Kenya Airways suspends flights to DRC over continued detention of its staff

By Wycliffe Nyamasege
On 29 April 2024 at 02:27

Kenya Airways (KQ) has suspended its flights to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) citing the continued detention of its two employees by the Military Intelligence Unit in Kinshasa.

In a statement on Monday, April 29, KQ Managing Director and CEO Allan Kilavuka said the arrest of the two staffers had affected the Kenyan national carrier’s operations, making it unable to support flights to Kinshasa, the capital of DRC.

The suspension will take effect on Tuesday, April 30, 2024.

“The continued detention of our employees has made it difficult for us to supervise our operations in Kinshasa, which include customer service, ground handling, cargo activities, and generally ensuring safe, secure, and efficient operations,” Kilavuka stated.

He also demanded that the detained staff be “treated humanely and respectfully during this unlawful detention.”

KQ had earlier announced that the affected members of staff were arrested at the airline’s airport office in Kinshasa on April 12, 2024, over missing customs documentation on valuable cargo that was to be transported on a KQ flight.

Kilavuka lamented that attempts to secure the release of the staffers had proved futile due to the continued disregard of court orders by the local authorities.

The CEO said on Monday that the airline will continue to cooperate with authorities in DRC and Kenya to ensure the matter is resolved.

“We ask that the Military court’s direction that they be released to allow due process to be respected so that our innocent staff can return to their families and everyday lives without harassment,” the CEO said on Monday, further apologizing to customers whose flights have been affected.

KQ denies any wrongdoing

KQ, while protesting the arrest and detention of the employees last Friday, denied any wrongdoing, insisting that the cargo under question had not cleared the cargo to be airlifted.

“The cargo was not on the airside for transportation and, therefore, not in the possession of KQ as the logistic handler was still completing documentation before handing it over to KQ. This cargo was still in the baggage section undergoing clearance when the security team arrived and alleged that KQ was transporting cargo without customs clearance.

“All efforts to explain to the military officers that KQ had not accepted the cargo because of incomplete documentation proved futile,” Kilavuka lamented.

The CEO maintained that Kenya Airways adheres to international best practices in handling and transporting cargo.

“We have stringent processes and compliance checks known as ’Ready for carriage’ to ensure any cargo ferried on our flights meets all the statutory requirements across our destinations. All our logistics partners must comply with these measures before KQ accepts any cargo,” he added.