Kenya fails April audit on direct flights to the United States

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Terminal 1A at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. PHOTO | FILE

Kenyans will wait longer for direct flights to the United States after American aviation authorities said they were still not satisfied with conditions at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi.

The Federal Aviation Authority will perform another audit of JKIA in October after its last review fell below the US regulator’s minimum threshold.

“During the last audit in April we came very close to the 80 per cent mark (required for direct flights to begin). We expect to meet all requirements after the final audit in October,” Samuel Poghisio, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) board chairman, said Tuesday.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation audit gave Kenya a score of 78.42 per cent, up from 66 per cent in 2013, he added. ICAO does not reveal details of its scores and audit recommendations. It is up to each member country to decide what it wishes to declare.

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.

READ: Kenya steps up push for direct flights to US

All airports are required to attain Category One status before they can launch direct flights to the US. At the moment, air travellers have to fly to Europe from where they take connecting flights to the US.

American-based Delta Airline and Fedex have expressed interest in starting operations to Kenya. The country’s push for direct flights to the US has been emboldened by ongoing facility upgrades at JKIA.

READ: JKIA status upgrade to pave the way for direct US flights
The Kenya Airports Authority has spent nearly Sh9 billion to build Terminal 1 (previously Terminal 4) and recently opened a pre-fabricated Terminal 2, pushing their airport’s capacity to 7.5 million travellers annually.

This represents an excess capacity for the first time in more than two decades, easing congestion at East Africa’s main air travel hub.

The government has also invested Sh1.3 billion in new security equipment to be installed by November to enhance airport screening.

The aviation and tourism industries have been hard hit by travel advisories over security fears following terror attacks. Operations at Moi International Airport in Mombasa have particularly suffered as travellers keep off the region. Direct flights are expected to boost trade between Kenya and the US, which has increased in recent months.

Kenya has also witnessed growing interest from American investors, including multinationals such as General Electric and IBM which have set up shop in the country.

Kenya also hosts the United Nations Environmental Programme headquarters and the largest American embassy in Africa.

In 2009, Delta Airlines put off plans to start flights between Atlanta and Nairobi via Senegal after the US government failed to approve the deal at the last minute over security concerns.