Kenya needs to speed up airport work


(eTN) – Under pressure by air operators, in particular the national airline, Kenya Airways, and faced with a growing list of airlines wanting to fly into Nairobi, were it not for capacity constraints, the government finally made its stand known on the ongoing expansion of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport was quoted to have said: “We cannot wait until December next year. Measures must be taken to hasten completion of the project.”

Much of the current delay in the expansion works are attributed to wrangles under the past CEO of the Kenya Airport Authority, which set board members against each other and the board against the Chief Executive, in the process leading to allegations upon allegations over improprieties and subsequent delays in advertising and awarding tenders.

This left airlines upset and angry, as their passengers have to squeeze during peak hours – now lasting for much of the day – in overcrowded terminals and faced with often long queues at security checkpoints, at immigration, and when collecting baggage. Kenya Airways, in fact, presently on a massive expansion drive with adding more aircraft to their fleet and expanding their network at a rapid pace, seems the main victim of Kenya Airports Authority’s (KAA) failure to add aircraft parking spaces, a new terminal, and a second runway. Kenya Airways repeatedly, in the past, complained that competitors, in particular Ethiopian Airlines, are enjoying better facilities and facilitation in their own home hub of Addis Ababa, to the detriment of cementing Nairobi’s superior position as the leading East African aviation hub.

Kenya Airways is expecting to have 3 additional Embraer 190AR aircraft delivered between now and early 2012, following which 10 more such aircraft are under order and a further 10 under option. Nine Boeing 787 will also start arriving in Kenya from 2013 onwards, besides options for a further 4 of those long-haul planes. International airlines are either planning to add more frequencies to their Nairobi route, while others intend to start flights to Kenya, but the availability of slots during rush hour and the absence of a second runway in Nairobi has impacted negatively on potential growth, in the process also capping tourism growth numbers due to lack of capacity.