Head in the Clouds? There Has Been Considerable Excitement in Kenya's Aviation Industry with the National Carrier, Kenya Airways Announcing a Bold New Strategy but Being Ken to Task by Unions over Retrenchment and a Rapid Growth in the Number of Business-Oriented Aircraft. Wanjohi Kabukuru Reports from Nairobi

By Kabukuru, Wanjohi | African Business, November 2012 | Go to article overview

Head in the Clouds? There Has Been Considerable Excitement in Kenya's Aviation Industry with the National Carrier, Kenya Airways Announcing a Bold New Strategy but Being Ken to Task by Unions over Retrenchment and a Rapid Growth in the Number of Business-Oriented Aircraft. Wanjohi Kabukuru Reports from Nairobi


Kabukuru, Wanjohi, African Business


IT HAS BEEN AN EVENTFUL year for the Kenyan aviation sector. Matters touching on the country's aviation industry generate much passion in Nairobi and are not limited to the national carrier, Kenya Airways (KQ) and private sector players, but involve the country's airports management corporation, the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) all the way to the individual aviation enthusiasts and the general public.

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Kenya Airways, the 'pride of Africa', began 2012 by raising worn through a public rights issue to finance 'Project Mawingu' (mawingu is Swahili for clouds), its 10-year strategy. The strategy is aimed at modernising its fleet, diversifying and increasing KQ's routes, strengthening its human capital and solidifying its position in the African continent.

KQ's bold 'cloud' strategy aims to triple its passenger fleet to 107 air planes, a majority of which will be wide bodied. By the end of the 10 years, KQ intends to adopt the Boeing 787 as its main aircraft and intends to have 32 of this type of plane in its fleet. At present KQ has nine Boeing 787s on order. "Kenya Airways has ordered nine Boeing 787 Dreamliners which were due in 2010, but due to delivery delays by Boeing as a result of manufacturing problems, we are now expecting our first delivery late 2013/early 2014. We have also ordered three Boeing 777-300 ERs with the first one arriving in October 2013 and the rest in May and June 2014," Kenya Airways' CEO, Titus Naikuni, says. "Over the last few months the company has revisited cost structures, reviewed processes, increasing efficiencies in order to mitigate decline in profitability, whilst maintaining and growing customer satisfaction."

Also featuring in KQs mawingu approach are 31 Embraer E-190 planes. In line with fleet acquisition, it anticipates to expand its routes and destinations by venturing into South and North America and Australia by 2017. Currently KQ flies to 56 destinations, 45 of which are in Africa and hopes to double these to 115. By next year, KQ intends to fly to every African country. While KQ will be seeking footprints in these new markets and broadening its wings in most of Asia, it also hopes to add six more routes to India. Courtesy of large business volumes in China, KQ plans to increase the number of destinations in China from the current flight to Guangzhou to take in other major Chinese cities like Chengdu, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xiamen, Kunming and Urumqi.

Press war

As part of its restructuring process, Kenya Airways initiated a voluntary retrenchment scheme which saw some of its 126 members of staff leaving the airline. Another 578 are expected to follow suit.

This move was however not received well and has attracted criticism from the affected employees and Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA), the umbrella pilots' body in Kenya.

KALPA bought full-page adverts in the local dailies and slammed the airline's top management for retrenchment in the name of employee costs. "If the management had half the effort towards addressing direct operation costs as it does employee costs, KQ might just get on the right path," the advert signed by Captain Ronald Karauri, the general secretary and chief executive of KALPA, read in part. "We do not believe that the same management ... that has steered the airline to this position is the ones best qualified to lead us out."

KALPA went on to accuse KQ of favouring expatriate staff and of pursuing poor strategic' decisions pointing out that after years of misadvised decision-making and its relying on knee-jerk reactions to situations as they develop. This short-sighted thinking has put the airline in the position it is now, and it is clear that the chickens have come home to roost," said the statement. KQ's plans to launch a low-cost airline, Jambo Jet, was also largely criticised by KALPA, who noted that the plans would compete with the well-established airlines like Easyjet and FastJet. …

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Head in the Clouds? There Has Been Considerable Excitement in Kenya's Aviation Industry with the National Carrier, Kenya Airways Announcing a Bold New Strategy but Being Ken to Task by Unions over Retrenchment and a Rapid Growth in the Number of Business-Oriented Aircraft. Wanjohi Kabukuru Reports from Nairobi
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