United commences Accra flights


(eTN) Last weekend saw the first ever United Airlines service commence between Washington’s Dulles Airport and Accra, Ghana, using B767 equipment. The announcement was met with interest in East African aviation circles where flights by Delta to Nairobi, via a West African waypoint, are also still expected but have not yet materialized, having been halted by US authorities on the eve of the inaugural flight last year due to security concerns.

Aviation sources in East Africa cite the continued absence of Cat 1 certification by the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as one of the major reasons. For instance in Nairobi, the traffic flow of arriving and departing passengers still meets, while Cat 1 status requires a strict separation of the two groups.

No details could be obtained from the Uganda CAA as to why the international airport in Entebbe was not yet Cat 1 cleared, as the passenger separation has long been in place there. Even though added security provisions were introduced in recent years, these approvals still seem as long off as ever before.

Until the FAA and other US authorities eventually clear flights to Eastern Africa, the presently nearest direct US flight connections leave from Addis Ababa, Cairo, and Johannesburg, remaining the envy of the Eastern African airports.

Meanwhile, in a related development, the European Investment Bank (EIB) has offered a grant towards the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport rehabilitation and expansion project of some 5 million euros or nearly 500 million Kenya shillings at present rates. The grant, which is not part of a major loan by the EIB for the project, appears aimed to assist in reducing operational disruptions during the upcoming works on the main Terminals 1, 2, and 3. A fourth terminal is also due to be added at JKIA. Once work is complete, Cat 1 status will then more likely become a reality.