Tagged – KQ edition

Got tagged by Mwari which has happened before and I have given some answers.

I am still preoccupied by the Kenya Airways plane crash so I have decided to find some aviation related answers for the tag. I have been a long time shareholder of the airline till this January. When I started actively buying shares, I bought several KQ at 11 and 12 shillings and later sold them at 24/=. I thought they were undervalued at 11, was happy when they doubled and I sold, but I doubt if anyone could have foreseen the bull market that sent KQ shares on to 140 shillings in 2006 (see share regrets).

1. First thing is how much I love flying. As I said when previously tagged, put me on a plane anytime.

Lunch date I’d accept any day

2. My first Kenya Airways (KQ) flight I recall was about a week after the 1982 coup attempt. The family decided that a holiday was in order and so we took a KQ flight to Mombasa. It was a Fokker Friendship (F27) aircraft and in those days the route included a stopover in Malindi, before a short hop down the coastline, passing over hotels and so many tempting swimming pools on the way to Mombasa.

3. Next flight I recall was maybe in 1985 or 1986 – another Mombasa trip. It was supposed to depart Nairobi around mid-day, but the flight was delayed for mechanical, or some other reason (KQ was known to have such flight delays in those days). So we were delayed for about 5 hours till the next available aircraft was ready and wow it was a (then) brand new Airbus 310. I was so impressed, the plane was huge and quiet and I sat over the wing and marvelled at the flap arrangements. (On another previous flight on an older 707, I had been shocked to see some greasy green sponge rags inside the engines as the plane braked on landing). Anyway, at the end of the A310 flight I was still in awe that I got to the terminal and realized that I still had my plastic soda cup (with the KQ logo on it) – which “young me” tried to give back to some of the airport people.

4. I once worked as an airport security guard/Marshall – you know checking for bombs, guns etc. It was a summer job during university and before 9/11, airport security was something not taken seriously – hijackings were a non-issue and no one (except some evil genius) could have foreseen endings to routine flights as we saw that day.

Anyway, airlines never took security seriously and outsourced it to the cheapest company possible – as you could see by the way the guards were treated. Almost any warm body who could pass a drug test got the job and on the first day, you got a uniform and were put straight on the job in training (but on ‘probation’ for a week – until your drug test results came through). It was the lowest paying job in the airport (even less than McDonald’s workers), but for someone who loved being around planes, it was a great opportunity.

5. I am mystified by the so-called carbon credits, air miles, and plant trees for carbon emissions etc. movements. At the airport I worked at, about 90 – 95%% of the flights at the airport were small (737 types) aircraft flying local routes – as is probably the case at most European and American airports. So out of the hundreds of flights coming into a European airport on any given day, can even more than 1% of them be from Africa? So how do our vegetables and flowers get blamed / and taxed for harming the environment?

6. The worst flight I ever took was in a (4-seat) small plane from the coast to Nairobi (Wilson Airport). We flew through a thunderstorm and the plane was tossed about like you would not believe – I thought I’d get sick and wished the flight would be over, or even turn round back to the coast. Also in the same way you’re told to never go to a restaurant kitchen, sitting with a pilot of a small plane can scare anyone new to flying as you see the pure mechanics of flight. (The co-pilot seat was empty and observing the dials, rudder pedals and joystick move around was scary to watch as you wondered how this could be happening a few thousand feet up in the air) Such turbulence. is something I have never experienced on bigger planes such as a 737. There are dozens of flights in the air as you read this navigating through rain or snowstorms or other bad weather safely. If an airport is unsafe (runway flooded or snowed), it is shut down and flights are forbidden to take off or land. But if it’s open to fly, flights go on as usual. Pilots are trained for this and maybe the KQ investigation will prove me right that flying through a thunderstorm – while being uncomfortable for passengers, is not a dangerous activity.

7. Oh and the corporate blog opportunity I sought last year was with Kenya Airways. My pitch was not successful, but I must commend the way they have handled the aftermath of the accident so far. They are dealing with many anguished families, harassed airport official, bureaucrats, political busybodies, snake oil salesmen(asking if the West African route is jinxed), safety engineers, shareholders, people skeptical of flying in Africa, and the flying public and each group requires a carefully tailored message.

