Upgrade airports to take pressure off JKIA

Saturday August 10 2013

Ever since the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, it has not been business as usual in the airline industry.

With the constant threat of terror attacks, airlines have had to take extra precautions to ensure that passengers arrive at their destinations safely and on time. For airline executives, keeping the business running smoothly for a day is no mean feat.

Therefore, the fire at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport couldn’t have come at a worse time, especially now that the tourism high season — where migrating wildebeest at the Maasai Mara are the main attraction — has just began.

The hospitality industry will definitely take a hit especially after images of the inferno were beamed to international audiences. Tourist arrivals will dip, taking away much-needed foreign exchange.

The JKIA is strategically placed between the Cape and Cairo where it serves hundreds of thousands of passengers connecting to the hinterland of Africa, or flying on to Asia and Europe. The country’s overreliance on it, therefore, leaves us economically vulnerable especially when there are security concerns.

Think of all the cancelled business transactions, delayed exports, the spoilt horticultural produce, the missed conferences and workshops. Then you begin to get a sense of the magnitude of the economic catastrophe we are staring at.

One solution would be to expand both the Eldoret and Mombasa airports so that in case of a crisis, the two airports are able to take the strain from JKIA. If Kenya is to brand itself as the ultimate business destination in the region and in Africa, then the country’s airports must be up to the task.

Collins Mabinda, via email.