By RICHARD QUEST
Ironically, one of the reasons I came to Nairobi in the first place is the way I will be leaving it: Kenya Airways and its inaugural flight to New York this weekend.
Today, I wanted to pay my first visit to the national airline’s headquarters and get a true sense of what makes this slowly rejuvenating legacy carrier tick.
The cargo hangars at KQ headquarters in Nairobi illustrate the complex challenges any airline chief executive faces.
We got a look inside the perishable goods hangar and an insight into the sheer scale of Kenya’s flower export industry.
You may buy your tulips in Amsterdam, but don’t be surprised if they passed through this building at some point.
Gaining access to the hangar involved three separate security checks. This was reassuring, but also frustrating.
We were searched on our entrance to the car park, walked across to the other side, and then searched again, by the same security guard.
Quite how we were supposed to have picked up anything untoward on our way is anyone’s guess, but it showed how security processes can load inefficiency into an operation.
Regulations are regulations, and such things make life hard for airline CEOs. Inside the hangar is perhaps the ultimate expression of this: A separate pen has been constructed solely for cargo bound for New York. America’s TSA has very specific requirements, and Kenya Airways must now abide by them.
From the cargo hangars we moved on to Kenya Airways’ training facility and maintenance hangar.
Under new CEO Sebastian Mikosz, the airline has been modernising. It has a new cost-efficient fleet and a lower cost of operations, essential to the airline’s future.
We also met a living symbol of the airline’ modern outlook, Captain Irene Mutungi, the first African female airline captain.
She pilots Kenya Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner and will be among those tasked with the Nairobi-New York route.
At a time when South African Airways is about to get another dollop of government money, it is refreshing to see an African carrier with a mandate to make a profit. Aviation in Africa is littered with the wreckage of airlines born in grandiosity or only flying because of government largesse.
KQ is undergoing root and branch reforms, to make the airline economically fit to fly in the global market.
If government stays out of the way and the reforms take place, then KQ will truly be the Pride of Africa.
Source – Daily Nation