THE PRIDE OF AFRICA | FLYING HIGH IN 2016

“The Pride of Africa”

Our national flag carrier is on a lane of its own; seamlessly living up to its name if the World Travel Awards 2016 is anything to go by. Going by the title “Africa’s Leading airline” this year, Kenya Airways not only affirms its dominance in the African skies but also confirms that it is indeed, the Pride of Africa.

Moreover, Its commitment to modern conviniences and overall customer experience, also saw it scoop the “Africa’s Leading Airline – Business Class” award for the fourth consecutive year.

In light of this remarkable achievement, we reached out to Kenya Airways’ Marketing Director Chris Diaz, to get his sentiments on the awards and future progress of the carrier.

KQ Marketing Director Chris Diaz. Photo/Hannington zurukenya
Kenya Airways’ (KQ) Marketing Director Chris Diaz. Photo/Hannington

For the past 22 years consecutively, South African Airways has been the best airline to fly with as far as winning the Africa’s Leading Airline Award at the World Travel Awards is concerned. This year however, Kenya Airways broke that cycle, taking the Africa’s Leading Airline Award home. How big a deal is winning this title and what does it mean for the airline and your consumers going forth?

The award was a tremendous honour and great reward for the monumental efforts all of us at Kenya Airways have put into making the airline a leader in the region. Going forward, we are working to ensure Kenya Airways remains at the forefront of international aviation with a commitment to continue offering our guests warm African hospitality . We continue to connect Africa to the world and the world to Africa.

Aside from Bagging Africa’s Leading Airline Award this year, you also scooped Africa’s Leading Airline – Business Class Award. This is the fourth consecutive year you are taking this award home; you clearly must be doing something right in this department.  Today, Business-Class travel experience is highly valued by flyers and a lot of factors come into play when deciding what airline offers seamless travel for this group. What sort of developments or services offered by your airline do you think sets you apart from the rest in the game, hence getting you this accolade for the fourth consecutive year?

Over the years we have invested heavily to get where we are. We have one of the newest fleet in the region. We have invested in ensuring our guests experience superior flying experiences in the Business-Class cabin. We are now operating from a fairly new hub at JKIA with a state of the art terminal, we have introduced new menus on board, and we have fully-flat bed in our aircraft. We also have world class inflight services and award winning lounges at JKIA. These are just some of our strengths but our greatest one is our people who work tirelessly despite difficult circumstances to keep our guests coming again and again.

Having won the “Africa’s Leading Airline” title, do you perhaps think that all eyes will be on you now to set the industry’s standards in terms of service and comfort?

Definitely. As a result, our focus is to remain committed to transforming air travel by continuously investing in the best people, products and technology and, in doing so, developing a highly acclaimed airline brand.

While we are still on that topic, are there any developments that Kenya airways may have achieved that perhaps are a first in the industry thereby setting yourself apart as a trend setter?

As mentioned above, our product and people speak for themselves. The fact that we also know Africa better than anyone else is a great advantage. We go to 42 destinations in the continent and if anyone knows Africa, it is Kenya Airways. In this case we continue to contribute to the sustainable development of Africa.

Of course, even with a successful a company as yours, one cannot fail to encounter a few shortcomings here and there, in a few reviews that we’ve taken a look at, we’ve come across several critiques in terms of “cost-cutting measures in regards to meals, delays without notice and/or apologies and sometimes a not so customer friendly staff and so on” thus while the airline might be good, the overall experience for some is not so good. Have you encountered any such concerns, and what are you doing to curb them?

We receive complaints and we know we are not perfect but are continuously investing to ensure we offer our guests the best in service and the quality of our product.  Yes, there is an opportunity to improve. We strive to bring consistency and quality by focusing on delivering consistently high levels of customer service that extend beyond in-flight service.

Last year, financial reports indicated a 25.7 billion after tax loss incurred by Kenya airways during the last fiscal year. One of the reasons given for this was the major challenge faced by the tourism Industry as a whole i.e. insecurity following terror attacks and the issuance of travel advisories by most countries. However, things are looking up now. Are there any measures or incentives that Kenya Airways has taken to try and draw more tourists to Kenya?

Yes. We currently executing a turnround strategy dubbed, Operation Pride in a bid to change the fortunes of the airline and we are already seeing some positive traction. We have stepped our efforts to ensure seamless connectivity through our hub, at competitive prices. We are working on improving our profitability by instituting several measures in the strategy. In the next 18 to 24 months, we should be breaking even.  In addition, the move by the Government of Kenya to reduce the visa restriction of for children under 16 years has impacted positively on growing tourist numbers especially for Kenya.

Lastly,  if you could recommend one place to tourists looking to visit Kenya, where would this place be and why?

As you know, Kenya is a world-class destination offering some of the best rated tourist activities and products including the Masai Mara and Diani Beach which were voted leading destinations at the Awards. I would recommend visiting these sites among the many others Kenya has to offer.

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