’s latest financial report for the nine months to December 2017, pilots were paid a combined Sh4.25 billion from the airline’s Sh9.45 billion wage bill for the period while the KAWU staff took home Sh2.89 billion.

At the end of 2017, the airline had 414 pilots, out of its overall workforce of 3,548.

Kenya Airways CEO Sebastian Mikosz last week told the parliamentary committee that senior KQ staff in the rank of captain earned an average monthly salary of Sh1.6 million ($160 000), double what Africa’s most profitable airline, Ethiopia Airlines, pays its pilots monthly.

Managers at the airline on the other hand who account for 22 percent of the workforce drew compensation equivalent of 22 per cent of the payroll.

Expatriates represented 0.3 percent of the airlines workforce and pocket 2.6 percent of its payroll. The management took home Sh2.08 billion in salaries while expatriate staff received Sh245 million.

Despite the airline flying from one loss to another, wage has been one of the main agendas of protest for employees of the carrier in the past five years.

KQ’s past five years have been marred with industrial actions, some resulting in flight disruptions and others paralysing services on some routes.

The airline has also been involved in protracted labour disputes with its pilots and has also suffered from poaching of talent by wealthy Middle East carriers that can afford to pay higher wages.

Technicians, engineers and other Kawu members have also downed their tools multiple times over salary disputes.

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