The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport will, over the next 100 days, undergo major changes as Kenya gears up for the roll-out of direct flights to the United States.
Cabinet secretaries James Macharia (Transport and Infrastructure), Fred Matiang’i (Interior) and Najib Balala (Tourism) last week announced a raft of changes that seek to transform the country’s premier airport into a global aviation hub.
Mr Macharia said the changes were meant to create harmony among workers at the airport so that they can deliver services at international standards, after the airport’s status was upgraded to Category 1 to pave the way for direct flights to America starting October.
“We want to ensure all agencies at the airport work together. JKIA is a key hub in the region and we should therefore meet the expectations of the international community,” he said.
Dr Matiang’i said the changes will improve efficiency in handling travellers and creating order at the airport. To begin with, there will be new regulations to control taxis and tour vans.
Public servants at the airport including the police, Kenya Revenue Authority and Immigration officials will be trained on customer care, he added. And there will be more service desks to handle the anticipated increase in the number of travellers.
“We must make tough decisions to ensure that there is maximum order at the airport,” said Dr Matiang’i. “But we need to improve efficiency at Immigration. This is the front desk for the country. We received many complaints in December as a result of the increased number of travellers.”
Immigration officials had suggested the recruitment of interns during high seasons, but the minister said they will use National Youth Service personnel.
Mr Balala said that in 100 days, order will have been created.
“We have appointed Utalii College to train public servants here on customer care so that travellers are treated well,” he said.
America’s Federal Aviation Administration inspectors last year gave JKIA a clean bill of health after an audit, which included evaluation of security.
Kenya Airways is now set to begin daily flights between Nairobi and New York in October, marking a milestone for the national carrier. The deal is expected to cut the flight time between the two cities by more than seven hours.
Travellers are making advance bookings for the maiden flight to the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, where KQ has already secured a landing slot at JFK.
The trans-Atlantic flight is scheduled to take 15 hours. This will be a reduction from the current flight time of over 22 hours, including lengthy layovers.
Each trip will have a maximum of 234 passengers — 204 in economy and the rest in business class of the national carrier’s Dreamliner.