Kenya airways in trouble as loss deepen to US$74 million

Fuel, personnel and cost of aircraft remain top drivers of the airline’s costs

Kenya’s national carrier-Kenya Airways has posted a Ksh7.558 billion (USD74.6 million ) net loss for the year ended December 2018, as higher operating costs continue to eat into its improving revenues.

The airline which has changed its reporting period (end year) from March 31 to December 31, had a Ksh6.418 billion (USD63.5 million) loss in the 9-month period between April 1, and Dec 31, 2017.

This is despite the airline’s growth in total revenue for the 12 months which increased to Ksh114.45 billion (USD1.13 billion), compared to Ksh80.79 billion (USD789.7 million) for the nine month period ended December 31, 2017.

According to the management, fuel, personnel and the cost of aircraft remain the top three drivers of the airline’s costs, contributing to about two thirds of total operating costs.

“Fuel price volatility remains a major challenge for airlines around the world, and Kenya Airways is no exception,” Chairman Michael Joseph said as the carrier released its results on Tuesday.

According to KQ’s management, the price of oil per barrel saw an upward trend from the beginning of the year before reducing in the last three months of the year.

“As a result we saw our fuel costs rise by 73.6 per cent from Ksh19 billion (USD187.8 million) incurred in the nine months period in 2017 to Ksh33 billion (USD362.2 million) in the full year ended December 2018. The total cost of fuel in the 12-month period of 2017 was Sh25.5 billion(USD252.1 million), a 30 per cent increase,” Joseph said.

Fleet ownership costs also increased to Ksh18.9 billion (USD 186.9 million) from a restated amount of Ksh12.5 billion (USD 123.6 million) incurred in the previous nine months.

“The 2018 results are not directly comparable with the 2017 results as it is a representation of 12 months against the nine months in 2017. Were the 2017 results to be annualized, there would have been improvement in the results for the year,” the management notes in its financial statement for the year under review.

KQ has been struggling with loses since 2015 when it reported a Ksh25.7 billion loss (USD254.1 million). Things worsened in 2016 when the airline sunk deeper into losses reporting a loss of Ksh26.2 billion (USD259 million).

READ:Kenya Airways posts a $38.7 million loss in 2018 half year results

The carrier has however been making strides in improving its revenue stream through a number of initiatives, including additional routes.

Last year, growth in passenger revenue boosted its total revenues from Ksh63.9 billion (USD631.7 million) in the previous nine month period of 2017 to Ksh88.7 billion (USD876.9 million) in the year ended December 31, 2018.

Passenger numbers were 4.84 million at close of December 2018, while the nine-month period ended December 2017 recorded 3.43 million passengers. The airline achieved a cabin factor of 77.6 per cent (12 months compared to 76.2 per cent in the nine months of 2017.

In addition to the growth in passenger revenues, revenue from cargo amounted to Ksh8.68 billion (USD85.8 million) for the year 2018 compared to Ksh5.7 billion (USD56.4 million)  in the nine months of 2017.

“Kenya Airways continues to focus on delivering the turnaround programme that we embarked on in 2016. In the last year ended December 31, 2018, the capital optimization programme dubbed ‘project safari’  was completed. We have also undertaken various actions to ensure financial and operating efficiency to enhance business sustainability,” Joseph said.

KQ hired Polish CEO Sebastian Mikosz in 2017 to help turnaround the loss making carrier.

READ:Polish CEO Mikosz taxiing Kenya airways back to profit runway

The carrier is hoping its new routes, including the long haul Nairobi-New York route which commenced in October last year, will help boost its revenues as it works on its turnaround strategy.

ALSO READ:History made: From Kenya to New York with KQ’s inaugural direct flight

“We are on the right direction to turn this airline around and make it once more the pride of Africa,” Joseph had said last year when the carrier narrowed its losses to Ksh4 billion(USD39.6 million)  in half year to June 2018.