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‘Back to Work’ Kenya Airways Pilots - Court

Kenya Airways pilots attend a court session after the association's management was summoned for contempt of a court order declaring as illegal the ongoing strike of Kenya Airways pilots, November 8, 2022. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

A Nairobi court has ordered striking Kenya Airways pilots to return to work by Wednesday morning, a breakthrough for the beleaguered carrier after the days-long walkout forced flight cancellations and left thousands of passengers stranded.

Justice Anna Mwaure on Tuesday ordered "the Kenya Airways pilots to resume their duties as pilots by 6:00 am on 9th November 2022 unconditionally."

Mwaure said the court would now consider the issue and ordered the airline's management to allow the pilots "to perform their duties without harassing them or intimidating them and especially by not taking any disciplinary action against any of them."

There was no immediate response from the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) to the court order, which was welcomed by the airline's management who vowed to intensify efforts to "recover the time, money and reputation lost".

In a statement released Tuesday evening, the airline's CEO Allan Kilavuka said the carrier was committed to "complying with the Court's directions."

Mwaure had summoned KALPA officials to appear in court on Tuesday for disobeying last week's injunction against the strike.

The carrier on Monday announced that it was ending its recognition of the union and withdrawing from their collective bargaining deal, accusing KALPA of "exposing the airline to irreparable damage."

The KALPA launched the strike at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Saturday, defying a court order issued last week against the industrial action.

The walkout has exacerbated the woes facing the troubled national carrier, which has been running losses for years, despite the government pumping in millions of dollars to keep it afloat.

The carrier had earlier said that the strike had forced it to cancel most of its flights, but Kilavuka vowed that the airline would "do everything possible to return to normalcy in the shortest time."

The dispute has added to the challenges facing Kenya's recently elected government, with Transport Minister Kipchumba Murkomen on Sunday threatening the pilots with disciplinary action unless they returned to work.

Kenya Airways, which is part owned by the government as well as Air France-KLM, is one of the biggest in Africa, connecting multiple countries to Europe and Asia.