Q&A: Expansion Strategy Paying Off

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Kenya Airways ultimately want to cover the whole of Africa, by flying out of every African capital city by 2013, but they have some important short-term goals as well, as detailed by chief executive Titus Naikuni, who also has some interesting thoughts on business travel in Africa, and the aviation industry itself.

What are some of KQ’s 2012 goals?

Fleet expansion is key in ensuring the network and frequency growth. In addition to business expansion, we are planning to relook our customer focus. To achieve this, we are working on our processes and enhancing our customer communication.

Any new destinations for 2012?

This year we intend to fly to 10 new destinations in Africa and one destination in the Middle East. We will soon share the specifics, once we finalise the regulatory requirements.

When will KQ first take delivery of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner?

First quarter of 2014.

What will the Dreamliner do for Kenya Airways?

The Dreamliners will replace the 767s. The 787s will also be used for capacity expansion on long-haul routes through the opening up of more destinations in the Far East, the Americas and increased frequencies to already existing long-haul routes in Europe and Asia.

How competitive is the African airline market?

Africa as a continent is starting to get a lot of interest from international carriers. Transport is an important factor in the development of the continent and as such, the growth of the industry through heightened competition by the various players is welcome, as it will ensure that the continent’s markets are more accessible by all partners for business, leisure and investment purposes. 

What are your biggest challenges?

Fuel prices remain a concern for the airline industry as a whole. While we have no control over the international prices of crude oil, we have, as an airline, put in place measures to mitigate the risks posed by fuel price volatility. Infrastructural constraints are another key challenge. The existing facilities in most of the African destinations that we fly to require modernisation. In some instances we have had to provide our own facilities. A case in point – Kisangani Airport, where we had to provide our own fire trucks, as the airport had none.

What are the current talking points in business travel?

Business travellers are becoming even more discerning and the onus is on the airlines to continuously improve their services, in order to keep this category of passengers, who make up about 5% of passenger numbers, but contribute 25% of the revenue. Business travellers need more convenience and shorter process while travelling. We have taken cognisance of this and are working at enhancing our communication and relooking our processes, to ensure that the customer gets more value from flying with us.

How did 2011 air travel volumes compare with 2010?

Last financial year, we saw our passenger numbers cross the three million mark as a result of our route expansion and frequency increase. This is double the number of passengers the airline carried ten years ago. Our 2011-12 half-year financial results do indeed confirm that our expansion strategy is paying off.

9.What does the future hold for African business travel? 

According to recent IMF reports, Sub-Saharan Africa’s recovery from the crisis-induced slowdown is well on course, with growth in most countries now back fairly close to the high levels of the mid-2000s. Growth this year is expected to average 6%. With all indicators pointing to Africa as the next economic growth frontier, it is important that we have a robust transport infrastructure. Transport is an important component in economic development, primarily because it opens up markets, allowing access to goods and services. We are also seeing many international companies setting up shop in Africa. This then calls for enhancement of airline services to meet the growing passenger demands, and it is also important for governments to place more emphasis on upgrading airports to manage this growth.

 

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