Patriots should support State bailout of KQ


A Kenya Airways plane at the JKIA in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

I watched with pride as a Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ plane flew over Muthaiga Golf Club during the recently concluded Magical Kenya Open. Seeing a Kenyan flag fly past an international event of such stature on a plane piloted by Kenyans and owned majorly by Kenyans made us proud.

This incredible experience made me reflect on KQ’s fortunes and the recent announcement by the Government to keep the struggling carrier flying with a Sh20 billion bailout package.

This announcement was met with mixed reactions, however, there are many reasons all patriotic Kenyans should support the plan.

At least 10 American airlines received Sh2.5 trillion in bailout from the US government slightly more than a year ago. Hit by Covid-19, these airlines are far more established than KQ.

Other well-known airlines have received government bailouts across the world.

Why would governments go to such lengths? Because all airlines, no matter how large or small, are critical infrastructure for a country's socio-economic development.

Indeed, aviation will be a key driver of economic recovery following the pandemic, according to IATA. Airlines must thus commit to working with governments, institutions, and stakeholders across the industry to re-establish capacity that can meet the demands of the economic recovery as quickly as possible.

KQ is critical to the development of a thriving Kenyan export market. Freighters are generally in short supply around the world.

Furthermore, a strong KQ ensures a strong aviation sector and a healthy tourism sector. It's worth noting that 55 percent of the airline's four million annual passengers are leisure travellers.

The one thing that the continent's leaders in tourism arrivals — Egypt, Mauritius, and Morocco — have in common is that they all have a strong national airline that is heavily supported by their governments.

The national carrier is also one of the country's major job creators, supporting 5,000 direct jobs and up to 400,000 indirect jobs.