Kenya Airways has submitted its application for direct flights from Nairobi to the United States.
The national career targets June 2018 as the commencement date for direct flights, through a code-sharing partnership with an American carrier, with a long-term plan of starting its own direct flights in future.
The application comes three months after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) Category One security and safety status, under the agency’s International Aviation Safety Assessment Programme, paving the way for direct flights, after a decade-long wait.
The licensing process is expected to take eight months and if confirmed will be boost for Kenya’s tourism sector as it may lead to increased travel to the country from the United States.
“When making the application to the US Department of Transport (DoT), airlines have to submit an indicative date of launch. In our submission we went with mid next year because we have to rematch the approval date with market trends,” Outgoing CEO Mbuvi Ngunze is quoted by Nation as saying.
“January to March is usually a quiet period. The market picks up between April and June. Besides, you have to have flights ready so that people can book well in advance.”
One of the conditions set by US agency for applying airlines is to provide evidence of operation authority from the home government, passenger manifest information and aircraft accident liability insurance.
Upon receiving the green light, KQ will also be required to seek safety consent from the FAA and additional approvals from applicable US authority.
According to Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, Kenya Airways will most likely enter into a code-sharing agreement with America’s Delta Air Lines, which is the Kenyan carrier’s SkyTeam partner.
SkyTeam is an alliance of 20 carriers, including KLM, Korean Air, Air France and Alitalia, who partner to ensure seamless travel experience for those using their flights.
In 2009, Kenya granted Delta Air Lines approval for direct flights, but the US government rescinded the decision over security concerns.
KQ will therefore have to seek fresh approval from US and the Kenyan authorities before launching the direct flights.
Currently, passengers flying from Kenya to the US have to transit through Europe, Middle East, South Africa, Ethiopia, Cape Verde or Nigeria, whose airports have achieved the Category One status.