Kenya Airways Shifts Focus To Cargo

The last few weeks have seen some unprecedented twists and turns of the fortune of many airlines. Under tremendous financial strain, some commercial airlines have switched from carrying passengers to cargo. Last Thursday, Kenya Airways carried 40 tons of fresh fruit and vegetables to London in a converted Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Kenya Airways converts 787 for cargo
Kenya Airways has converted a 787 for cargo operations. Photo: John Taggart via Flickr

40 tons of fruit and veg to London

In a bid to ensure its survival amidst travel bans and passenger demand decline, Kenya Airways has converted four of its widebody airplanes to cargo aircraft. The airline’s CEO Allan Kilavuka said in a statement to Kenyan Wall Street that the company is also looking into converting some of its narrowbody aircraft for shorter missions across the African continent.

Last Thursday, one of the Nairobi-based airline’s Dreamliners took off for London, UK, with over 40 tons of vegetables and other horticulture products for export. On the way back, it reportedly carried pharmaceuticals, mining equipment, packaging materials for flowers, and courier items.


Kenya Airways crew are subject to Kenya’s strict quarantine rules. Photo: Kenya Airways

Staff shortages due to quarantine

It isn’t as if the airline is lacking in know-how. KQCargo, Kenya Airways’ airfreight and courier service, is Africa’s leading airfreight carrier. But the subsidiary is also not without its share of corona-related problems. KQCargo has been forced to ground some of its cargo planes due to staff shortages, as crew members remain in mandatory quarantine. This is costing the carrier tens of millions of shilling in occupancy bills.

On Monday, it was reported that Kenya Airways is seeking exemption from Kenya’s strict quarantine rules, which it said were frightening its staff. The airline is awaiting approval from the Kenyan Ministry of Transport for a new guideline protocol that would make sure its staff are exempt.

“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,” CEO Kilavuka said in an interview, according to the Daily Nation.

Some of the measures include checks on the crew before and after leaving the country, use of full-body protective equipment, thorough disinfection of other gear, and controlled movement while in foreign countries

Kenya Airways
Kenya Airways cargo branch is facing staff shortages due to quarantine rules. Photo: Getty

Kenya’s quarantine centers

Kenya’s quarantine rules state that people arriving from countries that have coronavirus cases, or those who have been in contact with a coronavirus patient, must quarantine for 14 days. But it is not self-isolation at home. Instead, as reported by the BBC, people are forced to quarantine in special centers, with living conditions some say not far above those of prisons.

Should anyone at the center turn out to be infected, the quarantine period is extended for everyone residing there at the time. Thankfully, quarantined Kenya Airways and KQCargo crew are allowed to stay in hotels upon their return back home. But let’s hope the new guideline protocols are approved quickly anyway.

Do you think it is a smart move for airlines to be converting so many of their passenger planes? Will it be enough? Let us know in the comments.