Flights originating from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) can now land in the US after the airport went through the final audits by American authorities.
US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec on Thursday presented Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) with a letter from the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) designating JKIA as a “Last Point of Departure.”
This clears the way for the inaugural Kenya Airways (KQ) flight to New York from JKIA which is scheduled for October 28.
JKIA’s certification follows a rigorous process that started soon after Kenya got Category 1 status in February last year and has seen the airport, KQ and other agencies undergo audits to ensure that they are up to standards.
“This puts us on the league of the very few airports in Africa that have the Last Point of Departure status and means that we have to align ourselves to the international civil aviation standards,” said KAA chairman Isaac Awuondo at a ceremony in Nairobi.
Speaking at the event, Ambassador Godec announced that the US Government would advance $1.5 million (Sh150 million) to KAA to beef up security at JKIA. “This will help ensure travellers stay safe. It is an important commitment by the US to make these (direct flights between US and Kenya) a huge success,” he said. He added that the direct flights between Nairobi and New York would ease movement of people and cargo between the two countries, increase trade, investments and cultural exchanges. Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said he expects the number of US tourists to Kenya to triple in the coming years following commencement of the direct flights.
Kenya has for years attempted to grow visitor numbers from the US but has been unsuccessful mainly due to the long flight hours involved.
The US is currently among the leading tourist source markets for Kenya and contributed over 148,000 visitors last year.
This could go up to over 400,000 going by the projections by Mr Macharia.