Spare part shortage blights KQ’s Christmas windfall

Kenya Airways

A Kenya Airways plane at the Kenya Airways headquarters in Nairobi on June 13, 2023.

Photo credit: Boniface Bogita | Nation Media Group

Kenya Airways could miss out on a windfall that traditionally comes with increased travel demand during the Christmas festivities after it announced possible disruptions of operations due to a shortage of aircraft spare parts due to global supply chain challenges.

KQ, as the airline is known by its international code, said the supply hitches are leading to extended ground time for aircraft maintenance, warning that the situation could lead to the complete grounding of one or more planes as the carrier moves to ring-fence safety and reliability of operations.

“Our current flight schedule may experience disruptions in the coming weeks mainly due to challenges in the aircraft spare parts global supply chain. These challenges are leading to an extended ground time of our aircraft for maintenance,” said the airline’s CEO Allan Kilavuka in a Friday notice to travellers.

“We kindly ask you to check updates on any changes to your flight schedule by checking on our website, contacting our Customer Excellency Centre (CEC) or on our mobile app. We anticipate that these circumstances may persist for approximately two weeks, and we want to thank you in advance for your understanding and patience during this time.”

The interruption of KQ’s operations comes at a time when rival carriers are gearing up for the revenue boom customarily associated with proliferated travel that comes during the Christmas season.

As of last month, prices for early bookings between December 20 and 25 of domestic flight tickets had almost doubled with some routes fully booked weeks before the festivities kicked in.

Travellers flying to Malindi from Nairobi starting December 21 on Jambojet were, for example, paying Sh19,400 on a one-way air ticket, up from about Sh9,200 during normal travel days, while fares for the same route on Skyward Express had surged to Sh19,240 up from a normal average of Sh8,880.

KQ, whose indebtedness stood at Sh196.4 billion as of September 31, 2023, was set to reap from the annual season’s surplus as it seeks to reverse the years-long loss-making trend.

Appearing before the National Assembly’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee in October, Mr Kilavuka heaped blame on limited support from the government as well as the depreciation of the local currency for the debt woes encumbering the airline.

At the time, the CEO said that KQ had no alternative but to source for a strategic investor.