KQ appoints new COO as part of management changes

A Kenya Airways plane taxiing at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. PHOTO| COURTESY

National carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) has appointed Jan de Vegt as the new chief operating officer, signaling the sweeping management changes expected at the airline.

He replaces Yves Guibert who leaves the airline at the end of July, after working in different management positions over the last seven years. His exit adds to the growing list of senior management leaving the troubled airline.

Mr Vegt joins KQ from Cobalt Ground Solutions in the U.K where he is currently the managing director. He has been at Senior Managerial level for the last 22 years. He has previously held positions in cargo operations at the Air France-KLM group.

In June, Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia hinted at changes in Kenya Airways’ executive suite, as the board and shareholders looked to turnaround the airline.

“You’ve seen us asking people at senior levels to leave and so we shall be restoring capacity in terms of management of that very critical company to our country,” Mr Macharia said on June 16.

Since October 2015, at least six senior managers have left the airline. They include former finance director Alex Mbugua, Alban Mwendar who served as human resource director, Rick Sine who was the fleet director and Gerard Clark who worked as the commercial director.

Alex Avedi also quit the airline last month after been sent on a leave of absence following disquiet by the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) which has been pushing for sweeping changes at the top. In April the pilots staged a day long go slow which resulted in Mr Avedi and Paul Mwangi, flight director, being sent on compulsory leave.

KALPA was also pushing for the sacking of Chief Executive Officer Mbuvi Ngunze, but the Transport CS was non committal on whether the management changes would affect the CEO.

“That is not yet a matter which we can discuss right now. As I said we are reviewing the entire structure of management to make sure that we have the best people running that very key corporate,” he said.

Kenya Airways appointed consultancy firm McKinsey to design and implement a restructuring plan dubbed ‘Operation Pride’. In 2015 the national carrier announced a shock loss of Sh25 billion followed by a half year loss of Sh11 billion.

The airline is expected to announce its full year performance in the coming month.

Kenya Airways has also announced plans to lay off at least 600 employees as part of the restructuring plan.

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Story By Michael Karanja
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