Kenya Airways loosing its shine

Kenya’s official airline, once rated among the best in Africa, is losing its lustre amidst customer dissatisfaction and concerns over its safety record.

A Kenya Airways Embraer jet
A Kenya Airways Embraer jet. Picture from Kenya Airways.

Kenya Airways flights are increasingly getting cancelled or delayed without explanation, leaving passengers stranded for hours. The tendency to overbook has also left many passengers frustrated at the check-in counters as their planes soar in the distance. Just last week, Kenya Airways fired 23 managers in a sign that things are not well at the airline’s Embakasi hub.

Recently, a passenger who had paid for a flight from Dar-es-Salaam to Nairobi says the airline overbooked and he and many others missed the flight. Since Kenya Airways had overbooked all subsequent flights, the airline refunded fares and the travelers had to board a bus. A road trip from Dar-es- Salaam to Nairobi takes about 14 hours.

Travelers to Mombasa and Kisumu have also raised numerous complaints of delays due to overbooked planes. On the Kisumu route, flights often get canceled without notice. Kenya Airways has dedicated only one turbo-prop for the Kisumu route and if it breaks down, there won’t be any flights.

Ugandans have objected to a Kenya Airways schedule that forces passengers to spend the night at Entebbe Airport. No less a personality than President Yoweri Museveni himself has complained about it. “We are being mistreated because we do not have a national airline,” said Museveni, “how can you force people to take a flight at 5am yet Nairobi is just next door?” As a consequence, Ugandans have launched their own service to compete with Kenya Airways at friendlier hours.

A few weeks ago, a Kenya Airways 737 had an “incident” at Entebbe Airport after it skidded off the runway. Last year in May, another Kenya Airways 737 crashed in Cameroon killing all passengers and crew. Investigations are yet to be completed and the cause of the crash is unknown. Kenya Airways Managing Director Titus Naikuni says that the airline has an impeccable safety record that is within industry standards. To prove his point, Mr Naikuni recently canceled a code-sharing agreement with Rwanda Air when safety concerns were raised about certain aircraft the Rwandans were using.

However, Kenya Airways is not wholly to blame for some of its woes. Kenya’s airports are overstretched and underfunded. For instance, electricity supply at Moi Airport is Mombasa is unreliable, making night flights impossible. Airports at Kisumu and Malindi are surrounded by garbage dumps which attract birds that are a danger to aircraft. At the same time, security checks due to fears of terrorism means delays to passengers, all of whom must be thoroughly screened.

Inspite of these problems, Kenya Airways remains a leading airline in Africa. It ranks alongside Ethiopian Airlines and South Africa Airways. The company posts impressive profits each year even with rising fuel prices and increased competition by Qatar Airlines, Emirates and Virgin Atlantic. Nevertheless, unless the airline’s management works harder at pleasing the customer, the future profitability of Kenya Airways hangs in the balance.

PR nightmare developing for Kenya Airways more than 1 year after Cameroun crash

2 Responses

  1. Is Kenya Airways turning into a “bus service”? Where they can just tell you that you cannot fly because the flight is full yet you have a ticket that is valid? KQ 463 from South Africa on 26/09/2008 midnight to Nairobi about 20-30 passengers are stranded at the airport and all Patrick Mulei (Station Manager) could tell the passengers is that the flight is FULL! The explanation given is unacceptable and tantamount to arrogance. Passengers take the time to re-confirm their flights, get to the check in counter at OR Tambo 2 hours before only to be told that the flight is full?
    KQ needs to catch a serious wake up!

  2. Kenya Airways flights is good air line .

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