Kenya Airport Authority concedes terminal 4 may not be ready until 2014

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(eTN) – Aviation sources in Nairobi are getting increasingly worried over the apparent delays in procurement for Terminal 4 furnishings and equipment, prolonging the worsening congestion of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s (JKIA) main terminal building.

Built in the 1970s, when, at the time, predecessor airport Embakasi was bursting at the seams, JKIA opened on March 14, 1978 – witnessed by yours truly at the time – and designed to cater to up to 2.5 million passengers. For the current year, however, that figure is expected to be nearer to 7 million, causing airlines and travelers problems with major congestion, and lack of gates, waiting areas, and aircraft parking.

A source close to the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) conceded this week, when following up on related issues on Project Greenfield, that indeed there appears to be significant delays in procurement of the crucial equipment for the new terminal while also admitting that construction itself was behind schedule. Terminal 4 was to cater as an intermediate stage for JKIA to absorb the traffic now moving through the airport beyond its initially-envisaged capacity while the main expansion of JKIA, known as Project Greenfield, will see groundbreaking in 2013 and add a new mega terminal and a second runway. The opening of Terminal 4 was for long expected to take place in late 2013 but may now be delayed into Q1 of 2014, or even beyond that, should KAA not get a handle on both construction as well as furnishing and equipping the new building.

Only a few days ago did news emerge from Nairobi that KAA was urgently seeking to create temporary structures to allow in particular Kenya Airways to continue with the fleet expansion program which depends almost entirely on the availability of more facilities on the ground. Kenya Airways intends to double its fleet from presently 38 aircraft by 2015, and failure by KAA to provide adequate passenger and aircraft-handling infrastructure could significantly impact on the national airline’s performance.

Meanwhile was it also confirmed that KAA is nearing the conclusion of talks with financial institutions over terms and conditions to finance the new Project Greenfield, to be largely paid for by the recently doubled airport tax, which in July was raised from US$20 to US$40 for international and regional departures. Once the project finance has been put into place, a groundbreaking date will be set, likely before the March 2013 elections, to allow President Kibaki, a main proponent of infrastructure development for Kenya, to perform the function.