The CEO hanging on a wing and a prayer

The CEO hanging on a wing and a prayer

Kenya Airways CEO Allan Kilavuka during the launch of the resumption of international flights at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) Nairobi on August 1, 2020. [Elvis Ogina,Standard] Back when he had some downtime, Allan Kilavuka would counsel young couples looking to get hitched.

Yes, the man running Kenya Airways says he would volunteer as a pre-marital counsellor, not so much to unwind but to help people. This helped him get his mind off work, and for him the saying that a change is as good as a rest held true. But why counselling?

“I try to do acts of kindness, a principle called ‘becoming human’, which is an idea I came across in a book. It challenges one to give of themselves to other people without expecting reciprocity,” he told the Financial Standard.

But Kilavuka, who has a certificate in psychology from the University of Liverpool, no longer has the time to do this these days owing to the high demands of running a national carrier. And he’s carrying out one of the toughest jobs in town on an 80 per cent pay cut.

KQ’s finances are weak, with the airline facing a daunting list of problems: litigation, with hundreds of millions of shillings on the line; restrictions imposed by Covid-19; a largely demoralised workforce; and rigorous scrutiny from Parliament.

To make matters worse, Kilavuka inherited a company that has been struggling for years. In the airline’s latest accounting results, it reported a net loss of Sh14.3 billion in the first half to June 2020, a 67 per cent decline compared to the Sh8.6 billion loss that KQ reported over a similar period last year. The loss for this latest six-month period is now bigger than what the airline posted for the full year in 2019, which was Sh12.99 billion.

Will his marriage-saving skills help save the national carrier? It’s a big ask.

In mid-March, nearly all the airline’s operations were grounded except for cargo, which earned limited revenue. Even so, KQ was unable to take full advantage of the cargo business due to few freighters operating during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the first six months of this year, cargo volumes went down by more than 9,000 tonnes to 22,451 tonnes from 31,819 tonnes over a similar period last year.

The carrier also slashed staff salaries by between 25 per cent and 75 per cent, depending on the job cadre. Kilavuka has to […]

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