Kenya Airways (KQ) has announced the appointment of Allan Kilavuka as its acting chief executive officer, replacing Polish national Sebastian Mikosz, who opted out of the top job before the expiry of his contract.
Mr Kilavuka is the current CEO of the airline's low cost subsidiary Jambojet. He was hired in 2018 to replace ex-chief executive Willem Hondius.
The airline's board, in a statement sent on Monday, indicated his appointment is effective January 1, 2020, and that he will serve in the role until a substantive CEO for Kenya Airways is recruited and appointed.
"Allan will also continue his role as chief executive officer of Jambojet during the interim period of recruitment," said the statement, signed by Company Secretary Catherine Musakali.
Before that, Mr Kilavuka worked as executive for global operations at General Electric (GE) Africa.
He has has more than 24 years’ experience in leadership and management, having started his career at audit and advisory firm Deloitte.
"The board wishes to emphasise that the recruitment process for a substantive chief executive officer with the necessary experience and knowledge was initiated upon the announcement of Sebastian Mikosz’s decision to leave the airline at the end of 2019. The process is still actively ongoing and the board will inform all our stakeholders once a suitable candidate has been identified."
Mr Mikosz, in a shock announcement earlier this year, said he will quit from the helm of the airline in December. His term was to expire in June next year.
In a memo to KQ staff, he cited “personal reasons” for throwing in the towel.
“It is my personal decision and I have obviously discussed it with the board as well as with my family. I believe that this is the ideal timing to begin a transition process to find someone who will continue with the turnaround initiatives that we began three years ago,” he said in the memo.
Mr Mikosz, who helped turn around flag carrier LOT Polish Airlines as its CEO, was hired in June 2017 to prop up the struggling KQ.
His strategy included fleet expansion, adding of new routes and collaboration with African airlines that were seen as a threat to KQ’s regional market share.
Since announcing his resignation, a war of words has erupted between the aviation workers union and KQ over the recruitment process of his successor.
The Kenya Aviation Workers Union (Kawu) wants the recruitment stopped, alleging that the process is shrouded in secrecy.
KQ and the union have also publicly traded accusations regarding alleged misinformation spread by Kawu secretary-general Moss Ndiema over comments he has made to news outlets regarding the recruitment.
The airline is in the process of nationalisation. Parliament in July voted to nationalise the NSE-listed company to save it from mounting debts.
The government has set out on a nationalisation plan, with Treasury looking to buy out KQ's minority shareholders and converting shares held by commercial banks into treasury bonds.
The loss-making carrier is 48.9 percent government-owned, 38.1 per cent by banks, 7.8 per cent by Air France-KLM, 2.4 per cent by Kenya Airways employees and 2.8 per cent by small investors.
KQ chairman Michael Joseph recently called for professionalisation of the airline’s board after nationalisation to give the troubled company a chance of survival.