At least five international carriers are expected to start using the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) from April even as concerns about congestion at the hub persist.
Etihad and Korean Airlines will kick off scheduled flights from beginning of next month and June respectively with Air Dubai, Royal Air Maroc and Air Malawi following at unspecified dates according to the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA).
Korea Airlines mid January began flying chartered flights to Nairobi, delivering the first batch of 120 tourists.
The 140-aircraft Skyteam member will be flying directly from its Incheon airport base to JKIA, opening a crucial access route from Asia to Africa.
They will join 28 airlines operating scheduled flights into and out of JKIA at a time the national flag carrier, Kenya Airways, is planning a major expansion of its own raising prospects of more congestion.
Four carriers are already operating chartered flights from the airport as well as 19 cargo aircraft as the war for a piece of African air transport market takes shape.
Kenya Airports Authority admits the JKIA hub experiences a lot of congestion especially between 5 a.m and 9 a.m in the morning and between 5 p.m and 11 p.m in the evening but say they are putting in place short- and long-term measures to address the situation.
“We have introduced a gate management (aircraft parking plan) to help in maximising available space and we are also the constructing 16 additional remote aircraft parking bays to provide additional relief,” said KAA corporate affairs manager Dominic Ngige.
Airport workers say that the problem has not only affected the parking bays but also the hangars where the aircraft are repaired.
“We are worried of what is likely to happen once all the airlines we are hearing about start flying here,” said one of them who cannot be quoted speaking for his employer. Many more airlines are said to be interested in using the hub of the fast-growing economic region.
However, the space issue is not expected to be completely resolved before the green field terminal is completed.
The building will be separate from the current terminals and it is seen as crucial part of the Vision 2030 achievement and in the battle between Nairobi and Addis Ababa for domination of the African airspace.
Kenya Airways has been the most forceful proponent of the expansion.
“One of the biggest risks that we have and I keep on talking about is JKIA as an airport. I am pleased to say that we’ve got commitment from the government and of course KAA that they would like to fast-track building a new terminal which we call a green field terminal,” CEO Titus Naikuni said in a recent interview.
KQ has been expanding both its passenger and cargo services and only recently signed a deal for 10 Embraers.
It is expecting deliveries of new nine Boeing Dreamliners in the coming months and has embarked on a Sh20.7 billion rights issue to aid the expansion.
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