That’s the end of the tag, as most of the people I’d want to tag have already answered, All I ask is that they keep flying and enjoy the ride.

17 thoughts on “Tagged – KQ edition

  1. aegeus

    Lurking – clearly as my position shows i always read your posts within an hour of posting. Hheheehe!! I love flying now – though i only do local flights. I must have a screw loose because when experiencing turbulence i am giddy and excited…while my fellow passengers stare at me in astonishment as they grab various pieces of plane and attempt to yank them off and stuff them in their pockets…tihiii!…mean i know hey, sue me :-)..even when i was a baby my mum said that when she took me severally onto a plane i was so excited that i could not sleep and baby talked excitedly till we landed then i wailed like a banshee! … and then i love take off and landing..the speeds at lift off and the G’s being pulled is bliss!!

    Anywho now back to you, very interesting stuff, ati wee ulikua wachi huko Airport? Hehehehhe!! Toboa! toboa!!

  2. Kirima

    Thanks for the vote of confidence on flying we all need some reassurance. I have flown only 3 times twice KQ and once East African Safari Express all quite pleasant episodes. Turbulence can be unnerving but strangly thrilling as well I’ve heard from statistics that turbulence never causes crashes!

  3. mwari

    Interesting! Looks like you have been flying forever!

    I will never forget a flight i took on a small plane in Somalia, full of turbulence, then for some reason, my ears ached so much due to air pressure, (so i was told). Relief came only when I forced out a sneeze!

  4. kudrinketh

    Banks have you ever though of taking flying lessons? they’re pretty cheap here in states and i know several KQ pilots who started off with those 4 seater, single-engine, propeller planes and now fly 737s.

    You can also buy a kasmall second-hand plane and ship it home. but tax will kill you, unless you fly it in stealth mode once you’re close enough.lol.

  5. kudrinketh

    I cant stand flying domestic(at least in states),too much of a hustle, starting with horrendous trafic to and from the airport,be there 2 hrs earlier,long lines,open luggage,open laptop case for x-ray,once inside the plane gotta deal with delays on runways,flight cancelations,bad food if any.by the time you’re done you’ve spent 3 hrs just hustling for a 45 mins flight on a crappy small matatu like plane!

    On the other hand, international flights are fun, kwanza the bigger planes are so much better,less turbulence,nice entertainment,decent food,and of course i can just take off my shoes,recline my seat without the person behind me giving me dirty looks, and just doze off.

  6. Anonymous

    Brilliantly written!!! I am not as much of an enthusiast so I cannot pretend to have total recall of the smallest details like you but great work.

    I am not a patriot, but I will make a point of flying Kenya Airways as much as possible now.

    P.S. I was very rudely calculating your age as I read through the work.


  7. egm

    Unlike you, I don’t like flying. I’m not afraid of it (I’ve flown right after major air incidents, and felt nothing. The one that came closest to shaking me was knowing I was on a direct flight from Boston to San Jose in a wide-body American Airlines flight originating from Logan Airport a week before September 11th 2001). What I hate about it is the boredom. It takes forever to get there!

    I’ve flown KQ only twice, connecting to and from Amsterdam during a trip home.

  8. inexes

    Ati you took your first flight when? This completely throw off my menta ‘images’ of you

    I have this phobia for take off – which is taken care of by not being sober when i embark… like i had to take a flight to Abuja some time last year on Virgin Nigeria.. this was just a few days after that Abuja crash! was i scared!!!! considering they dont give the best planes for domestic flights!

