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Better connectivity, fair competition

By DERRICK VIKIRU

Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) continues to set new standards for the country’s Airports, and in it’s highest echelon sits a man poised to drive this development. In an interview with MANAGEMENT Magazine, Jonny Andersen, the managing director shares the strides made by KAA to ensure airlines don’t stay grounded.

The quality of airport infrastructure can improve or slow a country’s international competitiveness and even affect the flow of foreign investment. This statement by KAA managing director Jonny Andersen speaks volume about the place of the aviation industry in a country’s economic development. Aviation acts as an ‘economic multiplier’ and facilitates wider economic activity. Globally, the aviation industry – one of the driving forces behind globalisation – connects the world like no other mode of transport. President Uhuru Kenyatta is alive to the industry’s vital role in economic growth and national development and in 2018, he affirmed Kenya’s commitment to improving civil aviation infrastructure.

 “We are an infrastructure provider. We enable the aviation sector to take off and land,” states Andersen. He is thus hellbent on ensuring the availability of appropriate infrastructure for the aviation sector to grow and meet demand, and eventually fulfil its economic and social role.

Revamp and expand

The availability of competitive airport services, including runways, passenger terminals and ground handling, is critical for the continued success of Kenya’s aviation. “The market is very competitive, and the skies are opening, and more and more people are flying into/through Kenya. East Africans are flying everywhere in the world and the cost of travel is going down. As a result, the existing infrastructure is challenged,” say Andersen. 

He is quick to add that with all the exposure and experience travellers are getting in other airports, comparison is made with what is happening back home and quality service is expected. It is this reality that has largely driven Kenya to undertake multi-million-dollar projects to revamp and expand her main international gateway – Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). Kenya as an anchor country for trade in Sub-Saharan Africa heavily relies on good infrastructure to close the gaps between Africa’s Free Trade area transport networks. 

Andersen emphasises that these initiatives are aimed at improving air connectivity, reducing the cost of air transport and ensuring the sustainable development of transport in Africa that will further improve service delivery. However, he notes that he cannot do this without the people. He prides in the people he works with saying they are the driving force behind the efficient running of airports in Kenya. “The core of this organisation is its people. It is all about the right people, good strategy and implementation. After investing in selecting, training and empowering the people, I focus on implementation of the strategies that we have in place.” 

Evolution of high-performance airports 

Over time, the business mission of airports has evolved from a no-frills experience to a high tech, efficient transportation system. Increased passenger and air cargo demand is forcing airports to invest heavily in infrastructure improvement. “We have seen the national flag carrier invest in buying larger planes and opting for trips to more destinations within and outside the region. In the recent past, we have also witnessed air travel and connectivity within the region getting better through increased number of low-cost carriers (LCC).” Andersen attributes this to the increased efficiency within the airports and other industry players such as the ground handlers and airport security. He counts this as a win for Kenya and adds it to the list of his triumphs. 

“Good service starts with good infrastructure. The presence of LCCs has resulted to an increase in domestic passenger numbers in Kenya by over 20 per cent. By increasing the number of passengers and airlines coming in, we are creating jobs. This benefits the entire market because as competition increases, prices go down and the quality of service and customer experience is enhanced among competing airlines.”

He notes that the aviation industry is entirely dependent on passenger numbers. Without people travelling, he says, we will have a dead airport. He points to this as the reason behind the Authority’s move to invest in every aspect that will enhance efficiency at the airport and make the travellers’ experience as seamless as possible. It gives him joy when he sees planes taking off. “I love the smell of jet fuel – the best smell in the world,” he jokes amid light laughter.

Industry award

Andersen understands that the airport is a community of very many industry players, listing the airline companies, cargo and freight services, security, restaurants, customs, tour and travel companies et cetera. He believes that to create synergy among all these players, motivation is key. This frame of thinking compelled the Authority to come up with Aviation Business Excellence Awards (ABEA) in partnership with the Kenya Institute of Management’s (KIM) business excellence tool, the Organisational Performance Index (OPI) to reward best industry players. The program is still in its infancy, but Andersen believes it is going to be a game changer in the aviation industry’s customer experience.

Derrick Vikiru is the Sub-Editor Management Magazine. Email: dvikiru@kim.ac.ke

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