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Kenya eyes direct flights to US in May

06 January 2016, 09:41

Nairobi - Direct flights between Kenya and the United States could become a reality in four months in what is expected to lower air freight costs by about 20 per cent according to cargo handlers.

The move follows the Government’s announcement that it had completed almost all the relevant audit requirements as demanded by the US 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,” Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said.

Kenya has been pushing for the introduction of the direct flights for years without success, even despite the Kenya Aviation Authority (KAA) upping the quality of security screening, passenger handling as well as general security at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

The US Federal Aviation Authority is scheduled to perform a fresh audit on the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after a previous review failed to attain the minimum threshold of security and safety performance set by the American regulator.

Direct flights are subject to attaining a Category One status in line with the recommendations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the United States.

Read Also:  Kenya needs to lower oil prices to ease import in 2016

Kenya Civil Aviation Board chairman Samuel Poghisio said last year that he was confident Kenya would hit the 80 per cent mark specified by the FAA by October 2015. “During the last audit in April we came very close to 80 per cent mark we expect to meet all requirements after the final audit in October,” he said.

Kenya has passed the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) audit with a score of 78.42 per cent (up from 66 per cent in 2013), placing it among the top quartile of states globally and among the top four in Africa.

The success of the plan is expected to be a huge win for the tourism sector and nascent oil and gas sector as it will form a direct pipeline for American tourists and investors coming straight to Kenya as well stimulate business between the two countries.

Chinese China Southern Airlines made its inaugural direct flight between Nairobi and Guangzhou last year.

In July last year, US President Barack Obama during his visit to Kenya, reignited hope for the inauguration of the flights. Obama in his talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta said, “Our governments are working to facilitate the direct flights between US and Kenya as soon as possible,” Mr Obama said

Kenya imports medical engineering equipment, industrial products, air craft engines and chemicals from the US while exporting textiles and perishable products such as flowers and vegetables.

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- News 24


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