360Submissions: Kenya Airways Get Your Act Together! How Not To Deal With (Nigerian) Passengers

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In the last month alone, Kenya Airways has repeatedly canceled Lagos bound flights and delayed others by an average of 9 hours.

These delays and cancellations have been backed with all sorts of excuses ranging from a lack of aviation fuel to the pilot missing to ‘operational issues; and the latest, aircraft issues. Interestingly, irrespective of the issues, the delays always curiously seem to take the same amount of time.

Last Friday, Kenya Airways as usual announced a 9 hour delay on their 7:55am Nairobi-Lagos flight. Passengers who were mostly on transit from other far away places were exhausted and very disappointed. Many missed graduations, weddings, office meetings, conferences and other personal events. One man cried when he realised he would miss his youngest son’s high school graduation.

Kenya Airways ushered willing passengers to a nearby hotel, promising them a 5pm flight home. All passengers were brought back to the terminal at 2pm only to learn that the flight was canceled. Let us not even start to discuss the distress, miscommunication, confusion and utter chaos at the Nairobi airport where there were no customer care reps to manage the situation. The ground crew were just there to inform passengers – almost without empathy for the distress they had caused.

The next day was a DEJAVU. At 7am, the Lagos bound flight was again moved to 5pm. Sensing potential problems, customer care staff again were clueless about how to deal with distressed passengers (some now stranded for 2 days). Their only aim in life at this point seemed to be to herd them like cattle as quickly as possible back to the hotel.

Note: Some passengers have how had to check in 3 times in 2 days. One would think someone would have asked the transport team to keep those passengers at the hotels till they were sure the flight was departing.

The attempt only partially succeeded as many irate passengers demanded to speak with a senior person rather than a poor ground crew staff poorly trained to handle issues of this magnitude.
The Nigerian passengers, in an effort to calm the situation, nominated one leader to go seek out management. It seemed to take a lifetime as they did not get immediate cooperation. In the meantime, the cattle herding to the hotels went on almost forcefully in spite of protests by some passengers that this was not the focus.

When the delegation returned, passengers were rather surprised that the 2 KQ staff who came with them had vanished.

They were later found and confessed they preferred to let the delegation members speak to the passengers. People were really shocked at this very clear demonstration of inability to handle basic issues at best and complete indifference to your customers at worst. They still insisted on the delegation leaders speaking which was not accepted by the passengers who were now becoming pretty agitated.

Sadly, they may as well not have spoken as they could not promise anything, they could not tell whether or not the 5pm flight would take off, in fact, they only succeeded in frustrating people more as they were inaudible.

Passengers then requested 3 simple points:

1. Guarantee the 5pm delayed flight would not be canceled like the previous day.
2. Guarantee that those with onward connections from Lagos would be given hotel accommodation.
3. Those who could proceed would be assisted with transport.

This is where it completely went wrong as it initially took 2 hours to even get a letter from the junior staff acting as senior people. The letter they came with was disappointingly a standard generic apology letter with no commitments or promises and none of the points above was taken on board.

All they made were several vague verbal, non binding promises.

Bottomline, Kenya Airways seriously failed in its commitments to customers again and again.

Kenya Airways did not help any stranded customers – their staff were nowhere to be found on arrival in Lagos. We were all on our own.

Kenya Airways has not made an attempt to reach out to several affected customers to apologise.

Kenya airways has not even made an attempt to compensate anyone.

Kenya Airways lost majority of its Trader Class Passengers due to failures in understanding its Nigerian customers. This group has since moved to Ethiopian Airlines who have smartly opened a local landing point in Enugu; the centre of trade.

It appears that this is the single most important reason Kenya Airways downgraded the Lagos route as they are simply unable to fill the cargo hold any longer. That lucrative cargo business was lost when they lost the traders.

Kenya airways has not been able to attract Nigerian business and leisure travelers due to its lack of customer focus. What business person will fly with an airline where it appears that the only guarantee you have is a delay or outright cancellation? Nigerians are too sophisticated to be bought by cheap hotel accommodation in industrial estates on Mombassa Road when business and/or family awaits at home.

Go ask South Africans how much they earn from Nigerian weekend travelers or holiday makers.
To compound issues, you take customers who are stranded in Nairobi to hotels and make them buy their own transit visa which they never wanted in the first place for $20. You make unsuspecting passengers whose flights have been canceled pay for a rescheduled flight – wow.

The flight on Saturday was less than half full with just about 100 passengers (combined from 2 days). This is slowly becoming a Catch 22 for you and you are taking it out on us, the few loyal customers left in Africa’s biggest economy.

Get your act together Kenya Airways or you will lose the rest of us who have deliberately traveled with you and coped with a lot of poor service, shoddy old and poorly maintained aircraft. Why Nigerian passengers have to endure going through the old and tired Terminal 1C, we cannot understand.

The planes used to countries KQ feels are important (Muzungu/Oyinbo) countries in Europe, US and now even Asia are so different, one can shed a tear for Africans’ inhumanity to Africans.
Kenya Airways, maybe, just maybe if you send a 777 or a dreamliner to Lagos, all those wealthy Nigerians you see on Nollywood movies may just maybe give you a try and forego Muzuingu/Oyinbo airlines.
Just imagine what that will do for Kenya’s GDP.

