25 October 2018

Kenya: CS Juma Chairs Inter-Ministerial Talks Ahead of KQ Direct Flight to New York

Nairobi — All is set for Sunday's inaugural direct flight by Kenya's national airline to the John F Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Top government officials led by Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma met on Wednesday to fine-tune preparations for the historic flight by Kenya Airways set to be flagged off from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Those who attended the meeting included senior officials in the Executive Office of the President, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, State Department of Transport, and State Department for Trade, Brand Kenya Board, Kenya Airways, Kenya Airports Authority, and representatives from the private sector.

The Kenya Airways flight will be the fastest connection from the region to New York, with 15 hours duration eastbound and 14 hours westbound.

CS Juma had told Capital FM News on Tuesday the direct flight will enhance the ease of doing business.

"It is quiet significant in terms of improving the efficiency of travel between the African continent and America, and the greater Americas," the CS said.

"We can now haul cargo or passengers within a short time; it is cost effective, so we expect to see the volumes of passengers, tourism, and business people increase between these two continents," she noted.

The Cabinet Secretary said the direct connection to the United States will single out Kenya as a key aviation hub.

She is among government officials and industry leaders who will be taking the inaugural flight.

Others include CNN business anchor Richard Quest who was hosted on Capital in the Morning on Tuesday.

Kenya Airways secured approval for direct flights between Nairobi and New York form the Transport Security Administration (TSA) - an agency tasked with reviewing United States' transportation security - mid last month.

The approval came a month after JKIA secured a Last Point of Departure clearance following rigorous assessment earlier in the year.

The clearance was a culmination of raft of processes initiated to access Kenya's aviation security.

The process had picked momentum in February 2017 when Kenya attained a Category 1 rating from the United States Aviation Authority (FAA) having fulfilled requirements set out in the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program in line with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.

"In order to maintain a Category 1 rating, a country must adhere to the safety standards of ICAO, the United Nations' technical agency for aviation that establishes international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance," FAA stated at the time.

The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure has assured of a seamless launch of the inaugural flight despite a threatened industrial action by Kenya Airways workers.

"The workers from pilots, cabin crew, to ground handling a majority of whom are Kenyans (98 per cent) are very patriotic. They know that the prospects of their jobs will be a lot better by the fact that they are working for an airline that is flying to the US," Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said on Wednesday.

"Whereas a few may want to take chances with the threatened strike, I can assure that we've had positive engagements and they flight will take off," he added.

Kenya Airways will deploy a Boeing 787 Dreamliner for the inaugural flight with 234 passengers, among them 30 business class fliers.

A similar number of passengers will be taking the return flight from JFK on Tuesday next week.

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