Kenya Airways Ltd., more commonly known as Kenya Airways, is the flag carrier and largest airline of Kenya. The company was founded in 1977, after the dissolution of East African Airways. The company's head office is located in Embakasi, Nairobi, with its main base at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Kenya Airways operates under IATA code KQ and ICAO code KQA; likewise, its callsign is KENYA.
The airline was wholly owned by the Government of Kenya until April 1995, and it was privatised in 1996, becoming the first African flag carrier in successfully doing so. Kenya Airways is currently a public-private partnership. The largest shareholder is KLM (26%), followed by the Government of Kenya, which has a 23% stake in the company. The rest of the shares are held by private owners; shares are traded in the Nairobi Stock Exchange, the Dar-es-Salaam Stock Exchange, and the Ugandan Securities Exchange. Tanzanian air carrier Precision Air is a subsidiary of Kenya Airways; it is 49%-owned by the Kenyan airline.
Kenya Airways is widely considered as one of the leading Sub-Saharan operators. The carrier is a member of SkyTeam, and the African Airlines Association since 1977.
Kenya Airways was established by the Kenyan Government on 22 January 1977, following the break-up of the East African Community and the consequent demise of East African Airways. It started operations on 4 February 1977, with two Boeing 707-321s leased from British Midland Airways. Aer Lingus provided the company with technical and management support in the early years.
In 1986, Sessional Paper Number 1 was published by the Government of Kenya, outlining the country's need for economic development and growth. The document stressed the government opinion that the airline would be better off if owned by private interests, thus resulting in the first attempt to privatise the airline. The government named Philip Ndegwa as Chairman of the Board in 1991, with specific orders to make the airline a privately-owned company. In 1992, the Public Enterprise Reform paper was published, giving Kenya Airways priority among national companies in Kenya to be privatised.
In the fiscal year 1993 to 1994, the airline produced its first profit since the start of commercialisation. Also, in 1994 the International Finance Corporation was appointed to provide assistance in the privatisation process, which effectively began in 1995. British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa and South African Airways, all held interest in Kenya Airways. KLM was eventually awarded the privatisation of the company, which restructured its debts and made a master corporation agreement with the Dutch airline that bought 26% of the shares, becoming the largest single shareholder since then. The Government of Kenya kept a 23% stake in the company, and offered the remaining 51% to the public; however, non-Kenyan shareholders could at most had a participation of 49% into the airline. In 1996, shares were floated to the public, and the airline started trading on the Nairobi Stock Exchange. Following the takeover, the Government of Kenya capitalised US$ 70 million, while the airline was awarded a US$ 15 million loan from IFC to modernise its fleet. In October 2004, the company cross-listed its shares at the Dar-es-Salaam Stock Exchange. In April 2004, the company re-introduced Kenya Airways Cargo as a brand; in July 2004, the company's domestic subsidiary Flamingo Airlines was re-absorbed.
In 2005, Kenya Airways changed its livery. The four stripes running the length of the fuselage were replaced by the slogan "Pride of Africa". The "KA" tail logo was replaced by a styled "K" encircled with a "Q" to evoke the "KQ" call letters for the airline.
In March 2006, Kenya Airways won the "African Airline of the Year" award for 2005, for the fifth time in seven years.:22 Passenger numbers in the year 2006 (April 2006 – March 2007) was a record high of 2.6 million. On September 4, 2007, SkyTeam, the second-largest airline alliance in the world, welcomed Kenya Airways as one of the first official SkyTeam Associate Airlines.