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KQ must earn the love, not prey on Kenyans' patriotism



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On a flight from Arusha a couple of years ago, the Kenya Airways pilot took passengers around the tip of Mt. Kilimanjaro and piped in a sonorous voice: ”You are viewing the tip of the highest mountain in East African, just because you flew Kenya Airways.”

His good act was met with applause from the passengers. I was immensely proud of Kenya’s national carrier on that day, and that single act from a Kenyan made me forgive the airline for all ”crimes against passengers”, both real and imagined.

Once again, on a recent flight on the much-feted Dreamliner to New York, the pilot gave a speech about dreams and how they can come true if you persist and believe. And nothing short of a first in fluent Kiswahili, then in English. The passengers, once again, gave a round of applause. This time I was not sure if it was because of the heart-warming landing speech, or just plain relief that we landed safely after 14 hours, and on a new route.

I lay no claim to being more patriotic than any person who does not feel as positive and enthusiastic about this airline as I do. But as Kenyans, we have a responsibility to support our own investments no matter how misplaced we think they are. Kenya Airways has been bailed out of bankruptcy by the national treasury on more than one occasion, in essence making it a child of the taxpayer, even if the adoption was without consultation.

KQ therefore needs to realise that they owe Kenyans some measure of success, and this will not happen unless passengers and their needs are given number one priority on each of their flights.

On the outbound flight, I was starved. I am quite capable of going on a forced hunger strike, but I had watched in dismay as Kenya Airports Authority staff threw even processed foods from passengers into the dust bin at JKIA. It is appalling to watch any sort of food being nonchalantly thrown into a bin in a country in which, according to the Kenya Bureau of Statistics 2016 survey, 36 percent of the population still live below the poverty line.

Meeting requirements to fly to the US is not a valid excuse. The US can dictate what needs to be done, but not how it needs to be done on sovereign soil. I think KQ can afford ground nuts or any other locally grown snacks to leave on the ”kitchen counter” for those who cannot bear fourteen hours on two meals. Passengers do not expect a flying restaurant, but a hunger strike may be the last thing on their minds as well. Basic human dignity and decency goes a long way in buying customer loyalty.

And let Kenya Airports Authority not be lazy on this one, they can take a lesson from France on their regulations regarding foodstuff that are about to expire from supermarkets. That is what nations that care about humanity do – ensuring that food does not go to waste when there is a possibility of some people sleeping hungry.

Kenya wants success, so we must adopt a holistically coordinated approach to address issues, not antagonism.

I had no idea a Dreamliner can have such a small toilet, or maybe I need to be a size zero. In any case, I am not particularly claustrophobic, but anything one does in such a small space can be a mess. So imagine if no one pays attention to that facility for 14 hours!

How does KQ use the data they collect from passengers when they are checking or booking online? Many airlines take this opportunity to carry out customer’s satisfaction surveys. It would be expected that such surveys would be mandatory on a new route. But not our good old KQ.

Many airlines will include questions on airport services that are rendered by the governments of their nations, as a way to ensure a holistic customer experience. Should KQ do a survey, they have a responsibility to put questions that affect passengers that are related to the operations of KAA at the airport. After all, one of the added values of this intercontinental flight is to make JKIA a connection hub for Africans going to the United States.

The opinion of customers may not matter, but to rephrase Richard Branson, KQ should not be embarrassed by their shortcomings. They should learn from them!