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UPDATE 1-Kenya Airways to stop ticket sales unless pilots drop strike threat

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NAIROBI Oct 13 Kenya Airways said on Thursday it will be forced to halt ticket sales unless its pilots withdraw a strike threat that has prompted cancellations by worried passengers.

The pilots' union, Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA), has called for an indefinite strike from Tuesday to protest at what it describes as poor management of the airline.

"The threatened action is already costing Kenya Airways significant losses as passengers have begun to make cancellations," the airline said in a statement.

"If KALPA does not forthwith retract its statement, Kenya Airways will have to immediately stop selling tickets."

Kenya Airways, which carries 12,000 passengers a day in a fleet on Boeing and Embraer planes, has been hit in recent years by falling earnings triggered by a decline in the number of visitors to Kenya.

Tourism has been hurt by security worries stoked by Somali Islamist group al Shabaab's attacks in the country, in apparent retaliation for Kenya's military deployment in Somalia.

KALPA is pressing for chief executive Mbuvi Ngunze and the chair of the airline's board, Dennis Awori, to be fired, saying it is not confident in their ability to drive its recovery.

Kenya Airways said KALPA's call for a strike was unjustified, adding half-year results due to be released at the end of October would show a surge in passenger numbers and a reduction in losses.

A strike, it said, could cause it to lose the support of financiers and suppliers that it is in negotiations with. (Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Alexander Smith)

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