Officials from an American security agency will from today conduct an audit of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) that will determine the fate of direct flights between Nairobi and New York.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials will audit the airport until Friday in the race to get the Last Point of Departure (LDP) status. The exercise will find out whether Kenya has addressed issues raised by TSA last year in regard to security.
Jonny Andersen, the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) managing director, sought to be excused from Parliamentary sessions this week to facilitate the audit.
“This will allow us prepare to host the US team that is coming to assess the entire airport. We will have staff available to help in the audit,” Mr Andersen told the Public Investments Committee.
The audit is critical as Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ plans to start direct flights to John F Kennedy International Airport in New York on October 28.
Mr Andersen told lawmakers that the KAA has addressed issues that had been raised by TSA and remained optimistic of JKIA passing the test.
Some of the issues include provision of a proper perimeter fence and consistence at the security screening yard.
At the screening yard, the KAA has removed National Youth Service personnel and the security checks are now done by the regular police and the General Service Unit officers.
The LPD status will allow not only Kenya Airways, but any other airlines that have been approved by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly directly to the US from Nairobi.
The national carrier received “exemption authority”, allowing it to commence flights to the US provided it secures clearance from the FAA and other applicable State agencies.
JKIA was in February last year given Category One status after several audits by the FAA that had seen Kenya fail to meet a number of reviews, delaying an earlier commencement date of August 2016.
After getting LDP clearance, the last remaining hurdle will be the granting of Kenya Airways or any other airline an Air Operator Certificate by FAA after inspecting the carrier’s equipment and facilities.
Kenya Airways announced that the airline will start flying directly to the US from Kenya in October, marking a milestone for the national carrier.
The move, industry experts have said, would cut flight time between the two cities by more than seven hours.
The trans-Atlantic flight is scheduled to depart JKIA at 10:30pm every day, a journey that will last 15 hours. This is a reduction from the current flight time of over 22 hours, including lengthy layovers.