Direct flights from Kenya to the US to begin by May

Macharia says the country has met nearly all the demands by US authority

Tuesday January 5 2016

Newly acquired Kenya Airways Boeing 777-300ER arrives at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on October 25, 2013. direct flights from Kenya to The US could begin in May 2016. PHOTO |  DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Newly acquired Kenya Airways Boeing 777-300ER arrives at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on October 25, 2013. Direct flights from Kenya to The US could begin in May 2016. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By BRIAN NGUGI
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Direct flights between Kenya and the United States could finally become a reality in four months, the government now says.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said Kenya had completed “almost all” relevant audit requirements by the United States aviation authorities, hence the bold projection.

“We anticipate that we shall commence direct flights to the USA by May 2016, having as of now cleared almost all aviation audit issues,” Mr Macharia told the Nation.

Kenya has been pushing for the introduction of the direct flights for years now without success.

If it happens this year, the plan is expected to be a huge win for among others, Kenya’s hard-hit tourism sector as it will form a direct pipeline for American tourists coming straight to Kenya.

(READ: High hopes for Kenya-US direct flight after bilateral talks)

Analysts say it would also stimulate business between the two countries.

Chinese China Southern Airlines made its inaugural direct flight between Nairobi and Guangzhou last year.

In July last year, US President Barack Obama during his visit to Kenya, reignited hope for the inauguration of the elusive flights.

President Obama in his talks with his host President Uhuru Kenyatta, confirmed the deliberation on the subject that has seen Kenyan aviation authorities struggle to attain the required category one for the deal to go through.

BILATERAL TALKS

“Our governments are working to facilitate the direct flights between US and Kenya as soon as possible,” Mr Obama said after the bilateral talks.

He could, however, not give any commitment on when exactly the flights would become operational, firmly stating that there were protocol and security issues that needed to be squared out first before the direct flights were launched.

“With respect to direct flights, there are very specific protocols and security issues that have to be worked through and sorted out. I don’t have a date certain in front me and I wouldn’t want to make a guess and then if we are late you would call me and say we lied,” Mr Obama said then.

Kenya failed an audit by American aviation authorities last year which would have cleared it for the direct flights into America’s lucrative markets.

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