Kenyans and Americans will be able to fly direct to each other’s countries by May, according to a government official.
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said direct flights to the US could soon become a reality adding that Kenya had completed the greater part of the audit requirements by the United States aviation authorities.
“We anticipate that we shall commence direct flights to the USA by May 2016, having as of now cleared almost all aviation audit issues,” Mr Macharia told the Nation, a local Newspaper.
Kenya failed two tests in the past
For many years, Kenya through the Kenya Aviation Authority (KCAA) has been pushing to pass audits by US aviation officials, to allow direct flights without success.
In the last two audits, Jommo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) failed to attain the audit minimum of 80%, the score needed to meet “Category 1” status. After the two tests, Kenya allocated Sh6.4 billion ($62 million) to upgrade the airport and address security and safety issues.
Currently, Kenya operates under second class status which means there are no direct flights between the two countries. Flights have to transit through other airports such as Dubai, Addis Ababa, London, and Istanbul, adding layovers to passengers’ travel time.
In July last year, during his visit to Kenya, US President Barack Obama gave hope to Kenya’s vision to induct the flights.
“Our governments are working to facilitate the direct flights between US and Kenya as soon as possible,” Mr Obama said.
“This is something that has great potential and obviously would have a beneficial impact on US travel to Kenya both for business and tourism,” he added.
This comes at a time when Kenya is re-strategizing on how to boost tourism sector in the country. Series of terrorist attacks in the country has caused massive loss in the sector and has put pressure on the country’s economy.
If this materializes, Kenya will enjoy more benefits especially from tourists who are travelling directly to Kenya. Moreover, this will tap in to the Kenyan immigrants and their families who live in the US.
Once, approved, the Flights between the US and Kenya could also help to influence other countries to follow suit, opening up the country to further development in future.
According to Federation Aviation Administration’s International Aviation Safety Assessment program, only four sub-Saharan African countries meet the criteria and are classified as “category 1”. They include Ethiopia, South Africa, Cabo Verde, and Nigeria.