Kenya gets clearance to operate direct flights to the US

The US Federal Aviation Administration says Kenya has complied with worldwide safety standards and can have direct flights to the country.

Kenya received a safety certification this week from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration that will allow its airlines to apply for non-stop flights to U.S. airports.

"Granting of this status is a major milestone in the growth and development of civil aviation in Kenya and East Africa", said Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia.

Kenya Airways is interested in launching long-haul flights to the US.

Bob Godec, the USA ambassador to Kenya, said the certification means it's only a "matter of time" before the first non-stop flights take off.

The KCAA noted that previously all airlines from Kenya had traveled through a third country before they could access US airspace. Now non-stop flights are beginning, and that means direct shipments of fresh vegetables and flowers.

The Category One status is based on an FAA assessment of the safety oversight provided by Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.

Kenya has been implementing a raft of recommendations given by the USA government to enhance security, among them separation of passenger arrival and departure terminals, clearing the flight path and fencing off the airport. Kenyan transport minister James Macharia said that officials were now applying for codeshare agreements with USA airlines and approval to begin direct flights. Instead, they're sold in wholesale flower auctions and repackaged in Europe, then re-exported here.

He points out that direct flights will also allow them to bring in more goods after delivering their cargo in the US.

The United States already emerged last year as Kenya's largest source market for tourists, overtaking the UK from where charter flights to Mombasa have still not returned to the levels of past years.

  • Zachary Reyes