Shipping & Logistics

Kenya faces two hurdles in quest for direct US flights

Terminal 1A at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi l 2018. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Terminal 1A at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi l 2018. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) will undergo the final audit by the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the end of this month to assess safety standards before it is given the last point of departure (LDP) status.

If the audit becomes successful, Kenya Airways will have moved closer to starting direct flights to the US next year, as it will have cleared one of the remaining two hurdles for direct Kenya-America flights.

Under the TSA’s rules, security measures, both overt and covert, have been enhanced for passengers at all last point of departure airports to the United States. These security measures include, but not limited to enhancing overall passenger screening, conducting heightened screening of personal electronic devices, and increasing security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas.

Deploying advanced technology, expanding canine screening, and establishing additional preclearance locations also fall under these measures, according to the TSA.

The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) acting managing director Alex Gitari told the Business Daily that officials from TSA are expected in the country to conduct the exercise on October 31.

“Everything is set and the officials from the TSA will be in Kenya at the end of this month to carry out the review on JKIA with the view of giving it a Last Point of Departure status,” said Mr Gitari who is holding brief for Johnny Andersen, the MD.

The department was supposed to conduct a security analysis of the JKIA in June to check on its preparedness as the LPD, hence clearing the last hurdle for the start of the long awaited direct flights between the two nations. 

So far, Kenya has been granted two of the required four conditions to commence direct flights between Nairobi and the US. The first one was in February when the country got a Category One status with the second one being commercial authority to operate, which was granted to Kenya Airways recently.

The last remaining hurdle will be the granting of the Kenya Airways or any other airline an Air Operator Certificate by the Federal Aviation Administration after inspecting the carrier’s equipment and facilities. It is expected that the FAA will grant this certificate in January, according to ministry of Transport.

Last month TSA gave KQ a foreign air carrier permit “to engage in scheduled and charter foreign air transportation of persons, property, and mail from any point or points behind Kenya, via any point or points in Kenya and any intermediate points, to any point or points in the United States and beyond”.

Kenya had been working on a number of issues as it sought to attain the Category One status. Thess included expansion of the airport.

New arrival terminals 1E and 1A are currently operational at the JKIA, marking a major step in the ongoing expansion and modernisation of the region’s busiest airport where passenger arrivals are expected to grow.

The government set aside Sh8.5 billion for the modernisation of JKIA in the current budget. The funds are to be used in expanding terminal 1B, C and D.