A Kenyan Airways plane was on Monday forced to remain airborne for an hour at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) as staff at the Civil Aviation Department refused to work during lunch time, a government official confirmed yesterday.

Confirming the incident, Public Relations Officer for the Ministry of Transport Joyce Malongo said the air traffic disruption was caused by a wrangle over increment for overtime allowances among the staff.

She said the workers refused to work during the period the plane was scheduled to land.

“I can confirm the delays, but management is currently working on the problems. As I speak, they are in a meeting to resolve the matter and we are optimistic that it will be resolved by the end of business today. We are working hard that tomorrow’s flights are not affected,” Malongo said.

She could not immediately give details of the flights, but explained that the staff decided to be working during normal government hours after failing to agree on the new allowances with management.

Malongo said the crew normally works in shifts around the clock, but they are now working from 7am to 5pm, a development she said has affected air traffic for flights scheduled to land at lunch and at night.

But she said the situation was not a strike.

Sources at the airport said the Kenyan airliner scheduled to land at noon was forced to remain airborne for an hour. After it landed, its departure time and that of another South African Airways plane were delayed.

The action has since forced the cancellation of another Kenyan Airways flight scheduled for today at 11pm.

“The staff had communicated in time that there will be this action and officials were aware this would take place. When the plane arrived, the pilot failed to land the plane as no ground crew accepted to work,” said the source.

As we went to press, Malongo said the government had approved increased allowances for the staff members but she did not disclose the amounts.

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