MIAMI – Kenya Airways (KO) resumed today its international flights. The carrier is set to fly to about 30 destinations since the routes were suspended due to COVID-19 in March.

The airline resumed domestic flights in mid-July after the government cleared local air travel. Air France KLM holds a small stake in KO.

“We announced we are starting with 27 destinations. We increased to 30 just following demand,” KO CEO Allan Kilavuka said during a ceremony ahead of seeing off a flight to London.

Kilavuka said the airline anticipated that demand would stay below 50 percent of capacity for the remainder of the year. The CEO added that the carrier would raise flight frequencies depending on demand.

“In fact 2020, we call it a lost year…at some point, we even see demand of 25% in some months. In some months we see 38%,” he later told Reuters.

Kenya Airways Boeing 737-300-3. Photo: Kenya Airways

Kenya airways Performance since 2014

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the global aviation sector, with African airlines alone expecting sales losses of US$6bn this year.

The airline has been performing poorly since 2014 and in 2019, Its losses amount to upwards of US$122m.

At a recent ‘Annual General Meeting, Kilavuka stated that KO did not have the full picture of how much it has lost. “But our estimates are since January to date we have probably lost in terms of revenue in excess of US$100m.”

Last month, the Nairobi Securities Exchange issued a three-month trading suspension of Kenya Airways shares, citing the government’s intention to restructure the carrier after a draft law on nationalizing the airline was submitted to Parliament. ($1 = 107.6500 shillings)

Kenya Airways Boeing 777-200er. Photo: Kenya Airways

Kenya Airways Staff Layoffs

With African carriers losing a predicted US$6bn as a result of the pandemic, it is safe to say Covid-19 has taken its toll on the continent.

In July, Kenya Airways said it would lay off an unspecified number of its workers, reduce its network and offload some assets due to the coronavirus crisis.

Today, Kilavuka said the company had laid off some 650 employees so far, mainly trainee pilots, cabin trainee crew, technician trainees and newly hired staff on probation.

“What I have to emphasise though is it’s not because we want to. Those employees have done nothing wrong. They are very good employees. It’s just that we cannot afford to keep them,” he said.