Kenya Airways is grappling with operational disruptions as its pilots engage in a slow protest following the airline management’s rejection of a demand for a 100 percent salary increase, sources have revealed to Business Day Africa.

The airline’s crew has been calling in sick shortly before scheduled flights, causing significant disruptions to normal services.

When a pilot reports sick, the airline typically seeks a replacement. However, attempts to reach other pilots have been hampered as their phones are found switched off, resulting in extensive delays and flight disruptions.

For instance, the first officer for flight KQ102 to London on Friday called in hours before departure, citing illness, causing a delay in the aircraft’s scheduled departure.

“The pilots are demanding over 100 percent, contrary to our offer of 20 percent. They claim to be open to negotiations, but there has been no substantial progress,” commented a top manager at the airline.

The source said the pilots are using “these games of calling in sick” as a pawn to have their demand for a significant salary increment met by management.

Kenya Airways pilots constitute 10 percent of the airline’s total workforce but receive 45 percent of the overall employee pay.

The airline’s 2021 public compensation report revealed that pilots earned Ksh6.48 billion based on the annual wage bill.

On average, a Kenya Airways pilot costs the company Sh1.3 million a month, aligning with the salaries and allowances of top executives in state-owned firms like KenGen, Kenya-Re, and Kenya Power.

Last year, Kenya Airways faced a costly pilots’ strike, resulting in significant financial losses. The airline has been embroiled in prolonged legal battles with its pilots and has struggled with talent poaching by wealthier Middle East carriers, escalating a talent war and positioning Kenyan pilots among the country’s highest-paid professionals.