As Goes KQ

As Goes KQ

Kenya Airways’ labor turmoil is the latest in a series of devastating economic blows to Kenya.

Everything’s back to normal at Jomo Kenyatta International airport after four days of hell. Kenya Airways’ employees struck the airline last Friday, grounding more than half the flights and sending the country’s tourist infrastructure into chaos.

It was the last thing that was needed in this miserable market right now. First there was the political turbulence of December, 2007, which has never fully been rectified. Then, the world economic downturn. Then, the drought. Now, this.

Kenyan hoteliers are incredibly depressed. I spoke with one in Kenya this morning, and she is normally an upbeat, cheerful sort, now mumbling about trying to change jobs. The strike was over by Monday afternoon, but on Monday morning major lodges in Kenya’s Maasai Mara had put out one day two-for-one offers. “Not very many takers,” I was told today.

Kenya seems to be turning into this behemoth of things past. When I reflect back as recently as 2006, the Kenya of today seems to have little that’s similar.

Kenya Airways was one of the great stars of Kenyan development. Truly in a mere ten years, it outpaced its nearest rival, Ethiopian Airlines, which has been around since 1940! Ethiopian Airlines is a great airline, with an extensive network, but never has managed any marketing. Kenya Airways trumped them, here, and by 2005, had a greater revenue stream and profit than Ethiopian.

The Economist Magazine even named Kenya Airways best business airline of Africa in 2004, a title that had been retained by South African Airways for decades. This was in part because of the airlines clever move to turn its business class (which is very nicely priced) into full flat beds, long before other airlines were considering this.

The fleet is new, full of 777s and beautiful, sharp interiors. Have you flown recently on an airline where the flight attendants regularly clean the bathrooms every two hours? Try KQ!

And the airlines astute partnerships with local carriers like PrecisionAir, and its vested part merger with KLM, secured it to both the local and world markets.

This was a short-lived strike. The unions wanted a 130% pay increase, and they settled for 20%. Even that was grand, given that the airline has laid off no staff despite drastic reductions in revenue in the last year.

Good luck KQ. We use to say in America, as goes GM so goes America. Well, as goes KQ, so goes Kenya.