Kenya Airways upbeat as it marks 40th anniversary

Kenya Airways upbeat as it marks 40th anniversary

Kenya Airways says it is upbeat about future trading as it awaits the appointment of a new chief executive.

The airline, which this week held an awards lunch for UK travel agents and tour operators as it marked its 40th anniversary, says business has been gradually on the rise since the UK travel ban on Mombasa was lifted in June 2015.

Chief executive Mbuvi Ngunze resigned from the loss-making airline in November and was expected to leave in the first quarter of this year after two years in the job.

A replacement has yet to be appointed but is expected soon, according to UK and Ireland sales manager Bruce Watson.

But already the appointment of new commercial director Vincent Coste in November last year is making a difference, he said.

He added: “It is early days but he is bringing in substantial changes to the way we work as a sales force and has some dynamic ideas and a sense of urgency. One of our problems was that things were not done quickly enough.

“We have had some troubled years but we have been on a turnaround plan for the last two years.”

New chairman Michael Joseph was also elected to the board at the end of October last year.

Watson said the airline, which rationalised its longhaul fleet by removing two Boeing 777 300s last summer, was “fairly confident” about 2017 trading following a strong pick-up in sales from the trade as holidaymakers return to the destination. Its longhaul fleet is now made up of seven 787 Dreamliners.

New routes include a Victoria Falls to Cape Town flight from May 18, following increased demand for flights to Zimbabwe, which Watson says UK tour operators are likely to use as part of multi-centre itineraries.

Watson said: “The fact that the numbers are coming back means we can assume travel agents now have confidence selling the destination.

“There is a lot of very nice accommodation along the coast and it sat more than half empty during the time of the ban. Tour operators have been helped by good deals coming through and we are never without a tactical deal in the market.”

The airline is also working more closely with joint venture partner Air France-KLM on its airline ticketing and marketing activity with the trade, which makes up 90% of Kenya Airlines’ UK sales

This means it is issuing joint contracts for airline tickets on routes it operates jointly, rather than separate tickets for each airline’s section of the route. The airlines have also pooled the agents they both work with in order to share marketing activity.

“It’s expanded our agent distribution considerably, there were two or three big producers of sales that we didn’t work with, and we are doing some joint agent evenings,” he said.

But he admitted price rises were inevitable as a result of Brexit. “Prices are edging up,” he said.

 

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