President Uhuru Kenyatta on Sunday night presided over a historic milestone for Kenya’s aviation sector when he flagged off the inaugural Kenya Airways (KQ) direct flight from Nairobi to New York.
A jovial President Kenyatta flagged off a KQ Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner carrying 234 passengers from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport destined for New York’s JFK International Airport in the presence of Government Officials and dignitaries.
The inaugural flight to New York is a major milestone for Kenya’s aviation sector especially since a direct air link with the United States will give Kenya increased access to the large US economy, the biggest in the world, as well as the entire North American region which will bolster trade and tourism in the region.
Similarly, the launch of direct flights from Nairobi to New York and vice versa, is expected to elevate JKIA’s importance and cement Nairobi’s position as one of Africa’s biggest economic movers.
President Kenyatta has been at the forefront in the sustained efforts that ensured direct flights between Kenya and the United States became a reality. Over the years, President Kenyatta has held talks on direct flights with top American government officials starting with his June 2014 visit to the US, when he attended the US-Africa Leader’s Summit, in September 2014 and September 2015.
This year, the Head of State visited the US twice and on both occasions, direct flights were top on the agenda. The first visit was when President Kenyatta met his US counterpart Donald Trump in August at the White House in Washington DC.
The President also spearheaded government measures to ensure JKIA met standards required to launch direct flights to the United States. The measures included infrastructure upgrades and improvement of security of the airport.
Before Kenya Airways got the green light to fly to New York, the Kenya Civil Airports Authority (KCAA) passed the International Civil Aviation Authority’s (ICAO) International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) run by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and got clearance from the FAA in 2017.
Besides Kenya, Cape Verde, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa are the other African countries with the Category 1 access to the US.