Kenya Airways (KQ, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta) is planning to downsize its fleet to 30 aircraft, a move that may see more staff lay-offs as the flag carrier looks to cut costs, reports Kenya’s The Star newspaper.

This was in line with a recovery-and turnaround plan completed late last year for Kenya Airways by London-based consultants Steer Group, according to an unnamed well-placed source.

According to the source, Kenya Airways is considering reducing its fleet of B787-8s to five, and the number of its ERJ 190-100AR’s to ten.

However, chairman Michael Joseph said no decision had been made yet. “Nothing has been decided,’’ he told The Star.

Chief Executive Officer Allen Kilavuka was not immediately available for comment.

The airline currently operates a fleet of 36 aircraft, including fifteen E190s, as well as nine B787-8s (seven active), eight B737-800s, two B737-700s (inactive), and two B737-300(SF)s, according to ch-aviation fleets advanced data. Nineteen aircraft are leased from amongst others Aviation Capital Group, BOC Aviation, Cross Ocean Partners, DAE Capital, Deucalion Aviation, GECAS, Goshawk, Macquarie AirFinance, and Nordic Aviation Capital, the ch-aviation fleets advanced module shows.

As reported, this comes as the Kenyan government has scrapped privatisation plans for Kenya Airways and plans to inject another KES26.56 billion shillings (USD233.7 million) into the carrier and other parastatals under the terms of a supplementary budget estimate presented to Parliament.

The country's Treasury has already allocated KES53.4 billion (USD470 million) in direct budget support to Kenya Airways for the fiscal year ending June 2022. The government is to absorb KES92.5 billion (USD814 million) of the airline's accumulated debts up until end-2020. Kenya Airways has also engaged Seabury Consulting to help it restructure its debt.

Meanwhile, the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) and the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU) warned further lay-offs were not an option. "KQ must address corruption and system losses if it wants to remain competitive. Downsizing is not a solution to financial issues and growth," a KAWU spokesperson said.

A recovery plan dubbed the "Kenya Aviation Recovery Road Map " prepared by the lobby group last year calls for the diversification of Kenya Airways' business model through the establishment of secondary hubs, rapid expansion of profitable routes, replacing some of the E190s with larger aircraft such as B737-800s or Airbus A320 Family aircraft, and combination passenger/cargo options.

Kenya Airways ended 2020 with a workforce of 3,652, a loss of about 1,123 employees, mostly through resignations or voluntary early retirements.