Kenya has taken yet another step to securing direct flights to the United States with the tabling in Parliament of a Bill that addresses key concerns such as security and the independence of the aviation sector regulator.
The Civil Aviation Amendment Bill, sponsored by National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, is expected to help Kenya meet the last of the long list of conditions the US authorities had set before opening its skies for direct flights from Nairobi.
“The principal object of this Bill is to amend the Civil Aviation Act, 2013 to address findings of the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) technical review for International Audit Safety Assessment (IASA) Category 1 Status as well as incorporating Articles of the Chicago Convention that had not been captured in the Act,” the Bill’s memorandum says.
MPs are expected to discuss the Bill even as it emerged that the US had issued an advisory listing Kenya as an unsafe airspace along war- torn countries like Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, South Sudan and Afghanistan.
But the US Embassy in Nairobi downplayed the notice, stating that it was working with the Kenyan authorities to ensure implementation of the direct flights.
“Neither the Notice to Airmen nor the website direct or suggest that airlines avoid Kenyan airspace. The issuance of the notice has no effect on continuing US efforts to support the Government of Kenya in meeting international standards for direct flights,” said the US.
Category 1 is a certification issued by America’s FAA after assessing a country’s physical infrastructure such as airports before allowing direct flights.
The assessment also measures the ability of a country’s aviation authority to hold airlines flying to the US to international standards.
The changes suggested to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) Act after the US audit are meant to improve the aviation regulator’s ability to enforce standards that are acceptable to America.
“If the Bill is published as is, it will adequately deal with outstanding findings on previous ICAO audits and address the US concerns regarding direct flights,” the KCAA said in a statement.
Kenyan airlines argue that direct flights to the US would immensely boost trade through a reduction in charges.
“We could easily save up to 20 per cent on cargo operation costs with direct flights,” Astral Aviation chief executive officer Sunjeev Gadhia said in a previous interview.
Direct flights are also expected to promote export of fresh produce and encourage more US tourists to visit Kenya.
If successful, Kenyan authorities expect direct flights from Nairobi to New York or Washington D.C. Currently, Senegal, Nigeria and South Africa are the only African countries with direct flights to US cities.