It has been a tough year for Kenya Airways (KQ). In March, airport workers downed their tools to protest against unfair hiring of staff, poor remuneration and the proposed takeover of the management of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) by Kenya Airways.
The concerns regarding the takeover were informed by what is in the public domain; that KQ has been making staggering losses in the recent past.
Many, (including this newspaper) wondered how a loss-making institution could initiate the takeover of a lucrative venture and make it grow. Luckily, the proposal was put on hold. In August, KQ reported a loss of Sh8.6 billion for a six-month period ending June 30. Previously, it had reported a loss of Sh4 billion.
In April, there was a bomb scare on a South Africa bound plane at JKIA - operated by the Kenya Airports Authority- that halted operations for hours as security officers worked to establish the veracity of the claims. In June, a dead body dropped from a KQ flight to London while landing at Heathrow Airport. All these incidences are related in that it could further jeopardise KQ's survival amid the turbulence.
Notwithstanding that JKIA received the approval of the US Transportation Security Administration as a secure airport from which direct flights to the US could be undertaken, these are pointers that all is not well at the airport. Earlier, security had been observed by the US agencies to be below acceptable standards. In particular, the US insisted that the government should bolster the perimeter fence around the airport.
Investigations by British television network Sky News have established that Paul Manyasi, the dead man who fell off the KQ plane was a Kenyan worker at JKIA. Though it declined to comment on the story, KAA has disputed the reports. Manyasi reportedly sneaked into the plane’s landing gear compartment and it is suspected he died of exposure to the elements at high altitude.
This incident raises serious concerns over security lapses at Kenya’s major and regional airport. It is best left to imagination what would have happened had Manyasi been a terrorist on a suicide mission.
KAA and the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority should step up security at the airport. It should never occur that anybody masquerading as an airport worker can gain access to a plane.
The results could be disastrous.