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Kenya Airways pilots extend strike, passengers stranded

Kenya Airways pilots extended their strike into a second day Sunday, forcing further flight cancellations as the company warned of disciplinary action against anyone participating.

Thousands of passengers were stranded as a result of the strike by the Kenya Airline Pilots Association, which earlier said that no Kenya Airways flight flown by its members had departed Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport from 6:00 am (0300 GMT) onwards on Saturday.

The pilots announced the strike in defiance of a court order against industrial action and gave no indication of how long it would last.

On Saturday, the airline’s managing director and CEO, Allan Kilavuka, urged the protesting pilots, who make up 10 percent of the workforce, to return to work by 10:30 am on Sunday.

“Failure to do so will lead to immediate disciplinary action,” he warned.

The airline, part owned by the government and Air France-KLM, is one of the biggest in Africa, connecting multiple countries to Europe and Asia, but it is facing turbulent times, including years of losses.

The Kenya Aviation Workers Union subsequently announced that ground staff would also strike from 2:00 pm onwards on Saturday in a separate, long-running dispute with the Kenya Airports Authority over salary increases.

But the KAA insisted late Saturday that “staff have reported on duty and operations at all our airports are normal.”

Calls by AFP to KAWU representatives were not answered.

The pilots’ strike has thrown over 9,000 passengers’ plans into disarray, according to the airline, with travellers turning up to the Nairobi airport on Sunday, only to find out that their flights were cancelled.

“I came here at around 5:25 in the morning… but I have been informed that the flight has been cancelled,” passenger Erick Muhanda, who was due to travel to South Africa’s port city of Cape Town, told broadcaster Citizen TV.

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