It’s official! (JKIA) is now a “Last Point of Departure.”
The US government through its Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has finally designated the airport as such, and KQ is set to have its maiden trip to JFK tonight, where it already has its own parking lot.
This story can hardly escape your attention of late as it has flooded almost all prime-time business bulletins in the mainstream media (KTN, NTV, CITIZEN…)
Meaning, flights originating from the JKIA can directly land in the US after the airport went through the final assessments; Kenya has been pushing for certification for direct flights for a while now. This has seen the government invest billions of shillings to improve the infrastructure at the airport, mainly to enhance comfort, convenience and security.
Foreign airlines are now expected to apply to Kenya Civil Aviation Authority for permits to Kenya directly, but it’s understood that the America’s Delta Airlines, which had been granted approval for direct flights earlier in, I think, 2009 or 2010 (I’m not so sure) but later rescinded due to security issues in Kenya, would enjoy automatic renewal of its licenses.
Individual airlines from Kenya can now operate commercial flights to the US, but they will still have to independently comply with and meet other US regulations over and above those of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA.)
The flights would give Nairobi increased human and cargo traffic, fresh cut flowers and clothes for export from Kenya.
This clears the way for the inaugural Kenya Airways (KQ) flight to New York from JKIA which is happening on this day, October 28. This huge success of JKIA’s certification follows a rigorous process that started soon after Kenya got Category 1 status in February last year and has seen the airport, KQ and other agencies undergo audits to ensure that they are up to standards.
This puts us on the league of the very few airports in Africa that have the Last Point of Departure status and means that we have to align ourselves to the international civil aviation standards.
Kenya has for years attempted to grow visitor numbers from the US but has been unsuccessful mainly due to the long flight hours involved. The US is currently among the leading tourist source markets for Kenya and contributed over 148,000 visitors last year, according to some verified statistics from the ministry of tourism. This could go up to over 400,000.
Equally to smile are our East African counterparts, who would find it easier to fly from JKIA and it will offer the fastest connection from East Africa to the USA. The long-haul flights will last 15 hours westbound and 14 hours eastbound, representing a seven-hour reduction from the current flight time of over 22 hours, including lengthy stopovers.
We await with abated breath, the success story of the inaugural KQ flight, in which the commander in chief himself will be.
Exciting times these are! Aren’t they?