Kenya Airways sees passenger revenue up by a fifth this year – CEO

Kenya Airways sees passenger revenue up by a fifth this year - CEO

Kenya Airways CEO Allan Kilavuka speaks during an interview with Reuters at the company headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya February 11, 2022. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

NAIROBI, Feb 14 (Reuters) – Kenya Airways expects a 20% rise in revenue this year, its chief executive told Reuters, as it battles to end losses in its passenger business and recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The airline, in which the government has a 48.9% stake, saw revenue plunge by half at the height of the pandemic in 2020, as carriers around the world were forced to ground their planes.

"We have been through the worst patch," CEO Allan Kilavuka said in an interview, noting passenger revenue had grown 21% in 2021 as a recovery started.

That helped the airline’s loss narrow by a fifth during the first half of last year, but it still lost 11.5 billion shillings ($101 million) during the six months.

Kenya Airways had slipped into insolvency long before the pandemic, mainly due to an expansion drive that saddled it with hundreds of millions of dollars in debt to finance the purchase of new planes, followed by travel warnings in 2013 due to insecurity in the country.

Aviation consultant Seabury was hired last month to advise on returning to profitability and its report is expected in the next three weeks, Kilavuka said. "We are looking for a more efficient airline. The network should not lose money."

Forward bookings for the peak summer travel season were promising, he said, adding the airline was hoping an election in Kenya scheduled for Aug. 9 would not cause disruption.

Two out of the last three elections in Kenya saw significant violence, hurting the travel industry and the wider economy.

This year’s Kenya Airways growth forecast is dependent on no further travel disruption or restrictions caused by any new coronavirus variants, the CEO said.

CARGO CAPACITYAlthough African carriers are starting to see a recovery, the continent’s airline industry is lagging that of Europe, Asia and the United States, Kilavuka said.Cargo, which accounts for some 10% of revenue at Kenya Airways, performed well during the pandemic, he said. After passenger demand slumped the airline converted two passenger jets to carry goods.But Kenya is still suffering from a 40% deficit in required cargo capacity, he said, adding European operators who previously served the country had opted for more lucrative routes between China and the West.The government is seeking to take over $750 million of Kenya Airways […]

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