How Kenya Airways Mistreats its Employees and Endanger the Life of Passengers

Kenya Airways seems to be in deeper problems from than we know of. With the many complains of passenger mistreatment and theft of stuff from luggage of the same. Travelling on KQ three times, I have had my luggage broken into and the airline has repeatedly claimed in the instances that they don’t pay more than $15 for luggage breakage, the cost of the loss notwithstanding.

But again let us deal with the facts at hand. KQ is the Kenyan people’s airline (National Carrier) which should market Kenyan culture and virtues just like SA, BA, Delta, Ethiopian Air and others are doing to their nations.  The most unfortunate scenario is that KQ has recently been employing pilots and Cabin Crew from Hong Kong, Thailand, Cameroon, Nigeria and other areas. Some routes like those to countries like Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Thailand have no single Kenyan or even when there is, Kenyan crews are just left to doing menial work on the airline and not any which might be of great benefit to Kenya’s tourism quest.

The routes like Bangkok to Gwanzu which KQ operates on have now exclusive Thai crew with no single Kenyan as pilots or in-flight attendants. How does that sit with KQ being a national carrier as well as the Pride of Africa? Again how does these moves sit with the airline’s move to cost cut? How affordable are the expatriate workers?

Whenever you board British Airways, Ethiopian Air, Air France, Royal Dutch Airline and other national airline, you will realise that the national language is spoken first as pride and a way of identity then the other languages can come in. How do the Thai, Chinese and West African crews promoting this?

Safety is one major issue on airlines all over the world, and each and every airline has put in measures to make flying safe by training their crew and only giving positions after years of experience etc. In Kenya Airways that has been watered down. Certain positions for the Thai crew have been deliberately lowered to enable them attain these positions. e.g Purser

None of the foreign national airlines including British Airways, KLM, SAA have ever employed Kenyan or foreign crews to take over routes in Africa or elsewhere. Why are we employing foreign crew and leaving our aircrafts behind for them to run in the foreign countries while Kenyans are being shipped back to the country?

The employment of Thai and West African crew is totally meaningless and serves no purpose according to aviation experts except that it is a move meant to deny young Kenyans the same jobs because KQ is not ready to better terms and the fear that Kenyans are bold in demanding their labour rights is scaring the airline. KQ has of late also started employing crews from India, and Rwanda.

The Rwandese speak very broken and poor Swahili and French which there are enough Kenyans who can even speak better. If KQ wants Indians, we have enough Kenyan Indians which they have refused to employ. Why? Because KQ does not want to honour workers rights. Why are we exporting jobs while we have very intelligent young Kenyans willing to work.

Again to join KQ as a Cabin Crew, you need to fork out over $3,500 (Ksh 300,000) as training fees at KQ Pride Centre training facility while employment is NEVER guaranteed. Foreigners joining KQ need to pay this and not much care is taken on the weight of their qualification with many instances the airline going for the bare minimum. How does this sit with the Kenya labour laws? Who will save Kenyans here?

About 10 months ago, KQ started a new suspect program where it took-up a group of in-flight attendants it famously calls “interns”. You would see them on routes wearing black skirts or trousers with very colourful tops. This group of workers have been enduring a lot of mistreatment from Kenya Airways. They are working in the most inhumane condition.

This group were meant to serve the local routes and so even the dressing (uniform) conformed to the not so extreme local routes like Kisumu and Mombasa which KQ serves. Now KQ has been sending the interns to stations like Johannesburg and Paris without taking into considerations what the Kenyans are going through. They are never provided with sweaters and trench-coats like the permanent employees at the same time they are never allowed to put-on something which is not part of the official uniform. Why must we treat workers like this? KQ you are going to kill Kenyans with very funny ailments which they are going to spend lots of money treating.

As per the attached contracts, KQ employs this group called “interns” on a salary of Ksh 45,000 gross which comes to Ksh 37,000 after taxation. For a Kenyan working locally or even a flight attendant on local routes, this can be almost enough. But for someone flying outside the country and sometimes in extreme winter conditions with long flights over the oceans, this is too little and dangerous. Now this have forced most of the so called interns to live in areas like Embakassi pipeline where looking your best is just a big challenge considering the conditions they work in. You will find some creative group of the interns now living in places like Dandora while others are finding it easy to deal drugs, peddle flesh with senior employees or passengers not taking into consideration the safety and health challenges which comes with this.

