Sebastian Mikosz, group managing director and CEO of loss-making Kenya Airways, said that the company’s turnaround strategy is propelling it toward recovery while insisting his reasons for leaving the airline are personal. The Polish citizen, who served as CEO of LOT Polish Airlines before joining Kenya Airways (KQ) in June 2017, recently tendered his resignation effective December 31.
On the sidelines of IATA’s June 1 to 3 annual general meeting in Seoul, Mikosz told AIN that his management reduced cost, increased revenue, and strengthened the route network. “We changed a general atmosphere at Kenya Airways from an airline in [trouble] into an airline that is fixing itself,” he said. “We started growing the network, which allowed us to increase revenues.”
According to the CEO, his management has narrowed the airline’s loss and increased revenue by 8 percent, to $1.1 billion. “We managed to absorb an increase in the cost of fuel,” he noted. “We reduced the loss by 18 percent.”
Mikosz added that management now looks to fight for market share. “We are struggling financially, but a process like this takes a few years. But we are going in the right direction,” he said.
As part of the turnaround strategy, KQ has leased some of its Boeing 787 and 777 fleets to other operators. Recently the airline took back two of its 787s, but the CEO said that it will continue subleasing its 777s to Turkish Airlines. “[Those airplanes] are too big for us,” he explained.
Meanwhile, said Mikosz, KQ has begun working on a fleet-acquisition plan. “We are planning to have new narrowbody aircraft,” he revealed. “We are discussing the plan with the board and we will announce the decision once we finalize the discussion. We are planning to have some fleet decisions because the company needs to grow.”
KQ has also proposed taking over Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport from the Kenyan government. Kenyan media has reported that Mikosz decided to leave the company because the government rejected the proposal. Mikosz denies the news report. “That is not true,” he said. “I made the decision after discussing it with my family. We would be there for three full financial years. There is a good turnaround process going on. It is a good time for me and my family to leave. I am a turnaround specialist and...I am leaving only five months ahead of my initial contract. I think it is enough for us.”
According to Mikosz, the Kenyan parliament’s transport commission is evaluating the private-public partnership proposal to combine all national air transport assets. “The proposal was accepted and the parliament is debating on it,” he reported. “The parliament transport commission has studied the possible scenarios of putting KQ and the airport together. And we have to wait until the commission issues its recommendations.”