, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 23 – Long awaited direct flights between Kenya and the United States have inched closer after the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) attained Category 1 status.
The move follows a final assessment audit by the US Federal Aviation Administration that granted Kenya the Category 1 status.
The move is expected to see both Kenya Airways, and America’s Delta Airlines fly directly from Kenya to US and vice versa unlike currently where passengers must transit through Europe or the Middle East.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) had previously audited JKIA and given an 88 per cent score, placing it above the 80 per cent mark required for any airport to attain category one status.
The US Federal Aviation Administration uses the International Aviation Safety Administration (IASA) programme to determine whether another country that seek to operate into the US or codeshare with a US air carrier, meets ICAO safety standards.
Kenya’s main airport was expected to meet eight critical elements in the IASA assessments touching on primary aviation legislation, specific operating regulations, state civil aviation system and safety oversight functions.
Others are technical personnel qualification and training, technical guidance, provision of safety critical information, licensing, certification, authorisation and approval obligations, surveillance obligations and resolution of safety concerns.
The government has been spending heavily at refurbishing JKIA with investments of about Sh1.3 billion in new security equipment as well as about Sh9 billion to build Terminal 1 and the fabricated Terminal Two.
Under former US President Barrack Obama’s administration, trade and investments between Kenya and the US recorded remarkable growth, with net imports increasing by 206.4 per cent from the previous administration, highlighting the improved activity in trade between the two nations.
Imports from the US increased by 90.4 per cent, faster than exports to the US, which grew by 81.9 per cent, an indication that Kenya depends more on the US; and with over 96 investment projects in Africa worth $6.9bn (Sh702 billion) as at 2015, the US remains to be the single largest investor in Africa.
Kenya receives a large proportion of these investments and as at 2015; Kenya recorded a 12.3 per cent share of Africa’s Foreign Direct Investment.
Moreover, the United States is also the number one source market for Kenya’s tourists and the move will greatly increase the number of tourists coming to the Kenyan market.