We have a solid plan to make Kenya Airways (KQ) profitable by 2024!
Our rejuvenated national carrier is central to the prosperity of Kenya and Africa.
Many Kenyans and Africans, love Kenya Airways and are proud of its history. However, some do not love our own as we should.
I have observed how Kenyans react to KQ’s perceived shortcomings compared with how other nationals treat their own carriers.
Last year I travelled to several countries and used their national carriers. Some flights were significantly delayed in the US and Qatar.
As an aviator, I understand that this is normal. The difference was in how calm and understanding the passengers in those countries were. Don’t you dare try that in Kenya!
We certainly have room for improvement but the vitriol that emanates from passengers whenever there are delays! Oh my!
Regrettably, we have not always done a good job of communicating whenever there are delays or disruptions.
But we are improving and now we have a Flight Disruption communication tool to promptly manage customer expectations. That may not fix the inconvenience but is a first step in fixing a pain point.
We are doing everything to turn around the fortunes of the airline and progress can be demonstrated.
As Kenyans, we must learn to reward effort and not just achievement. An excellent example of our shortcomings is in how we treat our rugby sevens team.
I am proud of this team. Despite its challenges, it remains one of the world’s elite teams. But is this sustainable?
If we continue denigrating their efforts with local press headlines like, ‘New Season, Same Old Shujaa as Kenya 7s team Beaten Again,’ or ‘Kenya Sevens; Free Fall From Continues Grace to Grass Unabated,’ how will that help?
Have you seen how the BBC describes Britain’s sports teams, whether they win or lose?
Sample this; from BBC Sport on the World Cup- ‘Only Problems Right Now are Good Ones.’
Another positive headline from Wimbledon proclaims ‘Britain Cameron Norrie Secures First Grand Slam.’
Get the drift?
When shall we get there; where every small victory is proclaimed as a national triumph; where we love and encourage our own them spurring them on to work harder!
But I digress!
Kenya Airways’ most significant contribution is undoubtedly not just in returns to shareholders but to the country and continent.
Can you imagine Dubai without a national airline? Or how would the Qatar World cup have happened without a dedicated airline?
In Ethiopia, the national airline is estimated to contribute approximately 11% of the GDP to its economy. Ours is estimated at 4% equivalent to $3.2 billion or, let us say, KES 400 billion a year! Is that not significant?
But how? I hear some ask. Well, both directly and indirectly. Directly because we employ 4000 people with an additional 18,000 dependent jobs.
Directly because we help generate an estimated KES 75 billion in foreign currency (2022 figures) and pay taxes estimated at over KES 6 billion.
Indirectly because we move over 5 million passengers annually, mostly tourists. We support over 200,000 farmers in exports of agricultural produce, and cargo the critical imports used for trade and manufacturing. We can do more, and we will.
But for this to happen, we need support.
Some suppose that in the absence of KQ, someone can be brought in to fill the void. Wrong!
That would only work for as long as it was in the best interest of the said ‘someone.’ That someone would focus purely on return on investment.
As a national carrier, we go beyond that. We focus on impact and purpose. Second, we would lose the prime advantage of being a hub of commercial activities in Africa. By all rights, we ought to be!
We have everything; the weather, the geo-location, the people, the schools, the knowledge, you name it! Of course, KQ has to be more efficient and profitable.
Here is the plan. Let us start with the strategy; We will make our hub and airline the most preferred in
Africa. Our focus is on making our customer journey memorable. We aim to be the preferred employer to attract and retain the best possible talent for customer delivery.
We will be profitable! ‘How?,’ one might ask.
This is how. We have the hard and soft parts. Hard- we are strengthening our balance sheet to position ourselves for growth and investment. We have accomplished nearly 85% of our cost-out initiatives, reflected in our results today.
We are diversifying our business and maximising our revenue streams. For example, our lessor negotiations have saved us over KES 5 billion in lease payments.
Soft – we are driving customer excellence, operational excellence, and employee experience using a culture transformational process dubbed ‘Re-ignite’.
We are also driving a culture of integrity and safety. Every employee, starting with yours truly, takes ownership and accountability for our actions and results.
We have two key milestones.
2024 is the year we turn profitable, and 2027 is when we become sustainable.
Yes, we have a plan!
What we are asking for is time and support!
Allan Kilavuka is the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer at Kenya Airways.