Flights from Nairobi to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport will be launched in early May.
This is after Kenya Airways formally requested the US federal aviation department for a licence to fly directly to the US.
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia told the Nation that the application was presented at the US Embassy in Nairobi.
Kenya Airways aircraft and its crew will be rated and reviewed before the licence is issued.
“Getting Category One status was a milestone for Kenya since in Africa only South Africa, Senegal, Cape Verde and Ethiopia enjoy that status. Our inclusion means more business for airlines using the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as a hub,” he said.
Mr Macharia said the flights would give Nairobi increased human and cargo traffic, fresh cut flowers and clothes for export from Kenya.
Kenya has been pushing for certification for direct flights for a while now.
The Cabinet secretary said airlines running through Nairobi would also enjoy increased traffic as more people from African countries heading to the US or coming home would prefer using Nairobi, shortening the Kenya-US journey from 19 hours via Amsterdam to nine hours.
He said Jomo Kenyatta Airport’s licence as a last point of departure means that foreign airlines can apply to Kenya Civil Aviation Authority for permits to Kenya directly.
Mr Macharia said that America’s Delta Airlines, which had been granted approval for direct flights in 2009, would enjoy automatic renewal of its licences, but the US government rescinded the licence citing security issues in Kenya.
“Kenya invested billions of shillings to improve infrastructure at Jomo Kenyatta airport from runways and perimeter wall. The departure and arrival terminals were also separated and modern security equipment installed,” said Mr Macharia.
On the standard gauge railway, Mr Macharia said tests for the Mombasa-Nairobi journey were ongoing 18 months ahead of schedule.
The railway would move 22 million 20-foot containers annually up from 1.5 million today.
He said no lorries will still be in business since the port will handle more cargo that requires to be moved to factories and shops across East Africa.