The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) has set aside Sh691 million for upgrade of six county airstrips to meet the rising need of domestic air travel.
The airports manager has earmarked the funds for runway rehabilitation of Suneka, Ukunda, Manda, Kakamega, Migori and Kitale airstrips in the current financial year.
The upgrades are meant to allow the airstrips accommodate larger aircraft as local airlines expand to new routes following demand for air travel.
The authority will spend Sh135 million on the Suneka airstrip in Kisii and Sh100 million on Migori airstrip to ease air travel to southern Nyanza where residents fly to Kisumu and connect to the region by road.
“We have committed to be done with Phase 1 of the Suneka airstrip by January 15, 2019,” KAA managing director Jonny Andersen told the National Assembly Transport Committee yesterday.
He told MPs Sh150 million will go into upgrades at the Kakamega airstrip, which will be redesigned to address surface drainage issues. Kitale airstrip will get Sh100 million.
Additionally, the KAA will spend Sh76 million on the Ukunda airstrip and Sh130 million on Manda in the Coast.
Ukunda and Manda airstrips upgrade is expected to boost tourism ease access to Lamu and Kwale counties.
Although Diani in Kwale has one of the best beaches in Africa and world class hotels, accessing the holiday destination on bigger planes has been a challenge due to a shorter airstrip.
This has forced many disembarking from Mombasa airport to grapple congestion and ferry hitches at the Likoni Channel.
The launch of budget airline Jambojet in 2014 has seen increased competition in local air travel, bringing down the cost of air tickets to as low as Sh3,200 on some routes, from a high of Sh13,000 previously. The airline flies from Nairobi to Eldoret, Entebbe, Kisumu, Malindi, Mombasa and Diani.
More local airlines have since entered the domestic air market that serviced by Fly540, Safarilink and recently Silverstone Air Services.