Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) has achieved the Category One status that will allow for direct flights between Kenya and the US, bringing to an end the long search for express connection between the two countries.
Officials from governments in East Africa and aviation companies operating in the region have welcomed the development, saying it will enhance trade, tourism and customer satisfaction.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted Nairobi the top status after carrying out a series of assessment audits in the country.
Getting [the] Category One status for us is a major milestone in the growth and development of civil aviation in Kenya, East Africa and rest of Africa
“Getting [the] Category One status for us is a major milestone in the growth and development of civil aviation in Kenya, East Africa and rest of Africa,” said Kenya’s transport minister James Macharia.
“The granting of this status means that airline operators, both in Kenya and US, which have long desired to operate directly to or from the US, will now be allowed to carry on their operations,” he added.
In Africa, only Morocco, Cape Verde, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and South Africa have direct flights to the US.
To attain and maintain the top rating, a country must demonstrate compliance with the safety standards as adopted and contained in ICAO documents — a United Nations specialised agency for aviation that establishes international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance.
Direct flights to the US will significantly reduce the time taken to move cargo between the US and East Africa — from seven days to as little as a day.
“If the US allows Kenya’s bid to have direct flights then we will save up to 20 per cent on our cargo operation cost,” Astral Aviation chief executive officer Sunjeev Gadhia said.
“Flower and other horticultural produce are perishable commodities and having to go all the way to Europe then USA, reduces their quality by the time it gets to its final destination,” Jared Oswago, the divisional manager at Siginon Aviation said.
Burundi’s Minister of Transport and Public Works Jean Bosco Ntunzenimana welcomed the news, saying it would help to cut costs and time for the country’s fruit and fish exporters.
RwandAir, the other major airline in the EAC says going through Kenya is also an opportunity the airline can explore.
Although it may be a while before Kenya Airways commences direct flights to the US, up to eight months, according to the director general of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority Gilbert Kibe,customers, airlines and governments are all poised to benefit from this Kenyan aviation win.