Covid-19, Losses Create Turbulence for Newly Appointed Kenya Airways CEO

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The Board of Directors of Kenya Airways PLC has appointed Allan Kilavuka as the airline’s Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer effective April 1, 2020.

Prior to this appointment, he was the CEO of Kenya Airways’ subsidiary, Jambojet.

This should be an interesting time for Kilavuka who has managed to steer Jambojet to such great heights that it is now competing with regional airlines. But, it is honeymoon over for the CEO who stares huge challenges in the eye as the Covid-19 fears rage affecting airline businesses worldwide.

During the announcement where Kilavuka was confirmed as the substantive CEO, KQ Chairman Michael Joseph said, “It is particularly gratifying to me that the Board agreed to support the appointment of Allan to the full role of substantive CEO.  During his short time as acting CEO of KQ, Allan has thrown all his energy into this role, whilst still maintaining his position as CEO of Jambojet.”

Allan has over 23 years’ experience in leadership, management and extensive knowledge in Africa’s business environment.

He also has proven success in new organization setups, change management, financial planning, process improvement and responsible strategic leadership.

Kenya Airways PLC Managing Director and CEO Allan Kilavuka. Covid-19 and years of loss-making by KQ fill the newly appointed CEO’s plate. [Photo/ Kenya Airways]
The new CEO will join the Boards of all subsidiary companies and will remain on the Board of Jambojet initially as CEO until March 31, 2020, and thereafter as a representative of Kenya Airways.

He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Nairobi and a Postgraduate Certificate in Psychology from the University of Liverpool.

He has trained at General Electric’s world-class Crotonville Leadership Institute in New York, USA in Executive Leadership, Advanced Management and Financial Management.

Coronavirus Fears

Kilavuka’s appointment comes at a time when the airline is facing serious losses on the Nairobi-Guangzhou route. Reports indicate that the National Carrier has suffered US$8 million (Sh800 million since the outbreak of Covid-19 in Wuhan, China in December.

The disease has so far claimed close to 3,000 lives with more than 80,000 people reportedly infected worldwide.

Kilavuka said that the losses cover both the passenger and cargo segment of the airline’s business which lists China as a key cargo origin and main feeder to regional freighters.

KQ suspended flights to Guangzhou on January 31 amid concerns that the carrier was prioritizing its business to the detriment of the safety of Kenyans.

Before the outbreak of the virus, KQ flew to Guangzhou three times a week.

Interestingly, China-South Airlines is still allowed to land at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) despite the risks that come with such flights from China.

On Thursday, the Kenyan government defended the Chinese operations saying that a move contrary to their coming to Kenya would be discriminatory. This on the backdrop of 100 Kenyans still stuck in Wuhan since the government says that evacuating them is a risk t Kenyans.

During his latest visit to the United States, President Uhuru Kenyatta said suspending flights to the world’s second-largest economy was a safeguard for Kenya.

“We have stopped our flight into Chinese cities. All I can say is that there is no politics here. We don’t have the capacity to build a hospital in seven days,” Uhuru said.

For Kilavuka, it is a delicate balancing act as he assumes the role substantively to ensure that the airlines balance sheet makes stakeholders happy.

Kenya Airways has been making losses continually with Sebastian Mikosz resigning last year before his term at the airline came to an end.

The airline’s turnaround is a do or die and Kilavuka’s magic touch which proved a success at Jambojet may come in handy in changing the fortunes for KQ.

Read: Is Kenya abandoning trading blocs’ agreements for the US?

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