US safety team to assess JKIA ahead of direct flights
A US transport safety team is expected in the country in May to assess the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi to pave the way for direct flights between Kenya and America.
It comes after Kenya was granted Category One status by the US Government following assessment audit by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other US agencies.
According to Transport Principal Secretary Irungu Nyakera, a Transport Safety Agency team from the US is expected to assess security and safety measures at JKIA in May.
“After Kenya was granted Category One status, JKIA’s security measures must be assessed for it to be approved to handle direct flights.
“But we have confidence that after the assessment, our airport will be given the go-ahead,” he added.
On the other hand, Mr Nyakera said, Kenya Airways is required to apply for an air operator certificate from the US Government for it to be granted approval to operate direct flights to the US.
He added that KQ is also required to enter into a codeshare agreement with a US airline.
“If US’ Delta Airlines applies for the air operator certificate, we will grant them so that they can start direct flights to JKIA,” he said.
Asked when Kenyans should expect the flights between Kenya and the US to start, Mr Nyakera said: “There are certain processes, including technical compliance and commercial arrangements that need to be met.
In an exclusive interview with the Nation, Mr Nyakera said flights would boost tourism, trade and investments.
Last year, the US emerged as Kenya’s top source market after overtaking the United Kingdom, which for years has been the country’s leading market.
Arrivals from the US rose to 97,883 last year up from 84,759 in 2015 while the UK market had 96,404 arrivals down from 98,523 in 2015.
International tourist arrivals to Kenya by air and sea increased by 16.7 per cent to 877,602, from January to December last year.
Apart from tourism, Mr Nyakera added, the direct flights would also boost trade between Kenya and the US, contributing to economic growth. He said it would be much easier for the country to export tea, coffee, horticulture products and Agoa products, among others, to the US market.
Separately, State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu on Sunday said the Category One status covers all airports in the country.
And the Kenya Vision 2030 director-general Julius Muia termed the announcement a major success to Kenya.
Dr Muia said the Category One air safety rating confirms the country complies with international standards.
“This achievement is an important milestone for Kenya-US bilateral relations. Both countries have maintained numerous and diverse areas of partnerships and cooperation in security, exports and imports as well as tourism. We expect more direct investments from the US Government, private companies and most importantly, Kenyans in diaspora,” he said.
In order to attain and maintain the Category One status, a country must demonstrate compliance with safety standards contained in the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s practices for aircraft operations and maintenance.