Happy Birthday Kenya Airways and Happy Landings, always

KENYA AIRWAYS TURNS 36

Following the collapse of East African Airways and the progressive breakdown of the then original East African Community, was Kenya Airways formed as a state corporation on the 22nd of January 1977.

Starting up with two Fokker 27 Friendship aircraft, a DC 9, and eventually as many as three B707 and one B720, the new airline commenced flights to domestic destinations like Mombasa, Malindi and Kisumu on the 04th February 1977 from its home airport of Embakasi in Nairobi, then into the region and after that of course to London, Frankfurt and Rome, key markets in those days for Kenya before adding more destinations like Bombay, as Mumbai was called back then.

Being a state corporation in those early days, the abbreviation of KQ was often translated as ‘Keep Quiet’ in reference to passengers complaining about frequent delays, cancellations of flights and at regular intervals government pulling an aircraft for official flights, leaving the flight schedule in tatters.

Management support in the early days by Air Lingus did help to some extent but it was clear that following global trends, in days when other legacy carriers faced problems galore, the airline needed to be privatized or else be condemned to the history bin of aviation. One Managing Director stills stands out from those days, being Lord Eniskillen, then known as Lord Andrew Cole, at which time a relationship was built with the airline which stood the test of time and extended to the CEO of today, Dr. Titus Naikuni and many of their staff.

Privatisation was the option the government in Nairobi decided for and BA’s consulting wing ‘Speedbird’ was brought on board following a principal government decision in 1986 to set the ball rolling, but it was to be another almost 10 years until and IPO was floated and KLM, the selected partner, took 26 percent of the shares, the Kenya government retained a ‘Golden Share’ of 23 percent while 51 percent were sold at the Nairobi stock exchange.

With this the birth of successor airline Kenya Airways Limited was accomplished and there has been no looking back since. In 2005 the new tag line ‘The Pride of Africa’ was introduced as the airline increased fleet size and destinations with today 39 state of the art aircraft comprising B737-300, B737-700/800, B767-300, B777-200/300ER besides a dozen Embraer E170 and E190 jets, flying to 56 destinations in Africa, Europe, the Gulf, India and the Far East.

Last year did the airline publish their 10 year strategic plan, aka Plan Mawingo, a Kiswahili word for clouds, in which further growth plans are outlined. This was followed by a share rights offering in April 2012, which saw the Kenyan government increase its share to 29.8 percent while KLM’s share of 26 percent slightly increased to 26.7 percent in the realignment following the take up of share rights on offer.

The airline, inspite of a currently challenging financial and business environment, is seen as a rising star of Africa’s aviation industry, and plans to operate 119 aircraft by 2021/22, including a fleet of 12 dedicated cargo aircraft, then flying to 115 destinations on all continents.

Kenya Airways is the only African member of SkyTeam, the world’s number two airline alliance after Star Alliance but ahead of OneWorld and is part of KLM’s Flying Blue frequent flyer programme.

Today, to my friends at Kenya Airways, it is Happy Birthday and Happy Landings in equal terms. Visit www.kenya-airways.com for more information about schedules, destinations, bookings, FFP details and more.

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