Kenya Airways has moved a step closer to operating direct flights to the United States after the Department of Transportation (DOT) granted it the first set of licences.
The national carrier has received "exemption authority" from the DOT, allowing it to commence flights to the US provided it secures clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other applicable State agencies.
The DOT has also tentatively granted Kenya Airways a Foreign Air Carrier Permit (FACP), which is again subject to clearance from several US security, aviation and border agencies.
The FACP is the more permanent licence, with a duration-tied bilateral aviation agreement between the US and an applicant's homeland or a minimum of five years if such a pact does not exist.
The processing time for the permit request is extremely lengthy, and as such airlines simultaneously apply for the two-year exemption authority allowing them to commence operations as the FACP is finalised.
"The authority sought by the applicant is encompassed by the US-Kenya Air Transport Agreement," the DOT has said. "We, therefore, find that grant of the requested exemption authority, for a two-year term, or until the requested permit authority becomes effective, whichever occurs earlier, is warranted."
KQ, as it is known by its international code, submitted its application for direct flights to the US in late April, targeting June 2018 for the inaugural landing in Nairobi.
The carrier is initially expected to partner with an American airline (most likely Delta Airlines) through code-sharing as it prepares for independent flights.