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Kenya Airways resumes international flights after the virus is lifted

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya Airways (KQNA.NR) resumed international flights on Saturday, going to about 30 destinations for the first time since routes were suspended in March due to the coronavirus.

Kenya Airways planes are seen through a window as Jomo Kenyatta International Airport reopens after flights were suspended following the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Nairobi, Kenya on August 1, 2020. REUTERS / Man Mwangi

The carrier, in which Air France KLM (AIRF.PA) holds a small share, resumed domestic flights in mid-July after the government cleared local air travel.

“We announced that we were starting with 27 destinations, we increased it to 30 immediately after the request,” said Allan Kilavuka, the airline’s chief executive, during a ceremony before seeing a flight to London.

He said for the rest of the year, the airline expected demand to remain below 50% of capacity, but that would increase flight frequencies depending on demand.

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

The COVID-19 pandemic has depressed the global aviation industry, with African carriers only expected to lose $ 6 billion in revenue this year.

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

Kilavuka said that so far the company had laid off about 650 people, mostly trainee pilots, trainee cabin crew, technical trainers and newly hired trial staff.

“What I have to stress why is not because we want to do it. Those employees have not done anything wrong. They are very good employees. It ‘s just that we can not allow them to keep them,” he said.

The airline was struggling long before the coronavirus outbreak, posting losses in 2019 of nearly 13 billion shillings ($ 120 million).

Last month the Nairobi Stock Exchange suspended the trading of Kenya Airways shares for three months, citing the government’s plan to restructure the carrier after it introduced a bill to nationalize the airline in parliament.

Reporting by George Obulutsa; edited by Elias Biryabarema and Giles Elgood

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