Artificial Intelligence can fly KQ into recovery


KQ planes on the taxi bay at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to power Kenya Airways (KQ) to recovery. Widespread use of technology is beginning to influence how consumers are treated and make organisations understand their needs.

This is because AI-powered chatbots provide personalised and immediate assistance to every client. As a result, airlines become more productive.

AI evaluates travellers’ data and provides personalised travel experiences in the airline sector. Because of this new area that AI has brought into the business, KQ can be on track to recovery.

Read: Why AI ChatGPT Software is a big deal

And as the economy is trying to recover from the effects of the pandemic, the aviation industry must learn how to manage consumer and employee-labour relationships.

A healthy work environment fosters a culture of creativity and excellence.

A look at the industry reports in 2022, the airline moved 65,000 tonnes of cargo, increasing tonnage by 3.5 percent.

In addition, by the end of 2022, 10.3 billion Available Seat Kilometers (ASKs) were deployed, up 75 percent from the 5.9 billion reported over the same period in 2021.

Because of this, passenger load factors in 2022 were just 3.9 percentage points lower than those attained in 2019 before the pandemic.

In 2022, KQ's revenue increased by 66 percent to Sh117 billion. In addition, passenger numbers were up 68 percent to 3.7 million compared to 2021. All these indicators show that KQ is on a recovery path.

Despite all these stellar performances given the challenges that affected the industry, there are clear signs that it has some work to do to lower operating costs that went up by 93 percent due to escalating fuel costs, forex losses, volatility of the shilling and the financial restructuring.

Further, a strategy to leverage technology for more remarkable productivity improvement is imperative. AI, for example, will assist in regaining consumer confidence, reducing costs, and improving operational efficiency.

It is also time to review its European strategy if the current partnerships restrict its expansion to directly compete with other African carriers.

A flexible partnership strategy with other airlines, travel companies, and airports is more desirable to expand its customer base, improve efficiency, and cut costs.

It is not clear why the airline's Europe presence is limited to a few cities compared to its African rivals such as Ethiopian Airlines.

Like other airlines globally, KQ should invest in new technologies to improve safety, efficiency, and customer experience.

For example, biometric facial recognition and fingerprint scanning technologies streamline check-in and boarding processes.

Read: Kenya ranked fifth in Africa on AI readiness

Further, it will help reduce wait times and enhance security. In addition, intensify the use of self-service kiosks, mobile apps and a robust online booking platform.

Even though there are similar challenges facing the entire airline industry, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the sector expects a return to profitability next year as airlines continue to reduce losses stemming from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some of the airline's challenges that are being looked into are the restructuring of its financial arrangements, which requires broader support from the government.

For instance, the government of the United States gave the aviation sector $50 billion in grants and loans in March 2020 through the Coronavirus Assistance, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Similar policies have also been adopted by other nations, such as offering airlines grants or low-interest loans to aid them with operational costs and staff retention.

Governments have yet to take steps to boost the aviation sector more generally, such as lowering taxes and fees for airlines and investing in airport facilities to promote the resumption of air travel.

With the slow recovery of air travel demand, these actions are meant to assist airlines in recovering from the pandemic and resuming sustainable operations.

We learn from others. Emirates Airlines, for example, has played a significant role in promoting Dubai as a popular tourism destination.

In addition, the airline's marketing initiatives have contributed to developing a favourable perception of the UAE as a modern, cosmopolitan nation.

The sight of KQ in foreign airports evokes nostalgia and a sense of pride in many Kenyans. In it lies an excellent opportunity to leverage its branding potential to revive our tourism sector.

The country stands to benefit from KQ’s success as it contributes to the branding of Kenya. It symbolises Kenya's identity and culture, and we must ensure its recovery.

Investment in technology precipitates greater profitability in the days to come.