The ‘Pride of Africa’ is set to shine brighter

Freshly recovering from its first loss in 13 years, record high fuel prices, a global economic downturn, labour strife and voracious foreign competitors have made Kenya Airways and its cargo division, all the more hungry for success – and successful it is. Kenya Airways executives tell Payload Asia correspondent Manfred Singh how they’re doing it.

Bram Steller Dreamliner Emirates Kenya Airways Ram Menen strategy

“Aviation is not ready for party time,” according to Bram Steller. The Dutch national who joined Kenya Airways (KQ) in August 2008 as chief operating officer knows what he is talking about. Barely four months ago – in June – KQ reported a loss of KES5.66 billion (US$71.8 million) in the year ended March 2009, a result of fuel hedging costs, a labour strike and political unrest, after a revised pre-tax profit of KES6.52 billion a year earlier. For the carrier – which is 26 per cent owned by Air France-KLM – it was the first loss in 13 years prompting Richard Nuttal, the commercial director who was responsible for fuel hedging, to resign shortly before the results werereleased.

Focus Africa
For Bram Steller, the man who knows Africa and the aviation business insideout and is in his second stint with Kenya Airways – he was commercial director in 2000-01 – it must have been a blow. But seemingly unfazed by the losses, the COO has been working on a very carefully crafted strategy – open new routes within Africa while strengthening the carrier’s market in the Far East and China.

His moves have been on the right track and he found an avid supporterin KQ chairman Evanson Mwaniki who declared at the carrier’s recent annualgeneral meeting that the carrier’s goalwas to, “interconnect Africa and link thecontinent to the rest of the world.” Thisstrategy also won crucial backing fromKenya’s Ministry of Transport.