The upcoming Annual General Meeting of Shareholders of Kenya Airways (KQ), due for next month at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi, will provide the parting stage for Evanson Mwaniki, who served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the past decade. At the helm of the board, he presided over some of the airline’s biggest successes, but over the past three years also had to make the announcements of losses at the shareholder meetings, which hung like a cloud over his legacy as Chairman of the Board.
Ongoing discussions of either a government bailout or capital injection were, according to a usually reliable source, tied to changes at the company and the announcement that Mr. Mwaniki will not seek re-election suggests that word may have come down that the government, the largest shareholder in Kenya Airways, may not have extended their usually taken-for-granted votes and was seeking a new Chairman to oversee the company’s return to profitability.
Last year, already two new faces were voted on to the board, and more changes are expected this year when the votes are cast at the annual general meeting (AGM). There are indications that various measures taken by new CEO, Mbuvi Ngunze, who will have completed his first full calendar year at the AGM, could return the airline to profitability, among them the sale of at least four B777-200s while the acquisition of additional B787s and other aircraft was changed from outright purchase to long operating leases.
While sections of the social media in particular have taken almost insane pleasure over the past year to lay into the company and foul-mouth it at every turn of the way, regular travelers have stood by Kenya Airways after the airline a year ago moved into their new Terminal 1A – a facility shared with SkyTeam partner airlines – and improved inflight catering and other related services which won them the World Travel Award for Best African Business Class for the third year running. This correspondent is on record to have repeatedly said that “I would rather fly with Kenya Airways and enjoy their superior inflight services and their new lounges in Terminal 1A at JKIA [Jomo Kenyatta International Airport] than with another airline which, while profitable, treats passengers often with contempt and offers inferior premium class service compared to KQ. In fact, I maintain that most of those critics may not have flown on KQ for some time, if ever, and, therefore, constitute a fifth column for Kenya’s competitors.”
The notice of Evanson Mwaniki not seeking re-election was sent out to shareholders yesterday from the company. Mr. Mwaniki had earlier in the year also retired from the boards of BAT Kenya and of East African Breweries.