As KQ’s fleet continues to grow with the arrival of new Boeing 777s and 787s, each aircraft has been taking to the skies with a new, iconic name
Kenya Airways have had much to celebrate this year. At the heart of their achievements is the most auspicious addition to their fleet – the Dreamliner series, with three planes now in service. In keeping with an international trend among key global airlines, the management decided it would be appropriate to name not just the Dreamliners but Kenya Airways’ entire fleet of aircraft. How did the airline come up with unique and meaningful names? Names to reflect the values of the airline and the people of Africa? Late in September 2013, Kenya Airways invited all its employees to participate in an exciting ‘name a plane’ competition.
Competitors were asked to submit names for a total of 45 planes, including the new Dreamliners. According to Charles Wanga, Research Specialist for Kenya Airways’ Marketing, “The response was overwhelming. We received upwards of 600 names from our employees. I was responsible for analysing and organising the names into one workable document.” The frequency of appearance would indicate the popularity of a certain name choice. The names with the highest number of suggestions were the winners. From there, the marketing team forwarded the shortlisted names to KQ’s legal department. This was a vital step to ensure that there was no copyright infringement. In fact, when the legal team sent word, an entire series of names had to be scrapped.
“Many of our employees had suggested names of great African Statesmen. These included Patrice Lumumba, Desmond Tutu, Chinua Achebe, Wangari Maathai and Nelson Mandela.” When the legal team did a search they discovered that most individual names are patented, so this idea was dropped.
“This narrowed the options down to names of locations – specifically major landmarks in Africa. A representative of the marketing team underscored the rationale behind this choice: “Since KQ connects Africa to the World and the World to Africa, we chose to recognise our key landmarks and tourist attraction sites as well as the wildlife that makes Africa so special.”
Sixty names survived the legal search and the marketing team alphabetised these. A smaller working committee then pared them down to 45 and had the task of mapping each name to a particular plane. These were documented painstakingly in spreadsheets detailing the type of plane, registration number, delivery date and seating capacity. All of these factors have a bearing on the naming process.
For instance, Masai Mara was the most popular name and was therefore deemed appropriate for the first new 777-300ER. This aircraft carries up to 400 people and flies to Amsterdam connecting Kenya to one of Europe’s key destinations. Similarly, the Masai Mara is one of the most renowned parks in East Africa and draws in visitors from around the world.
Raphael Otwoma, Kenya Airways Eldoret Station Officer, was one of the airline’s many employees who favoured this name. “Masai Mara is the total sensory experience holiday haven!” Raphael remarked excitedly. “The thrilling sights, smells and sounds. It is a magical tourist destination talked about the world over. I found it ideal to associate it with our brand, the Pride of Africa!”
It was decided that a smaller domestic plane such as an Embraer, which seats 145, would not fit such a high-profile name. The more suitable names chosen for the Embraer planes included local destinations, such as the smaller Kenyan towns served by these aircraft.
Daniel Olonje, Technical Outstations Coordinator, was among those inspired to come up with the popular name Victoria Falls for another of Kenya Airways’ 777-300ER planes. He confides: “I was visualising how our customers would feel flying to southern Africa at that moment when the Captain makes the announcement, ‘We are now flying over the Victoria Falls.’”
Once all the names had been approved and allocated for each aircraft, it was time to create the graphics. The creative agency used the signature KQ fonts to design sample airplane labels. These helped to determine how the actual name would be represented on the plane. Should the name be positioned on the nose, on one side or both? Should it be next to the entrance doorway so that passengers could clearly see it? What about when the plane was parked? They even experimented with creating distinct logos or symbols to accompany each name, illustrating them further. These were some of the questions resolved through extensive consultation during the naming process. As for the competition winners, every employee who suggested a winning name received a certificate of recognition. Employee representatives are invited to participate in a champagne ceremony for the official unveiling, along with a Director, Captain and distinguished guests. On the occasion when the first Dreamliner was unveiled, Kenya Airways Brand Manager Sheillah Malonket explains, “We placed all the winning employees’ names in a raffle, and one was chosen to receive the overall prize of a holiday for two in Mombasa.”
Look out for these planes, already sporting their newly painted names and in service.
