Kenya Airways, also popularized known as KQ with a tagline – Pride of Africa – was ranked tops and celebrated as the East Africa’s Overall Best Company on the Digital Transformation front at the recent CIO100 Symposium and Awards.
It was all cheers and jubilation as the company’s digitization team steered by Peter Mungai, Ag. IT Director scooped the top regional award at Enashipai Resort in Naivasha, Kenya.
The deliberate effort of ensuring KQ’s operations of the internal systems become seamless and flawless yielded the region’s big win considering that the digital transformation journey has been closer to the heart of the organization’s IT team leadership. It is against this backdrop that KQ was considered for the top card.
Mungai said: “When I began working as an IT Manager with KQ in 2006, I noticed a number of issues with the systems that was in use. The Kenya Airports Authority understood how to run an airport, but their knowledge on the business of flying was not as extensive as that of the airlines. As a result, the systems they put in place to support the airlines, were clumsy, unreliable, expensive and technologically obsolete, calling for KQ to devise way to co-work with the Authority.
The effort led to a customer customer service nightmare, and mounting frustration among the airlines. The technology was inefficient and caused delays and missed flights. The system was too old and reported frequent outages. It therefore needed a major overhaul said Mungai.
Having envisioned a solution for the company, Mungai in conjunction with his team shared the business vision to the then CEO, Titus Naikuni together with whom they agreed to deploy the latest technology to help achieve the following:
- Introduce multiple Self-Service Check-in Kiosks at each Terminal
- Make provision for Online Check-in and boarding pass printing or paperless boarding passes
- Provide Common User Terminals for each airline, resulting in economies of scale from shared equipment
- Link each airline customer service employee to his personalized Departure Control System using cloud technology
- Enable 2-d barcode (QR code) printing for boarding passes. These printers are 5 times cheaper than the magnetic stripe printers previously in use.
The turn of events would be the best in history of KQ. We got an architect and a contractor to build a two-storey data centre. Upstairs the Staff sit and also the computers and servers. From this central point we pulled copper wiring throughout the airport terminals. We also had to focus on resiliency because of the common power outages in our environment.
We installed two giant UPS backups and also added double sources of power from two different transformers. To ensure that the network would never go down, we created alternating wiring switches for each counter. In case the network had some issues, the interwoven networks would ensure that two out of four counters for each airline would always have equipment that is working.
Kenya Airways forecasted and provisioned for all these contingencies because we learned from the previous problems that plagued us while using the previous system. To date the current system has never gone down.
We deployed the CUPPS (Common Use Passenger Processing Systems) at JKIA which is the latest technology for maximum efficiency and cost-reduction in airports internationally. This means that rather than using expensive airport real estate for dedicated counters and equipment, each airline can use any of the computers and printers at the terminals and all their data is already there. The system is always up so no passengers can miss a flight due to ‘power failures.’ The flow of passengers is smooth, rapid and efficient. Passengers without check-in luggage can skip the lines and go straight to the departure and immigration with their self-printed boarding passes.
That Kenya Airways, (I’ve always wondered why it wasn’t accorded KA instead of KQ but that is discussion for another day) won Company of the year Award was rightful and deserved. This does not however mean, by any chance that any award not named herein was not rightfully won. The judging panel did a commendable job and on that note, I big up every single hand that made the ceremony a success!
Back to Company of the Year; I am humble to pen such a big win. Congratulations Peter Mungai, for being the mastermind for such a brilliant idea and to KQ for allowing a seamless deployment of the winning technology. KQ wins, Kenya wins we win.