Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) has for a long time consistently articulated its position on the poor management practices hurting our national carrier. Financial results over the past few years, culminating into the historic losses of KShs 25.7 billion in 2014/2015 and now KShs 26.2 billion in 2015/2016 are all testament to what we have stated all along: Kenya Airways desperately needs new leadership and direction.
We once again wish to express our dissatisfaction with the efforts being exuded in the airline’s recovery, and once again call for an immediate intervention in addressing the current issues facing Kenya Airways.
1. Staff Rationalization Exercise
Kenya Airways Group MD & CEO Mbuvi Ngunze, with the blessings of the board announced the implementation of the first phase of the staff rationalization exercise on 8th July 2016. It is a shame that in this day and age, in our thriving democracy, a national carrier can prioritize the retention of foreign employees, with more favourable terms of service, at the expense of local employees with matching skill sets and experience. Such a move is an insult to the spirit of Kenyanization, and a setback in national efforts towards Vision 2030.
2. Deloitte Consulting Forensic Audit on Kenya Airways
It has been over two years since Mbuvi Ngunze was appointed to the helm of the organization. Under his watch, and the so-called watchful eye of the Board, he has failed to clearly articulate the reasons behind the sorry state of the company’s fortunes.
A forensic audit was, and still remains the only way of unearthing the deep rooted corruption in the airline. Sadly, to date this has not been concluded.
So far there seems to be deliberate action and interference not to investigate fuel hedging, aircraft leasing, revenue collection in regards to ticketing especially in Europe among other key areas of the business.
3. Change in Management
It is evident that there is clear hesitation and laxity by the Kenya Airways Board in fully adopting the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Kenya Airways. One of the glaring findings of the Senate Committee was the appointment of inexperienced individuals to high level management positions. It is no wonder that Kenya Airways continues to perform dismally under the current CEO. Decisive direction and leadership are greatly lacking; incompetence is hurting the airline.
Degrading working conditions, coupled with poor employee relations are the main reasons behind the massive brain drain of valued expertise from the airline. Who would want to work in such a toxic environment? Staff morale has dipped to an all time low.
Our position still remains: Mbuvi Ngunze lacks the necessary experience and moral authority to continue to lead Kenya Airways. The same people who oversaw the airline’s decline cannot be the ones at the forefront of championing its recovery.
4. KLM Factor
KLM’s presence in Africa (Kenya Airways’ core market) has significantly increased, whereas Kenya Airways presence in Europe has shrunk.
The truth must be told: KLM is NOT a partner but rather a competitor to Kenya Airways.
This issue has been highlighted in the past by the Senate Select Committee, and most recently in the Seabury Consulting audit findings. It defies logic why Kenya Airways would comfortably cede its strategic routes and managerial dockets to KLM.
The Chief Operating Officer and the Head of Network Planning are both KLM employees. It doesn't stop there - the two, plus five OTHER directors, have been appointed without following a competitive recruitment process, placing our national carrier at an obvious disadvantage.
All these have contributed to the airline's financial mess. We have to ask the hard questions: who among the two JV partners have benefitted from the relationship spanning more than 20 years? If there was a genuine partnership in place, wouldn’t the natural expectation be for Kenya Airways to build the pre-requisite capacity, drawing from its close walk with one of the world’s oldest and most experienced airlines?
5. Restore the Pride
In the interest of our national pride, we call upon ALL KENYANS, every shareholder and stakeholder to join in our effort in redeeming the Pride of Africa. Now more than ever, it is important that due consideration is given to giving the airline a fighting chance – the first step of which would be the immediate change of guard at the helm.
Once again, in no uncertain terms, KALPA reaffirms its lack of confidence in the Board of Directors and top-level Management overseeing the recovery of Kenya Airways.
By Captain Paul Gichinga. Captain Gichinga is the Secretary General of the Kenya Airline Pilots Association.