Any minute now, Kenya Airways — known as KQ — could breathe its last. The Pride of Africa is on her knees. Teetering on the brink of death — a long, painful fatality.
Yet all the mandarins who should know — executives, board members, and ministry officials — have gone AWOL. Or simply wring their hands and helplessly feign powerlessness. They are all a futile impotent lot. Like others, I have watched in agony as the national carrier staggers to its certain demise. It’s clear former CEO Titus Naikuni — whom I had lauded once as a miracle worker — left behind a hulking carcass. As soon as he exited, KQ collapsed in a heap. Which begs the question — who, or what, is killing KQ?
Kenyans take a lot of pride in 254, the country code. KQ was a good projection of that pride. Let me tell an anecdote. For
Kenyans like me who live in North America, KQ has for decades been a visible sign of Kenya’s vitality. Even in the dark days of the single party, KQ stirred our hearts. It was at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, the European air transport hub, where we would connect with KQ on the last leg of our flight “home.” You would see the eager faces of Kenyans and other East Africans ready to board for Nairobi. There were no delays or cancellations. Even well-heeled American and European tourists were very happy with KQ. Now that’s changed.
On a recent jaunt to Nairobi, I approached a KLM agent at Schiphol for customer service. The Dutch agent’s — KLM handles KQ’s needs at Schiphol — spoken and unspoken responses said it all. Once I mentioned I was a KQ — and not KLM — passenger her demeanour completely changed. It was as though I had become a leper to be shunned and scorned. Without listening to my request, she dismissively said she couldn’t help me. I remonstrated with her for being unprofessional.
The thought she was a racist even crossed my mind. She patronising smiled at me and said she couldn’t help with any KQ request no matter what it was. I was stunned and flabbergasted. I asked for her manager. The manager was slightly better — but only slightly. She apologised for her colleague.
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