Kenya Airways extends freeze on complimentary tickets amid abuse probe

Kenya Airways (KQ) has extended a freeze on a complimentary scheme that allows its staff to travel for free amid an investigation into abuse of the initiative.

The scheme called buddy pass entitles the airline’s employees to two free flights a year, each accompanied by up to four other passengers. It allows staff to nominate family and friends within specified limits and clear accompanying rules.

The scheme has, however, been abused by some KQ employees prompting the airline to suspend it in April, pending investigations that were initially scheduled to end on May 17.

KQ has since extended the suspension of the scheme beyond a revised May 31 date it had earlier indicated.

“The suspension of the buddy pass programme at Kenya Airway is still on. We have suspended it by a few more days as per the last memo I issued to staff,” said KQ chief people officer Tom Shivo.

The national carrier has begun dismissing staff members found guilty of abusing the buddy pass privilege.

Although buddy passes are normal in the airline industry, the best practice requires that staff do not benefit commercially from the scheme, the same way work-related benefits should not be passed on to third parties.

Other airlines offer an employee one free ticket a year and unlimited tickets for family members and friends at a set percentage of the full fare with close monitoring to discourage commercialisation.

Some international airlines require staff to submit a list of immediate family members and dependents at the beginning of the year, subject to review after six months, and with no option of selling to third parties.

Under Resolution 788 of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which provides for free or reduced fare transportation to an employee for an air carrier, the immediate family — spouse, children, parents, brothers, sisters, and dependants — are listed as the beneficiaries of a buddy scheme.

“It’s a privilege offered to staff, so when it’s abused we can withdraw it. These are internal matters,” said a top source at the airline’s communication office on Tuesday, June 4.

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