BY MARTIN MWITA
Kenya Airways is likely to have its first aircraft touchdown in the United States of America in July 2018, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority has confirmed, pushing forward the much anticipated direct flights between Kenya and the US.
This is despite KQ, as it is known by its international airline code, having received traffic rights to fly to the US.
The US department of Transportation (DOT) granted Kenya Airways traffic rights to the US on September 5. This is the commercial authority to operate passenger and cargo flights.
However, KQ has to wait for two more steps before commencing operations between Kenya and the US, according to the country’s civil aviation regulator-KCAA.
They include an audit of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by the US Transport Security Administration (TSA), under Homeland Security, to certify it as secure for flights heading to the US.
If passed, Kenya will secure the ‘last point of departure’ license. The audit is expected to be completed by end of October.
“This is technical authority to operate,” KCAA director general, Captain Gilbert Kibe, told The Exchange.
The Nairobi Securities Exchange listed airline also has to secure an Air Operator Certificate from the US-Federal Aviation Administration, before commencing flights to America.
“All these should be done by April next year (2018). We expect KQ to operate to the USA by July 2018,” Kibe said.
FAA granted Kenya Category 1 Status on February 23 this year. This is the mandatory status any airport requires to be allowed to handle direct flights to the US.
Kenya airways has however commenced negotiations for slots and schedules at the airports they seek to land and take-off from.
The airline is also in talks with its Skyteam Alliance partner and Amecican carrier – Delta Air Line, which could see it test the US market earlier on a code sharing module.
American carriers have to be cleared by the KCAA to fly directly to Kenya , a process that take between two and three months.
KQ is counting on its Boeing 787- Dreamliner fleet to fly directly to the US from Nairobi, according to corporate communications manager Wanjiku Mugo.
A direct flight in the aviation industry is any flight between two points by an airline with no change in flight numbers, which includes one or more stops at an intermediate point or points. A stop may either be to get new passengers (or allow some to disembark) or a technical stopover such as refueling. It does not necessarily mean non-stop flight.