Kenya Airways Executives Exit as Expats Jump Aboard

 - October 10, 2017, 10:07 AM
Kenya Airways CEO Sepastian Mikosz twice served as chief executive of Lot Polish Airlines.

Four senior executives of Kenya Airways (KQ) resigned on October 4 after the carrier’s new Polish CEO hired five former employees of Lot Polish Airlines to help oversee a turnaround plan that includes fleet downsizing, route network revisions and a debt restructuring plan.   

Head of internal audit Catherine Moraa, head of employee relations Lucy Muhiu, information systems director Kevin Kinyanjui and in-flight and jet fuel procurement officer Brian Mbuti have all left the company.

Kenya Airways’ board hired Sepastian Mikosz, who twice served as president and CEO of Lot, to run the troubled East African carrier in June. To realize his vision for a turnaround at Kenya Airways, Mikosz hired five Polish experts who had served with Lot—a decision that instigated protest from employees of KQ and trade unions. Last week’s mass resignation came a month after the Polish expatriates came aboard.  

KQ’s sources said that Moraa, Muhiu and Kinyanjui all served the company for more than a dozen years and made important contributions to the airline’s operation under former CEOs Titus Naikuni and Mbuvi Ngunze. 

Mikosz hired Monika Kietyka-Michna, Edyta Kijewska-Teny, Magdalena Serwach, Marcin Celejewski and Micha Mierciak, all former officials of Lot, as of September 1.     

Kietyka-Michna, a former chief corporate officer at Lot, has knowledge of strategic management and back office operations. Kijewska-Teny understands data and IT systems, having previously worked for Poland’s national carrier as program manager for implementing its business process management software.

Celejewski, an “author and implementer of growth and development strategies,” previously worked for Lot as chief commercial officer. Mierciak is a procurement expert who centralized the purchase function at Poland’s national airline. Serwach is a corporate lawyer with experience in corporate governance, cohesion and compliance of internal corporate procedures.

Mikosz said he hired the five expats under the terms of a three-month contract, adding that they would not replace any members of KQ’s senior management but rather work with the existing team to improve operations. The new team has been tasked with implementing key objectives throughout the company, including creating, driving and guarding cohesion of KQ strategy.

Still, the development has instigated protest. A statement issued by the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) called the decision to hire the Polish nationals “unacceptable,” adding that the move would exacerbate tensions at the national carrier.

Mikosz told AIN that his prime objective centers on a return to profitability. “We have to make the shareholders of the airline happy...make them feel comfortable about the airline and their investment,” he said. “At the end of the day that is the most important thing.”

According to Mikosz, a return to profitability will require difficult decisions and that might not please everyone. Referring to the loss of talent amidst the turmoil, including seasoned Kenyan pilots who left the company to join Middle Eastern carriers, Mikosz expressed confidence that the airline has retained enough educated and experienced personnel.

“People always change jobs,” he said. “That is a managerial issue that we are going to tackle the same way we tackle any other issues. Airlines are surrounded by difficulties. That makes the job interesting. You do not know what your day [will bring]. So I am concerned by anything harmful to the airline but as managers we will manage it.”

The Kenyan government and Air France-KLM, which control a 29.8 percent and a 26.7 percent stake in the airline, account for the majority of Kenya Airways’ shareholding. The remaining shares trade on the Nairobi Stock Exchange.