Efforts to have direct flights between the United States and Kenya went up a notch after the Government and a delegation from the city of Denver, Colorado, approved the creation of a lobbyist committee to pursue the matter.
Albus Brooks from the Denver City Council’s of District 8 said the council was ready to lobby for air links between the two countries as soon a joint a committee is established in Nairobi.
The leader of the delegation – comprising officials, businessmen and students – said Nairobi had became Denver’s third sister city in 1975, and direct flights between the two cities would mark an important progression.
Delta Airlines, a United States airline headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia cancelled the launch of direct flights from Nairobi and Atlanta last minute in 2009, after failing to receive approval from the Transport Security Administration (TSA) and US government.
TSA cited concerns of Somali piracy along the Kenyan coast as the reason for not approving direct air link between the two nations.
Speaking when he received the City of Denver group at his offices on Tuesday, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Kenya was working to address security and infrastructure concerns that halted the Delta flight.
He said completion of Terminal 4 of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) – currently under construction – would address the concerns that led to the cancellation of direct flights by Delta Air lines.
He also said the terminal will separate arrivals from departures, which was a key concern raised by US authorities and Delta Airlines.
“Direct flights from Atlanta were cancelled at the last minute because we had not yet separated arrivals from departures. We are working on this now. Having direct flights between Kenya and US is long overdue,” said Odinga.
“For us, it will mean our farmers delivering their flowers, coffee and other products to the US market,” the PM added.
Raila also said that work on the Green Terminal, whose capacity would be several times that of terminal 4 would also begin soon. The terminal is anticipated to expand Kenya’s capacity to export agricultural produce.
Kenya’s efforts to get direct flights to the US has been at the centre of discussions whenever the US and Kenyan government officials engage since the failed Delta flights over three years ago. The matter got a boost after the outgoing US Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration pledged to help get direct flights between the two countries recently.
Speaking during an American Chamber of Commerce-Kenya (ACCK) luncheon in Nairobi, Gration who did not give a definite date, said getting direct flights would open up the markets for Kenya’s products to the US.
“There are tremendous opportunities in Kenya’s energy and transportation sectors, great prospects for port expansion and infrastructure development,” he said.
“I have made getting direct flights between the US to Kenya a top priority. I believe that these flights would significantly strengthen our commercial and economic ties, and would create jobs in both of our countries,” Gration added.