Kenya Airways picks Polish CEO to drive carrier’s recovery plan

Outgoing Kenya Airways CEO Mbuvi Ngunze during an investor briefing at the Pride Centre, Nairobi, last October. FILE PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

What you need to know:

  • Mr Sebastian Mikosz is expected to take over as the airline’s group managing director and chief executive effective June 1.
  • KQ is hoping to tap Mr Mikosz’s two-decade experience in the business world, including stints at Deloitte and at the Polish online travel agency eSky.

Kenya Airways has hired a Polish veteran of the aviation industry to lead the national carrier’s turnaround plan.
Mr Sebastian Mikosz who is credited with the successful turnaround of his home country’s national carrier, is expected to take over as the airline’s group managing director and chief executive effective June 1.

KQ, as the airline is known by its international code, is hoping to tap Mr Mikosz’s two-decade experience in the business world, including stints at Deloitte and at the Polish online travel agency eSky.

His most notable role is the rescue of LOT Polish Airlines from the brink of disaster.

“We have no doubt that under his leadership and guidance, the airline, with the support of management and the Board will strive to greater heights and achievements as well as continue to regain its altitude,” said KQ’s board chairman Mr Michael Joseph in a statement on Thursday.

Mr Mikosz was first appointed chief executive of LOT in 2009 and steered the airline during the worst of the global financial crisis. He later quit the company only to be brought on board again in 2013.

At the time the Polish national carrier was bleeding having reported five consecutive years of losses and relying on a government bailout plan.

His time at LOT came to an end in 2015 when he resigned following disagreement over the airline’s privatisation plan.

Mr Mikosz’s turnaround style provides a pointer of what KQ can expect.

At LOT he led a network revamp, cutting down on unprofitable routes while growing passenger numbers to money-making destinations. He slashed costs, reducing the number of perks that economy customers could expect.

Mr Mikosz, who has a master’s degree in economics and finance, may also find himself reliving his old confrontations with the labour unions. In 2016 KQ struggled with industrial action amid growing disgruntlement among both pilots and contracted workers.

KQ has been in financial trouble for the last few years. In the half year to September 2016, it reported a loss after-tax of Sh4.8 billion, which was a significant improvement from the Sh11.95 billion loss reported in the previous year.

As part of the turnaround strategy, Mr Joseph, Safaricom’s former chief executive, was brought on board last year. The airline also promised the exit of Mr Mbuvi Ngunze from the position of CEO.

Mr Ngunze, who has been KQ’s top man for two years, will stay on with the carrier until the end of July when KQ is expected to complete an ongoing capital restructuring.

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