Home » Michael Joseph-led Kenya Airways suspends London route ticket sales amid UK travel chaos

Michael Joseph-led Kenya Airways suspends London route ticket sales amid UK travel chaos

by Yusuf Abdulfatai

Kenya Airways (KQ), a leading African airline led by South African-born Kenyan businessman Michael Joseph, has suspended ticket sales from London to Nairobi, citing travel chaos pressure from London’s Heathrow Airport, the United Kingdom’s largest aviation hub.

KQ Managing Director Allan Kilavuka stated that the airline will not accept new bookings until the ban is lifted, but will fly passengers who have already made prior reservations.

“They have asked us to close new sales from London, which means we should only fly the tickets already sold up to now,” he said in response to questions from Business Daily.

KQ’s move comes nearly five days after Heathrow airport authorities demanded that airlines stop selling summer travel tickets after imposing a cap of 100,000 passengers per day departing the airport as part of the move to reduce long lines, cancellations, and baggage retrieval delays.

To combat airport inconvenience even further, the UK has launched the “Aviation Passenger Charter” to help passengers understand their rights if they encounter problems at airports, as well as to prevent long lines and other travel chaos caused by staff shortages and industry disruptions.

While KQ complied with the authorities’ directive, aviation juggernauts such as Etihad Airways and Emirates, Dubai’s flagship airline, have yet to comply, calling Heathrow’s decision “unacceptable,” and accusing its management of “blatant disregard for customers.”

The recent development has the potential to significantly impact KQ’s third-quarter financial performance, as the summer season in Kenya, which runs from July to August, is typically high in terms of international tourist bookings.

This disruption will increase the board’s and management’s pressure to turn a profit by the end of the fiscal year in 2022 after suffering significant losses in 2020 and 2021.

In 2021, the aviation group reported a net loss of Ksh15.8 billion ($133.6 million) under the leadership of Joseph, who has been at the helm of the airline since 2016.

This is significantly lower than the group’s net loss of Ksh36.2 billion ($306.1 million) in 2020, when it faced major disruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on its operating environment, with travel restrictions reducing earnings power.

Last week, the South African-born Kenyan businessman was offered a third three-year term as chairman of KQ, extending his tenure as the group’s chairman until March 2025. This will bring his total tenure at the company’s helm to more than nine years.

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