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Are air traffic controllers on a “go-slow”?

A union has claimed that air traffic controllers in Kenya are on a go-slow, saying that flights will be delayed until their grievances are addressed.

The control tower at JKIA.

The control tower at JKIA.

“Airlines should expect serious delays during this time,” reads a statement by the Kenya Air Traffic Controllers Union. The statement was circulated via social media.

The union says air traffic controllers are demoralized because their employer, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), has neglected them. “Majority of us are no longer very interested in our work,” says the union, “the concentration that is required in the ATC job is no longer there.”

Reports of flights being unnecessarily delayed at JKIA emerged last weekend. By Tuesday morning, the go-slow had extended to Nairobi’s Wilson Airport.

KCAA has however denied that air traffic controllers are on a go-slow. A KCAA spokesperson told us that last weekend’s delays were caused by airspace restrictions as various heads of state visited Kenya for Jamhuri Day celebrations. In addition, airspace over Nairobi was closed for the Jamhuri Day flypast on Friday.

“The delays we are experiencing at the airports are due to congestion,” says Mutia Mwandikwa, KCAA Corporate Communications Manager.

In the message sent via social media, a section of air traffic controllers say they are unhappy because allowances previously negotiated with KCAA have not been forthcoming. Air traffic controllers have not been promoted as expected and their role in air traffic management is yet to be given the recognition it deserves.

This is not the first time that Kenya’s air traffic controllers have embarked on industrial action. Over the past several years, there have been several go-slows following disputes over pay and working conditions.

The go-slows cost airlines thousands of dollars as pilots burn fuel at the airport while awaiting clearance.

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