While it may take some time before actual direct flights will be launched, the legal foundation is now taken care of for Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) now that it has received category 1 status.
Following years of failed audits and months of delay after the last audit finally put JKIA into the pass section, news has emerged overnight that the airport has at last been cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the coveted Category 1 status.
Carriers wishing to offer direct or nonstop flights now have to get designation from their respective home countries and then apply for landing rights, in Kenya for Nairobi and possibly Mombasa, and in the United States at an airport of their choice.
Few airports in Africa have this clearance level of compliance with US demands, among them Addis Ababa, Johannesburg, and Casablanca to name the key aviation hubs, and Nairobi joining this exclusive club will no doubt help to enhance tourism and trade.
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.
As this turned out to be a breaking news development, tourism stakeholders have not had the time to react at this stage.