We fly with you because you are our brothers and sisters and we want to support you but you treat us like lesser humans.

Do you realize that an African who does business and holidays in Africa alone will never experience your new and celebrated jets? Are nice jets for a class of people only?

Kenya Airways, you will never be big in the West -at the end of the day, they say East, West, home is Best.

Africa is your home, not where your old and tired planes go for tests. It is Europe and the others. You should try the rest.

Kenya Airways, get your act together or you will lose Africa.

Asante Sanaa

A very concerned but fiercely loyal customer.


Watch the video of the ordeal Nigerians went through in the hands of Kenyan Airwarys below:

P.S: Do you have similar stories on airways and travel? Please send a mail to submission@360nobs.com

360nobs Editor

360nobs Editor

Writer. Author. Blogger. Editor.


  1. It sounds like you need to learn about airline economics. You need to realize that airlines dont fly 787’s or 777’s on such short routes because it would be nice for Nigerians. Why would KQ take a multimillion dollar aircraft and turn it into a high cycle plane by flying it on such a short route? In addition, KQ’s fleet isnt overflowing with widebody aircraft to fly NBO-LOS just so Nigerians can have “nice planes”. KQ will utilize the aircraft where it can get the best yields, which in their case is on long haul routes like London, or Hong Kong.

  2. Robert, Nairobi is a 5 hour flight. Amsterdam 5.5 hours, London about the same and so is Jo’burg. While KLM uses a 777, SAA uses a 747, BA and all other proper airlines too use similar jets. I It is therefore not a question of economics but rather, a self defeating and self limiting strategy. You are only as limited as your mind lets you. If Kenya Airways actually wanted to offer a premium service and attract the middle class, maybe just maybe, they would be able to charge a little more and justify the use of the wide-body aircraft. This is not about aviation but product positioning and branding. BTW, a ticket price to Amsterdam and Nairobi are very similar so there is really no justification for those old shabby 737s that look like they are about to fall apart.. BA is seen as the rich man’s airline in Nigeria but is actually just a regular airline everywhere else. They need to understand their customers and act correctly. I just heard that Ethiopian has about 54 destinations in Africa and 30 outside. While they are expanding routes, Kenya airways has been canceling routes. That tells you something.

  3. Squid, I feel you are still missing the point about the economics of an airline route. You seem to be caught up in the imagery of flying 787/777’s solely for aesthetic reasons. This lack of capacity discipline, where small countries egotistically believe they should have large aircraft flying everywhere, has led to the failure of countless African carriers since the 1960’s (Nigeria Airways, Air Nigeria, etc).

    I am aware of the distance between NBO and LOS (2383 miles). Here in the US its 2475 miles between New York and Los Angeles. Despite it being a 5-6 hour flight, its still not considered long-haul in the industry. Therefore US carriers have realized that deploying widebody aircraft on high cycle routes is not as economical as using narrowbodies more frequently., especially during times of high fuel prices. American Airlines earned a record $932 million USD in the first quarter of this year. Do you think they did that by throwing wide body planes on thin high frequency routes?

    Now I can’t speak to the conditions on KQ’s 737s, but I do understand their reasoning for using a narrowbody plane. Whether their reasons are load factor, and/or yields, it wouldnt make sense to fly a 777 half full where at that point you are burning more fuel per passenger than you would on a 737 sized plane. It just makes more economic sense to to use the aircraft on routes with more passengers/higher yield. You must also factor in the landing fee difference for a 777/787 versus a 737, which can be huge.

    You mention SA flying 747s to LOS. Actually they are using the Airbus A346 currently. However, did you also notice how much money SA is bleeding?

    You also mention KLM. Well you can’t compare KL to KQ as KL collects large numbers of passengers from North America and the EU and connects them to LOS/Africa. KQ can’t even begin to emulate that type of connectivity.

    In regards to Ethiopian, they have modeled their capacity discipline after the US/EU carriers while also emulating the middle eastern carriers in serving as a transit hub to Asia. No other African airline functions that way. Right now they need the 777 to move large amounts of passengers through their hub, but Im willing to bet that if ET moves to a frequency based schedule, those 777s between LOS and ADD will shrink down to a 737 especially when fuel prices move back up.

    Just because a 777 works on that route for ET, doesn’t mean it will work on LOS-NBO for KQ.

    With all that said, I do understand the service and operational failures of KQ and that needs to be fixed.

  4. Robert, Do you really mean to say KQ is not at fault here ?
    Even if capacity was not the issue, you do NOT cancel on a customer twice without a reason bordering on force marjeure.
    As a matter of fact, most people would rather get to their destination on time than fly on a big aesthetically ‘correct’ plane regardless the price and the services in it.

    KQ is making some grievous mistakes here.

  5. Kane, please reread the discussion. I never argued that KQ was absolved of any service failures. In fact, at the end of my last post I even stated my agreement that KQ failed in that respect. The orginal discussion between Squid and I was over the rationale of using one type of jet over another.

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