Kenya Hopes For Direct US Flights By May

January 6, 2016

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Kenya hopes to start direct commercial flights to the United States by May after it met most of the requirements set by ICAO.

The East African nation wants to boost exports to the US and increase visits by American tourists. Launching flights was part of a package of deals announced during President Barack Obama's visit to Kenya last July.

"We shall get direct flights to the US by May this year," Transport Minister James Macharia told Reuters news agency.

Macharia said several airlines were keen to offer direct flights between Kenya and the United States. Delta previously set a launch date for flights but cancelled due to security concerns.

Kenya Airways also plans to offer direct flights. US traffic usually transits through hubs such as Dubai and Amsterdam.

Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta Airport scored 88 percent when it was assessed by the ICAO last September, the minister said, disclosing the score for the first time.

Inspectors from the US Federal Aviation Administration are expected to complete their audit of the airport before the end of March, he said.

The airport failed the same assessment in 2013, but has since improved security, Macharia said.

A new terminal opened two years ago and a second will open soon, allowing the airport to separate departures and arrivals, a key security requirement.

"We have more trained security personnel and very modern scanners for people and goods," the minister said.

Kenya has suffered frequent attacks by Islamist militants from Somalia in recent years.