The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) has completed the first phase of an upgrade of the Diani Airport (formerly Ukunda Airstrip) in a drive to attract more visitors to the South Coast.
Works on the project, which entailed extending the existing 1.2-km runway by 200 metres and building an apron, saw the aviation agency spend Sh173 million on the project, which started in 2020. Cementors Limited rehabilitated the airstrip.
Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen said the expansion of the runway would result in cheaper tickets on the route, attracting more visitors to Diani.
“Phase one of the Diani airport upgrade is complete, and it will be opened for larger planes on December 1,” he told the Business Daily on Wednesday.
He said the full use of the extended runway will cut the cost of flights by half from the current average of between Sh10,000 and Sh20,000.
The airport was designed to serve small planes such as the Bombardier Q200 and Q300.
The previous length of the airstrip was limiting the weight to be applied on the runway, making it difficult for the airlines with larger aircraft to utilise their capacity, raising the ticket costs for the region. For instance, Jambojet had to fly with about 28 passengers less than its capacity in most of its aircraft on the Diani route.
Ukunda Airstrip is mainly used by visitors to Kwale County, primarily Diani, followed by Tiwi and Msambweni.
It is increasingly becoming busy due to the growing number of tourists.
Ukunda Airstrip’s inability to handle bigger aircraft has dimmed tourism in Diani, Kwale County, amid a rebound in travel.