Recently Kenya Airways ran a feel-good campaign to celebrate Customer Service Week with pictures featuring the carrier’s new Polish CEO Sebastian Mikosz:
The tweets hid the turmoil behind the scenes. As a country, Kenya is in the midst of a severe drought and its politics is a mess. Sadly its flag carrier is also in deep, deep trouble. Since my time of living and travelling in Africa, I have seen so many airlines come and go. Air Gabon, Ghana Airway, Nigeria Airways, East African Airlines and Zambia Airways have gone. South African Airlines is teetering as is Kenya Airways.
The Kenyan flag carrier has more than $1bn of debt following an aggressive expansion plan launched five years ago. The plan named Project Mawingu (“Clouds” in Swahili) aimed to add 24 destinations by 2021, throughout Asia, Australia, North and South America. A slump in passenger numbers after terrorist attacks and the 2014 Ebola outbreak undid the expansion. The Kenyan government recently swapped debt for additional equity in the carrier as a sign they want the carrier to survive. But the nation of Kenya can ill afford to keep throwing good money after bad. Their airline, which has lost money for years, needs a new strategy.
Sebastian Mikosz has been brought in to execute that strategy and turn the airline around. This will include a fleet downsizing, route network revisions and a debt restructuring plan. His pedigree is impressive in this regard. He had two stints at Lot, the Polish carrier. During his time, he sacked over a third of the LOT workforce and looked for every cost saving possible. Eventually, he returned the carrier to profit.
Now he aims to repeat his magic at Kenya which is beset with many similar issues. Plus its own unique problems. Some airline staff were recently filmed attacking a passenger and then two staff were arrested this week for drug trafficking. Skytrax passengers only rate the airline 5/10.
Behind the serving drinks to customers as part of Customer Service week, Mikosz has already had his first battle. He brought five former employees of Lot Polish Airlines on three-month contracts to help with the airline’s new plans. This ruffled feathers at Kenya Airways Head Office four senior executives resigned on October 4 in protest at their arrival. A fifth executive joined their departures today.
Good luck Mr Mikosz.