Kenya Airways’ New CEO Comes From Subsidiary Jambojet

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It’s been several months since former LOT chief Sebastian Mikosz left his most recent position at Kenya Airways. Since then, Kenya Airways has had Allan Kilavuka in place as acting chief executive. Now, Kilavuka can remove the word ‘acting’ from his title as he has been installed as the airline’s new chief executive and group managing director on a permanent basis.

Kenya
Kenya Airways is a SkyTeam Alliance member and flag carrier of Kenya. Photo: Andrew Thomas via Flickr

Before stepping into the Kenya Airways leadership role, Kilavuka was the head of its low-cost subsidiary Jambojet. Jambojet and its small fleet of Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s fly domestically within Kenya as well as several international destinations within the East Africa region.

More about the new chief

Kilavuka has actually been in his ‘new’ position for two months. He was, in fact, acting chief executive of Kenya Airways since the departure of the previous CEO.

“During his short-time as acting chief executive of Kenya Airways, Allan has thrown all his energy into this role, whilst still maintaining his position of CEO of Jambo Jet,”  -Kenya Airways chairman Michael Joseph via Kenyans.co.ke

Before Kilavuka’s role at Jambojet, the new boss was also a former executive with General Electric Africa as well as Deloitte. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Nairobi and a Postgraduate Certificate in Psychology from the University of Liverpool.

Jambojet
Kenya Airways’ new boss comes from its subsidiary budget airline, Jambojet. Photo: Jambojet

Stepping into controversy?

Kilavuka will be stepping into a challenging role which was vacated in a cloud of controversy. The previous CEO was Sebastian Mikosz, the former LOT chief who has been given most of the credit for the Polish airline’s turnaround.

According to Daily Nation, insiders say Mr. Mikosz “dug his own grave” after he dismissed top managers who would have otherwise been critical to his role as leader. It was these same managers who sabotaged his plans by leaking his strategies before they could be implemented. A Daily Nation source reports that Kenyan managers felt frustrated after they were asked to run any turnaround-related ideas through Mikosz’s inner circle of fellow Polish advisors.

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“No one including myself is a miracle man. It is not the CEO that is turning around the airline. He is only leading the direction, but then everybody around must want to turn around the airline…You cannot make an airline profitable in one year. Unless you allow me to go outside the law, then it is not possible,” -Sebastian Mikosz, former Kenya Airways CEO

It’s possible that Kilavuka will face similar challenges. However, Mikosz and Kilavuka come from extremely different backgrounds and will likely have different approaches with regard to leadership style and vision for the airline.

Kenya Airways
Kenya’s primary long-haul aircraft is the 787 Dreamliner. Photo: Nicky Boogaard via Wikipedia

Conclusion

Kilavuka has a big challenge ahead of him. In December the airline issued a profit warning, which means that it will report a net loss greater than the 7.5 billion Kenyan shillings (US$75 million) over what was recorded in December 2018. It is up to its new CEO to make the airline profitable again. Something its former CEO was trying hard to accomplish.

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It’s very possible that Kenyan management at the airline will be much more receptive toward their new homegrown leader. In addition to this, Kilavuka may have better insight into how best to lead the airline and its Kenyan employees in a more suitable manner. Sometimes cultural differences are too large to overcome, which may have been part of Mikosz’s downfall – who saw much success in Europe prior to his recent role.

Do you think Kilavuka can turn Kenya Airways around and bring the airline to profitability? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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