China virus clips Kenya Airways’ wings despite peace deal with pilots

National carrier is searching for new chief executive to replace Mikosz who left in December Kenya Airways (KQ) last week got the agreement from pilots to hire additional captains after more than two years of push and pull on who and how to hire. It was a win of sorts for the airline that has been struggling with pilot shortage for the different aircraft types it operates. This prevented the carrier from efficient use of its fleet, even hampered opening of new routes while the pilots have had to forego their leave days as they were almost always on call. The sliver of light was, however, blotted by another curve ball when the national carrier had to suspend flights to China as a precaution against the coronavirus. The Chinese city of Guangzhou is one of Kenya Airways’ largest markets. It is a dear route for the airline where it makes as much as Sh23 million every day in revenues, according to its most recent financial report. KQ is in the middle of executing a turnaround strategy and while it has diversified its routes such that no market accounts for more than 10 per cent of its earnings, it can ill afford to give up revenue streams considering the billions of losses it has made in the past. The carrier has already warned that losses will deepen when it announces its results for the just-ended financial year. This adds to the other issues that the airline has on its table this year, some of which might prove to be significant challenges. The airline is undergoing transition at two levels – the anticipated change in the shareholding structure with the planned nationalisation, and the hiring of a new chief executive after the exit of Sebastian Mikosz last year. With the nationalisation are a host of other changes expected in the aviation industry, including the formation of a holding company that will own KQ and other aviation agencies, as well as hiving off the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport from Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) into a standalone company. While the airline may argue that there is no vacuum at its C-Suite following the appointment of Allan Kilavuka as the acting chief, an ideal position would be to have a substantive boss to oversee the changes as well as continue with the turnaround strategy that the former chief executive and the board had started. […]

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