The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport has achieved Category One Status that allows for direct flights between Kenya and the US, bringing to an end the long search for express connection between the two cities.
The American Government, through its aviation body — Federal Aviation Administration, granted Kenya the Category One status after carrying out a series of assessment audits in the country.
“Getting 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 Transport CS James Macharia.
“The granting of this status means that airlines, both in Kenya and US, which have long desired to have direct flights to or from the US will now be allowed to do so,” he added.
Four other African countries’ airports with the Category One status are South Africa, Ethiopia, Cape Verde, and Nigeria.
The direct flights, however, will only start after technical compliance and commercial arrangements are met.
Currently, all airlines from Kenya have to travel through a third country, mainly Europe, before they can access US airspace.
“With Category One, there will be faster movement of goods and people between the two countries, with an eradication of any delay, especially to horticultural produce from Kenya,” said the CS.
The status is based on a federal administration assessment of the safety provided by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.
The status rating confirms that the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority complies with International Civil Aviation Organisation standards.
Kenya Airways, and US’s Delta Airlines, and other airlines will now fly directly from Kenya to US and vice versa, according to the ministry.
To attain and maintain a Category One rating, a country must demonstrate compliance with the safety standards as adopted and contained in international civil aviation documents.
The United Nations specialised agency for aviation establishes international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance.
Kenya has been implementing a raft of recommendations by the US government to enhance security, among them separation of passenger arrival and departure terminals, clearing the flight path and fencing off the airport.
Freighters say direct flights between the two countries would immensely boost trade through lower charges.
“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.
“The multiple connections make the trip longer and compromises on on-time performance as there may be connection delays and missed connections, while multiple handling in the hubs exposes the cargo to mishandling that may reduce or degrade the cargo quality,” said Mr Jared Oswago, the divisional manager at Siginon Aviation.