Why Kenya Airways Is Called KQ

Why Kenya Airways Is Called KQ? [Find Out Now]

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Wondering why Kenya Airways is called KQ?

I have been rocking my mind as well, trying to make sense of all of these. What does KQ even mean?

I knew it is an abbreviation of something, but what?

Being curious as always, I set out to research. And you won’t believe what I found. You see, every country has an official airline company (commonly called flag carrier airline).

For example:

When you hear Qatar Airways, what comes into your mind? I’d expect it to be abbreviated QR.

According to IATA (International Air Transport Association) code, Qatar Airways’ code is QR.

Looking at it that makes sense to some extent, but doesn’t answer why Kenya Airways is called KQ.

To answer the question, let me introduce you to IATA

What is IATA and its function?

As we’ve already mentioned, IATA is an international body bringing together airline companies around the world. Think of it as ‘union’ for airlines.


IATA besides making sure that its members have a safe and secure environment to ply their trade, their mission is to lead and serve the airline industry as a whole.

Started back in 1945 in Havana, Cuba, the association enjoys 82% membership of all airlines around the world (that is about 290 airlines).

I know that doesn’t answer your question but thought little history doesn’t hurt.

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Now, in the sense of making the airways ‘safe and secure’ IATA, rolled out airline designators. Also known as IATA reservation codes, these are two-lettered codes that IATA assigns each airline.

The naming is based on their Standard Schedules Information Manual.

What for?

Glad you asked.

These ‘reservation codes’ are used to identify the airline, helps during schedule exchange. It also contains information on the type of aircraft, airports, time zones, and terminals.

With all that vital information, the code MUST be unique. As such, no two airlines could carry the same reservation code.

We are almost answering the reason why Kenya Airways is called KQ. Let’s look at the origin of Kenya Airways, in the end, this all thing will make much sense.

A little history of Kenya Airways

Kenya Airways hasn’t always been by that name.

The story of KQ goes back to 4th February 1946, when East African Airways was started.

EAA used to serve the three East African countries, Uganda, Tanzania, and of course, Kenya.

Later on, things went south and East African Community (EAC) came down tumbling, consequently leading to the demise of East African Airways.

At least something good came from the breakup, Kenya Airways. Started by Kenyan Government on 4th January 1977 with only two Boeing 707-321s rented from British Midland Airways on its fleet.

By this time, Korean Airways was already in business. And by the stipulation of IATA which Kenya Airways is a member, it couldn’t take the code KA because it was already reserved by Korean Airways, founded in 1969.

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By being late to name the company as Kenya Airways, Kenya lost the ‘KA’ code to Korean Airways. And since no two airlines can have the same reservation code, they had to contend with KQ.

Who owns KQ?

Up until April of 1995, Kenya Airways (KQ) was owned by the Kenyan government.

But in 1996, the government sold its stake in the company to private investors, making the KQ the first African airline to successfully privatize.

As we speak, KQ is owned partly by the government, and part by private investors, making it a public-private partnership.

Here are the shareholders by numbers:

  • Kenyan government – owns 48.9%
  • KQ Lenders Company 2017 Ltd controls 38.1%
  • KLM Dutch Airlines owns 7.8% (Flag carrier airline of Netherlands)

The remaining stake of the company is controlled by private owners.

Where can you buy KQ shares?

Interested in buying Kenya Airways shares? The following exchanges can handle that:

  • Nairobi Securities Exchange
  • Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange
  • Uganda Securities Exchange

Kenya Airways share price

Though this is not something you can say it is fixed, at the time of publishing this article, Kenya airways share price was at KES 3.83 with a volume of 1.8 million. Market cap of KES 23.75 billion.

How many planes does Kenya Airways own?

Kenya Airways boasts a fleet size of over 40 and fully owns only 20 of the planes, plying at least 53 destinations. This is so because the company leases most of its aircraft.

Also, the company has its headquarters in Embakasi, Nairobi, Kenya with assets worth over 160 million (according to 2016 Financial Year records).

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