Kenya Airways is seeking State approval for a set of coronavirus rules meant for its staff that will see the carrier’s crew avoid being sent to mandatory quarantine once they return from overseas trips.
The protocol, which is a set of rules that outlines crew safety, is awaiting the approval of the Ministry of Transport.
This comes as KQ was forced to ground some of its cargo planes due to a shortage of flight staff as the national carrier’s 283 cabin crew remain in mandatory quarantine, costing the firm Sh80 million in occupancy bills.
Kenya Airways chief executive Allan Kilavuka said the issue of quarantine had instilled fear in employees when they see fellow colleagues being held after flying.
“The protocol that we have developed highlights how we shall ensure that our crew will follow strict guidelines that will protect them from contracting the disease. It shows how we are going to protect our members,” said Mr Kilavuka in an interview.
Some of the measures include checks on the crew before and after leaving the country, use of full body protective gears, thorough disinfection of the equipment and controlled movement while in foreign countries.
“When some of our staff see the way their colleagues are being treated, they fear to be handled in the same manner. That is why this protocol will be important by giving them assurance of not being handled in the same way,” he added.
Some local freight carriers such as Astral Aviation, which still flies to Europe, ensure that their crew do not leave the aircraft once they get to their destination to minimise chances of infection.
Mr Kilavuka said they are waiting approval by the Ministry of Transport as Kenya Airways prepares to go big on cargo business after the conversion of passenger planes to freight.
Kenya has confirmed 270 Covid-19 cases and a total of 14 deaths as at Sunday. One of the victims was a Kenya Airways pilot.
It is still not clear how many airline staff are among the confirmed cases. Initially, KQ had 400 cabin crew in mandatory quarantine.
The grounding of planes due to crew locked in mandatory quarantine is another blow for the airline in a period when Kenya has frozen international passenger travel in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic, leaving cargo as the only revenue driver.
Kenya Airways has slightly over 30 planes, mainly passenger aircraft.
The carrier is now betting on cargo shipment via the passenger planes, especially for long haul, amid a rise in demand for freight, notably to Europe.