It is now very common to find KQ crews and in-flight attendants who live on shady apartments on top of bars, dingy corridors and other funny areas simply because of what the airline is remunerating them. With a Ksh 37,000 salary, what kind of accommodation will you be able to afford with that? Again FYI, KQ expect this group of interns to always look better than the permanent in-flight attendants.

BREAKING NEWS!! The internship ended and if you have read newspapers today, KQ is making a move. Let me tell you what happened which KQ did not tell journalists and we have enough lazy journalists to dig for facts and talk to the affected crews.

Here is the story, when the internship ended last week and KQ started hearing of the murmurs and some very loud complaints from the affected “interns”, they were immediately pulled off flights and asked to gather at the KQ training centre for a meeting. At the meeting, they were categorically warned of speaking to anyone but even with the internship ending, the airline was not about to let them go so they were still going to be engaged but through a different arrangement.

They were informed of a company called  that is when they were told that an outsourced company called CAREER DIRECTIONS LTD is going to take charge. First it is not clear how KQ arrived at Career Directions owned by Lucy Mmari as the contractor. This is one of the most suspect moves including the very much talked about fact that KQ CEO, Titus Naikuni, does not own a single share in the national carrier.

Again, whether KQ decides to outsource a HR company or decides to do the hiring on their own is not a problem but the same interns now working for CareerDirections LTD and seconded to KQ are working under the same salary they were on during probations and internship.

If I may go into details:

Right now they are nolonger interns but employees, doing exactly the same jobs as the other Kenya Airways crew employed directly. They are going to the same destination as them but the terms and conditions do not just match this level of engagement. It has not changed. Kenya Airways crew employed directly take home around Ksh 120,000 net salary.

The workers earn a further $90 in allowances. The $90 is paid to them weather they go out-station or not nor even without care whether they need the house allowance. The now ex-interns are still maintained on the Ksh 37,000 net salary through Career Directions with $50 allowance paid to them only for achieved nights out of their usual assignments. So if KQ flies you to Paris or Thailand and let you handover to the Thai crew and you come back with a different flight coming back to Nairobi, you will not get this allowance but you have worked beyond your usual assignment.

With the amount, you will need to pay rent, look well groomed (make up, stockings etc and they are not cheap) and support families if married. The contract offers medical cover which does not cater for the married with the airline being categorical that the workers need to top up for family members.

When you are working in a very odd environment like 37,000 – 40,000 feet above sea-level, you get exposed to various health conditions (pneumonia, chest problems, acute flu etc) which might just not be easy to treat. The contract which the employees have signed through Career Directions clearly state that one can only have 7 sick leave days annually. After that, you will only be paid half of your salary. So you get pneumonia and KQ expect you to treat it within 7 days failure to which you are immediately put on half-pay. Treating such diseases can never be done in hours. Again when you have flu, flying can ruin your ear drum since the chambers are highly compressed. This shoddy contractual clause might be a result of Career Directions not being remotely aware of the dangers of flying.

How does KQ expect the workers to behave well, be productive and the airline to grow when they are treated the same whether in probation, internship or actual employment? Talking to some of the in-flight attendants, you realise that most of them traffic drugs, peddle sex and misbehave just because of these working conditions. With that kind of money, what will make the attendants be vigilant and stop contrabands from being sneaked in to the airline? Have we not heard of situations where in-flight attendants helped hijackers take over airlines? What stops the KQ workers from doing so?

With all these facts, you will realise that Kenya Airways is becoming a dangerous airline to fly on. Now the In this case KQ is a major security threat to Kenyans and the rest of the world. Look into crash investigation, there are planes that have been brought down because of disgruntled employees. There is no way one can put cabin crew of different organisations different terms and expect proper team work without jealousy and complaints.

Wake up KQ!!

Find the latest contract here

Written by Robert

Respected Kenyan blogger, tech evangelist, and social justice activist. Robert is known for his hard-hitting articles and opinions disseminated through his Twitter handle @RobertAlai or Facebook page (

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