Kenya’s quest to fly directly to US nears realization
Kenya’s quest to have direct flights to the United States is edging closer every day. The last three years has seen the Kenya Airports Authority re-organize Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in readiness for the category 1 certification by the US administration.
For Kenya, the approval to launch direct flight to the US will deepen trade between Kenya and the North American economic giant.
Since 2007 Kenya has been lobbying the United States government to clear Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to launch direct flights from Nairobi and Washington without much success.
The dream was almost realized in 2009 when one of the largest airlines in the US, Delta was expected to start flying Nairobi to Atlanta, Georgia.
The plan was however thwarted by the Transportation Security Administration of the US citing security fears.
TSA gave the government a raft of recommendations to implement before Kenya was accorded a category 1 status.
Part of the recommendation was to re-organization JKIA by separating arriving and departing passengers.
The other was to enhance security at JKIA. KAA is in the process of implementing the two recommendations.
JKIA is expected to increase its passenger capacity from the current 7 million annually to 20 by the year 2030.
If the category 1 status is granted by the US authorities Heathrow and Amsterdam airports are likely to be the biggest losers since the two handles most connecting flight from Kenya to the US.
Amsterdam’s Schipol airport handles one of Kenya’s prime export horticulture to the rest of Europe and US.
In 2013 JKIA handled about 7 million passengers with about 11 percent or 750,000 being from the US.
Kenya is hoping that the approval to fly direct to the US will open up another trading route for Kenyan exports away from the traditional European route.
Trade between Kenya and the US totaled 1.1 billion dollars with potential to hit $2 billion by the year 2017.
Kenya is also targeting to net more American tourists with direct flights between the two countries.
The question is will the EU let go off one of her biggest African trading routes?