Victoria Falls | Boeing 777-300ER
This spectacular giant of nature forms a breathtaking year-round display that thrills visitors to southern Africa. Bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe, the majestic waterfall is known locally as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ meaning ‘The Smoke that Thunders’. Plunging over 100m, Victoria Falls is twice as high as the Niagara Falls and is said to be the world’s largest sheet of falling water. The spray is visible from almost 50km away.
When it comes to natural wonders, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is not to be missed. Dr David Livingstone, who named the waterfall after Queen Victoria in 1855, certainly thought so. Indeed, after his extensive Sub-Saharan treks, he described the falls as “the most wonderful sight he had witnessed in Africa.”
Maasai Mara | Boeing 777-300ER
When John Ledger, author of Southern Africa’s Endangered Wildlife first paid a visit to the Masai Mara, he described it as “a dream come true.” The Masai Mara, he wrote, “must be like the landscapes of yesterday that (hunter and author) Cornwallis Harris saw, as he explored the interior of South Africa in the 1820s. Rolling grasslands, sparse thorn trees and numerous wild animals, as far as the eye can see!”
Indeed, few who travel on safari here return unmoved by the experience. Nicknamed simply ‘the Mara’, the park’s 1800 sq km are home to some 95 different species of mammals and over 450 species of birds. Stretching across the vast golden savannah, bordered with blue and emerald hills, this relatively small area boasts the prized ‘Big Five’ (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino). The Masai Mara National Reserve also hosts the annual wildebeest migration, the eighth modern wonder of the world. Spectators witness huge herds of wildebeest crossing borders from Kenya to the adjoining Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The famous set of Disney’s Lion King, including Pride Rock, was reportedly inspired by the magnificent scenery of the Serengeti-Mara.
The Great Rift Valley | Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Around 30 million years ago, as Africa and the Arabian Peninsula separated, the outermost crust of Africa’s continental mass continued to split apart. This created a massive 6400km fissure, known as the Great Rift Valley, which is still forming today. It averages 50-60km wide and extends from Syria to Mozambique. The colossal geological formation that you see from your window seat is the product of violent subterranean forces. Tectonic shifts have caused the earth’s crust to slump between parallel fault lines, while huge eruptions have forged volcanoes like Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro. Plateaux of lava drop abruptly into great escarpments, falling thousands of feet to the valley floor where thermal springs bubble along the shores of the Rift Valley’s numerous lakes.
The River Zambezi | Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Meaning ‘Great River’ in the language of the Tonga people, the Zambezi is Africa’s fourth-longest river. At almost 3000km in length, the Zambezi’s river basin covers an area of over 1.3 million sq km – about half the size of the River Nile. The Zambezi begins as a tiny stream in northwest Zambia, snaking through five other countries – Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Botswana and finally Mozambique – before emptying into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Six hours by road from Lusaka, the Zambezi supports one of Africa’s most important wildlife areas. The mighty river also provides food, transport, hydroelectric power, sport and refreshment for millions of people.
Kenya Airways First Officer Kyran Potgieter relates his maiden voyage over the Zambezi River some years back: “Coming into Livingstone, we did a low flight at 1000ft. You cannot forget the Zambezi – it’s just massive and it’s absolutely beautiful! The name is certainly fitting for our newest Dreamliner.” As one of the select KQ pilots who underwent specialised training in London to fly the Dreamliner, Kyran feels privileged to use the latest and greatest technology to provide the best possible experience for KQ passengers. “Flying the Dreamliner is incredible – it’s like the difference between driving an ordinary saloon car and the latest luxury vehicle.”
Amboseli NP | Boeing 777-300ER
Amboseli comes from the Maa word ‘embosel,’ referring to a vast open plain. The Amboseli National Park encompasses a wide variety of habitats – from swamp and rocky thornbush to acacia woodland and open grassland. Generally warmer and drier than the Masai Mara, this iconic reserve is famous for its awe-inspiring beauty and big game, which includes a population of 1500 elephants and good numbers of spotted hyena. Spanning 400 sq km, Amboseli is set against a backdrop of Africa’s highest mountain, snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro. The national park is part of a much larger 3000 sq km Amboseli ecosystem, surrounded by six group ranches owned by local communities. Indeed, Amboseli is an ideal place to experience firsthand the rich traditional culture and lifestyle of the stately Maasai people.