By Kenyan report investigative team –
The dust has barely settled yet Kenya Airways is struggling to contain a series of negative publicity and bad reports following its never-ending, shocking blunders on its direct flight to New York. Sadly, most of these costly mistakes could have been easily avoided.
The loss-making and underperforming Airline exemplifies dysfunction at much of our state institutions riddled with inefficiency, corruption, nepotism and mismanagement. In our view, the lost opportunities and bad calls that KQ has made in its first month of operations to North America casts doubt on the ability of its Polish CEO, Mr. Sebastian Mikosz, to turn around the airlines’ woeful financial bottom line.
The Government led by the President Uhuru promoted the New York flight as an icon of our pride and advancement in civil aviation industry. They said the direct connection would be a key plank in the government’s efforts to promote Kenya as a tourists’ paradise and an attractive destination for investors. Here – at the heart of world’s financial capital – stood one of Africa’s finest airlines with its highly dedicated and professional staff ready to prove to the Americans that Kenyans were just as good in aviation as any other.
Blunders from the start
Even from a very pedestrian view, it was evident from the beginning that Kenya Airways did not have enough traffic to sustain daily flights to and from New York city. At least not during its initial months of operations, and certainly not in the fall month of November. We are willing to bet that a simple review of the airline’s own passenger and cargo data showing points of origin, termination or even those transiting through JFK could have yielded some good pointers to support strategic planning and decision making, including number of flights per week.
KQ’s passenger traffic-related challenges are further compounded by difficulties faced by Kenyans wishing to procure travel visas from the US Embassy in Gigiri. We must stop to ask some questions here. Is the American Embassy granting enough visas to support passenger traffic needed for full or near-full flight capacity? Did the Kenyan Authority seek from their American counterparts such vital data? Was such data used in making decisions?
No one needs to be told that travel Visas to the United States are the most difficult to obtain. Thousands of Kenyans unsuccessfully spent billions of shillings trying to get one. There is a longstanding feeling that Kenyans whose Visa requests are denied should be promptly refunded their money, an issue that we set aside for another day.
The American Ambassador, who reportedly made history for travelling on both maiden flights to and from New York can the country and the Airways by simplifying and fast-tracking Visa requests across all groups, including tourism and business travels.
Despite these obvious obstacles, Kenya Airways went ahead in launching and promoting daily flights to New York. It wasn’t until they were well in their third week that the management announced cancellation and rescheduling of some flights. By then, we had learned, sadly but unpredictably, that KQ was operating empty aircrafts – its fourth flight to New York may have landed with just 47 passengers on board! Worse still, some passengers have shared details on social media on how Kenya Airways unexpectedly upgraded them to business class cabins and received luxury treatment, yet they had paid economy class tickets of a mere $ 116 plus taxes!
NO Value for money
Kenya Airways is a struggling airline in dire financial straits yet those on the maiden flight say that the Airline handed out gift vouchers worth at least $50 to each of its 200 plus passengers – majority of whom were travelling on complementary tickets. One media personality had allegedly four vouchers. As taxpayers, we find this to be utterly disgusting. Kenya Airways management must demonstrate prudency in their use of bailout resources and national goodwill. The government must demand value before diverting any more money from well deserving social programs towards such wasteful spending.
Kenya’s incompetency was manifested in the manner in which Kenya Airways people executed the launch of their daily flight. Events in New York city were expensive yet poorly planned. For instance, they paid thousands of dollars for a short-time billboard sign at the busy Time Square in Manhattan when they could have taken advantage of the world class New York Marathon that took place just a few days later! We cannot think of any event in North America that is so synonymous with Kenya’s excellence than the marathon, yet Kenya Airways totally failed to capitalize on this annual ritual.
These days, Kenya’s jaw-dropping incompetence and outright foolishness is on full display at the John F Kennedy International Airport. It seems we are the only people on earth that leave our expensive aircrafts idling on an airport apron for a full 24 hours when they could be in air making money to service their expensive lease agreements.
KQ needs to optimize its fleet operations. Instead of idling at JFK and attracting shame and disbelief from others, Kenya Airways needs to consider onward flights to Dallas Texas where a majority of Kenyans live, Los Angeles, Chicago, Mexico City or Toronto, Canada. Such a decision would seem rather intuitive enough – except to KQ management.
Send mikosz Home
It is perhaps the Airline’s decision to cancel this week’s Wednesday flight from Nairobi – the day the first United Nations Blue Economy conference ended – that has left many asking whether Mr. Mikosz and his team should continue keeping their jobs. Not only did Kenya Airways lose an opportunity to cash in on thousands of international delegates that departed Nairobi that evening to New York – most of them business class travelers – but the airline also needlessly burned more cash accommodating passengers in expensive Manhattan hotels for they had not been notified ahead of the cancellation. Admittedly, it may seem that sending an email, a text message or calling its passengers about flight cancellation is more difficult than arranging accommodation for its stranded passengers.
Clearly, Kenya Airways management are simply wasteful, lack vision and display a careless attitude. If we are serious in telling the world that we are just as good in aviation business as any other nation, then we should urgently send Mikosz and group home before New Year’s Eve.
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