  9. Anonymous

    Watch out for the carbon credits when KQ pilots are around. Incidentally KQ was airborne for less than a minute at Douala. Carbon Credits? My money is on Martians or 419 bandits from Nigeria

  10. Anonymous

    Hey indexes what you expect with Nigerian air carriers? It landed OK didn’t it? Just say a prayer to the ju-ju man next time

  11. bankelele

    fasg11 COMMENTS:
    Aegeus: Turbulence on a small plane can be very violent & scary. Watch out for that. Air marshal was summer college job, easy
    Kirima: very rarely has turbulence caused a crash. But planes only make news when they crash/have an incident. No one talks about the 100.1% of all the planes (including African) ones that flew safely today – until something happens to one.

    Mwari: I was lucky to start as a kid. But I have never flown the Somalia/arid routes – for which I have heard some tales that could negatively impact my flying experience

    Kudrinketh: not interested that far (and I never enjoyed physics class). You’re right about owning a plane locally, it’s a money pit. Hire one if you have to, or fly commercial. I must admit that international flights are many times better than local ones, especially in the US

    Emmo: that’s for another day. Dig the archives and you’ll figure it out

    Egm: That’s a shame, but lucky you flew a week earlier. I can’t imagine what would happen if that was my flight. Or think about the Ethiopian flight, great photographer Mohamed Amin took – what would I have done? Some things are fated (by other crazy people)

    Inexes: Take off, can be scary, especially on older planes, where engines are noisy and the whole cabin rattles,
    M: That’s the reason to get a window seat (except at night)

  12. kabogo

    I do concur with u on the joy of flying, im a pilot myself. one BIG correction I would like to make is NEVER INTENTIONALLY FLY THR’ A THUNDERSTORM. It’s one of the most dangerous weather phenomena n any pilot would rather go round it or abort the flight.
    Numerous aviation accidents have been associated wit bad eather, partly due to the heavy stress loads on the fairly delicate airframe leading to structural damage or even worse, structural FAILURE due to turbulence in thunderstorms.
    Many things do go wrong according to murphy’s law, especially when the pilot is overloaded controlling the a/c. He may also get spartial disorientation…..al in all, no self respecting pilot would opt to penetrate a thunderstorm…that’s why mordern a/c are fittrd with Airbourne weather radar Systems.
    Anyway, kip it up, nice articles though. I Stand by KQ, still remains the safest and most proffessional airline in Africa.

  13. m

    LOL! The window wing seat is a double edged sword. I once sat on such during a landing at Entebbe during a thunderstorm. My fingermarks are still on that armrest!

  14. farmgal

    now what I’m I going to do…I hate flying ..my brain works overtime just before I fly somwhere. I dont understand how such a huge thing can stay up in the air for so long….unfortunately for me if I have to see kenya, I have to!

  15. Anonymous

    I think you should have included what you thought of the service by KQ in your piece. In the last year I have flown 3 airlines and I must say KLM and KQ have some very bad customer service. I love Kenya and would love to fly their airline in the name of patriotism but being served food with too much chilli or having to ask unsmilling stewards for water is not my cup of tea. Call me cheap but Emirates… I don’t know what they do to the people in 1st class lakini their economy class is very nice. From movies which you can pause and go to later (unlike KQ and another KLM flight called cityhopper which has no inflight entertainment), to smiling stewards who are so willing to serve… I’ll try BA and Virgin soon.
    Even if KQ has carved a niche for itself because of its very strategic location, customer service should not be forgotten. I would fly Emirates anyday to the UK (and shop in Dubai) than feel like I should tip stewards on a KLM or KQ flight. The friendly service, modern planes and cheaper price totally overshadow the extra flying time.

  16. Anonymous

    Banks thats quite an insight into ua life, left me wondering how u kuld hav handled Artur!!!!
    Lots of doubt about turbulence, people are less informed of the number of air crashes happening per month, including military ones. Ladies n gentlemen, im not so sure of the facts but I think there are AT LEAST one accident or incident per day in aviation totality.
    Systems failures are common in turbulence n esp thunderstorms. Disorientation at night or in weather is far too common esp in a/c without autopilot.
    Anyway banks wen u get ua kite, dnt take any chance with bad weather n certainly not in a thunderstorm. And yes, flying is exhililating n I aint quitting soon. Kip up de nice work.

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