Bernard Gitau @benagitau
US President Donald Trump Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa led by the under secretary for international trade Gilbert Kaplan yesterday gave a thumbs up on Kenya’s readiness for the inaugural direct Nairobi-New York flight in October.
Kaplan said he was delighted by the progress the Kenyan government, Kenya Airways (KQ) and US authorities have made by establishing direct flights between the two countries. Due to the progress, Kaplan revealed KQ will be allowed to land in Washington DC after New York.
“If I can leave one suggestion I would like to officially place my vote as the next flight destination for KQ to be Washington DC,” said Kaplan.
Kaplan was leading a 60-member delegation consisting of senior US government officials and business executives to Kenya for trade engagements.
The inaugural direct flight is scheduled to depart Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) for the John F Kennedy Airport on October 28.
“The launch of this direct flight will immediately make it easier for business and tourism to flow,” he said.He noted the high power delegation to Kenya was due to a vote of confidence by the President’s Council.
“When the council sat down to decide what countries to go to, Kenya was at the very top of the list due to its tremendous opportunities.” KQ will operate Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet including the 787-8 on the route covering 7,367miles.
“I understand KQ is also working to lease the 737 Max, this is a great aircraft that can provide improved economics for the airline and higher level of passenger comfort,” said Kaplan.
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia expressed optimism that the flights would assert Nairobi as the business and tourism hub.
“Last year we achieved Category One status which is not a mean achievement. We are going to invest heavily and remodel JKIA terminals B, C, D to increase passenger capacity from the current seven million to 12 million,” said Macharia.
Macharia said the government is in advanced stages of connecting JKIA with Nairobi central business district and Syokimau SGR terminus through a light rail.
KQ chief executive Sebastian Mikosz said the national carrier will offer a unique product as the only airline with non-stop daily flights between East Africa and the United States.
“We are excited for this milestone which is the 52nd destination worldwide in our growing network,”he said. Early this month, Kenya Airways introduced three non-stop flights from JKIA to Cape Town, South Africa.
Similarly, the airline launched four-weekly direct flights to Mauritius to add to the already existing code-share agreement with Air Mauritius.