The country’s national carrier Kenya Airways last week marked a phenomenal milestone, termed as a ‘KQ comeback’ by the airline’s chairman, Michael Joseph, with the launch of the first non-stop flight connecting Nairobi to America’s commercial and financial capital, New York.
The pomp and galore around this ground-breaking announcement, which included a breakfast press briefing, and a more ‘out of the box’ evening unveiling event, underscored the gravity of the culmination of years of effort from both KQ staff and management, as well as the Government of Kenya (through the Ministries of Transport and Tourism, as well as the Kenya Airports Authority).
Flights directly connecting East Africa and North America could only be realized by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) auditing Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to establish its ‘worthiness’ using a string of measures that touched on a range of issues such as security measures, infrastructure, facility administration and a host of other nitty gritties known to the Kenya Airports Authority.
With this approval stamp for the JKIA obtained in February 2017, the ball was thrown into Kenya Airways court to circumnavigate through other operator approvals, I’d figure primarily to do with operations and standards, in order to make this connection a reality.
The airline already serves Africa, Europe, the Middle-East, the Indian sub-continent and much of Asia. Currently, it’s longest haul flight was the China route, capping at about 12 hours. The opening of the US destination, remarked the airline’s Group Managing Director and CEO Sebastian Mikosz, completes an essential piece for Kenya Airways’ network, cementing its position as one of the leading African carriers.
“This is an exciting moment for us. It fits within our strategy to attract corporate and high-end tourism traffic from the world to Kenya and Africa. We are honored to contribute to the economic growth of Kenya and East Africa.” he said.
15 hours eastbound, 14 hours westbound
With over 40 American multinationals located in Nairobi and many more across Africa, Kenya Airways has sought to launch daily flights on the route, which at launch has been dubbed #NBONYCDaily.
The airline will operate its fleet flagship Boeing 787 Dreamliner with a capacity of 234 passengers, departing every day from the JKIA (westbound) at 23:25 arriving at JFK airport in New York at 06:25 the following day. From New-York it will depart at 12:25 (eastbound) landing at JKIA at 10:55 the following day: That’s 15 hours east bound and 14 hours west bound.
The Nairobi to New York route currently features connections in the excess of 18 and a half hours, which include KQ and American Airlines or Delta (via London) or KLM (via Amsterdam), British Airways (via London), Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul), Emirates (via Dubai), Ethiopian (via Addis Ababa, Lome) or SAA (via Johannesburg). The longest connecting flight appears to be taking Saudia via Jeddah which is about 25 hours.
Kenya Airways will offer its customers a unique travel experience between two great gateways, claiming this flight will be the fastest connection from East Africa to New York. This will be its first ‘ultra-long-haul flight’, unique to the Kenya Airways network, and one which will require 4 Pilots and 12 Flight attendants as well as 85 tonnes of fuel each way, making it an exceptional operation.
The evening KQ Launch announcement host, Jeff Koinange, took his job seriously marketing ticket sales to some of the distinguished guests in attendance, who included the Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, American Ambassador Robert Godec and Nairobi County Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe, Each claimed that they would be on the inaugural flight to NYC.
The first passenger ticket was also ‘presented’ to the President and the First Lady in absentia by the Kenya Airways CEO, making a seat on KQ 001 the hottest ticket to have in late October. This daily schedule will also allow connections to and from over 40 African destinations through Kenya Airways hub in Nairobi.
*Kenya Airways started selling tickets 11th January 2018, for the inaugural flight which is scheduled for October 28th later this year.