Friday, July 19, 2024

Leonard Khafafa: Kenya Airways is finally making great headlines – we are vindicated

Leonard Khafafa Aviation Commentator

Kenya Airways (KQ) is finally in the headlines for great reasons. It has been rated the most punctual African flag carrier by aviation analytics firm Cirium. KQ made timely arrivals for over 70 per cent of its flights in 2023. The national carrier was second to Safair, a low-cost privately-owned carrier, and tenth in the Middle East and Africa. What an achievement!

Yet what the headlines omit is the fact that this great achievement is not by chance. It is the product of a carefully crafted recovery strategy called Project Kifaru. One of the aspects Project Kifaru has focused on is the customer experience. A great experience stems from safety, security, reliability, regular and timely departures and arrivals and onboard services.

The national carrier has an impeccable safety, security and reliability record. There is never any compromise when Maintenance, Repairs and Overhaul (MRO) checks are due. In fact, unlike many airlines, KQ would much rather ground its planes than fly them past their MRO checks.

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It is for these reasons that KQ was awarded the best airline in terms of safety, reliability and utilization by Boeing Analytx. This was apropos of the Boeing 737 for August 2023 rolling back three months. KQ’s fleet of Embraer were fourth globally for the same reasons.

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But safety, reliability and utilization, without good On-Time Performance (OTP), don’t count for much in enhancing the customer experience. OTP is a globally used metric of performance taken at two levels: at zero minutes meaning departure or arrival of a plane is bang on time, and at 15 minutes meaning the plane has departed or arrived within 15 minutes of the scheduled time.

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15 minutes is usually a buffer in case of delays resulting from ground equipment issues, fueling procedures, air traffic control instructions or other back-end processes. KQ CEO Allan Kilavuka puts a premium on OTP attributing the airline’s recent high ranking to, “persistent focus and delivery of On Time Performance each month of the year, which has been a cornerstone of improving our guest experience strategy.”

Kenya Airways has improved its OTP by focusing on its aviation processes. One of these is in its ground-handling operations. The closure of check-in counters is now strictly one hour to departure. This allows sufficient time for passengers to pass through screening and safety checks and to clear with immigration authorities.

The final boarding call is made for all passengers to report to boarding gates 40 minutes to departure. 10 minutes thereafter, attempts are made to locate passengers who haven’t turned up. Offloading of checked-in baggage commences at 20 minutes to departure. Passengers who turn up after this are denied boarding.

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Information from KQ sources reveal the company to have taken the pre-covid datum line of 80 per cent OTP as their yardstick. In the first quarter of 2023, OTP at zero minutes was at 46 per cent and 54 per cent at 15 minutes. In the third quarter, KQ achieved 90 per cent at zero minutes and an impressive 98 per cent at 15 minutes. Of the 41,905 flights made last year, the airline made timely arrivals in more than 30,000 giving it an annual average of 71.86 percent.

No doubt, KQ is on the right trajectory. 2023 was the inflection point. The airline not only improved on its OTP, but for the first time in six years, it also turned an operating profit. 2024 holds a lot of promise especially as Project Kifaru 2 is executed.

Well done Kenya Airways! Our faith in you has been vindicated!

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