Juma: Flying directly to the US will improve business between our two countries

What you need to know:

  • Starting on 28th, we will be across the Atlantic every day of the week.
  • We are confident that we are going to see a huge surge in trade, movement of goods, businesspeople and tourists.
  • We are already beginning to see the feel of this flight and a lot of it is also on the trust that KQ has built over the years on the continent.

Q: The day is finally here. Are you excited?
A: Yes, I am very excited. Many people are as this is coming after very hard work. It has been six years of negotiations. It has given us an opportunity to upgrade our status in the civil aviation industry. If you visit Jomo Kenyatta International Airport today, it is different. We have joined a class of international level standards for aviation. We are also pleased because this is an opportunity to link the West Indian coast to the western hemisphere, which is in line with our plans. Kenya Airways is one of our tools of diplomacy. Its branding "The Pride of Africa" tells it all. Kenya Airways planes land in many cities in Africa and other continents. KQ represents what Kenya is. We are actually very excited about it.
Q: You said this is a culmination of six years of hard work. Why is this important to Kenyans?
A: It is important because JKIA is a hub as far as Africa, Europe and Asia are concerned. The part of the world that we had not tapped in terms of the footprints of KQ is the western hemisphere. What is happening is important as it is connecting us to some of the most important strategic partners Kenya has. The United States was a traditional friend of Kenya even before independence. It is also connecting us to Latin American countries. We have a footprint in the Caribbean and South America, and so a direct flight to New York increases the efficiency of movement from the western hemisphere to Nairobi and the rest of the continent.
Q; We have been told that the flights will improve our access to more markets, facilitate batter trade between Kenya and the US and enable us to take more advantage of Agoa arrangement. How much do we expect our trade with the US to grow as a result of this direct link?
A; We do not have the numbers yet but there is an indication. The flight is fully booked for four days. There is a lot of excitement. We were in Washington DC in August and had a discussion around the flight. There is excitement among tour operators.
We are already beginning to see the feel of this flight and a lot of it is also on the trust that KQ has built over the years on the continent. We are confident that we are going to see a huge surge in trade, movement of goods, businesspeople and tourists. You know people prefer this. It is much easier to make decisions based on one flight than when you have to connect two or three.
Q: Given KQ’s financial troubles, have there been interventions to ensure the direct flights to the US are sustainable?
A: There is no doubt that KQ has had its low moments, but if you look at its history, you will also realise that in the last two years, we have been on an upward movement. There have been a lot of assessments, input, training, infrastructure development, discussions, management restructuring, and branding. That is why we are not just beginning with a few flights but full blast.
Q: What will be the frequency of flights?
A: Starting on 28th, we will be across the Atlantic every day of the week
Q: What has been the cost implications since we have had to improve our security procedures at the airport?
A: All that has been part of growing the aviation industry. We have not been upgrading just for KQ but everyone coming in and leaving the country.
This has been part of the larger effort to improve the entire security of Kenya. We have improved the airports, strategic installations, roads, railways and others. It is a whole set of a systemic renewal. We are generally improving the environment for doing business, tourism, studying and every other thing.
Q: What interventions are there to ensure that we improve tourism? Are there moves to take advantage of what we expect as increased visits to the country?
A: Only recently, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the supplementary estimates of Sh2 billion for tourism. If you look at the package, we are no longer just doing a Mara, Amboseli and traditional tourism strategies.
We are opening up new packages like Turkana, Mt Kenya, Nakuru and others so that there is diversity and have all packages that have different tastes. We are in conversation with other countries so that we can work as a package. They include Mauritius, Seychelles, Rwanda and Ethiopia. We want to have packages that speak to a Pan-African agenda. Our environmental management is one of the most acclaimed globally.
Q: Is the direct Flight arrangement as important to Kenya as it is to the US?
A: The effort we have put in itself is an incentive enough. Many people are hoping to learn more about this country because we are offering investment for returns.
The variety of sectors that we have been laid down in Agenda Four makes it easy for possible investors to make up their minds. President Kenyatta’s administration has been focusing as a priority, on improving the environment for doing business. We are looking very good internationally.
Q: Are there any concerns by international investors, bearing in mind how the media has been portraying the country?
A: Businesses do their own analysis. They do not just make up their minds because of what they read in newspapers. Many serious investors verify information before embarking on anything.
Global analysts also have interest in this country and so there is a lot of information about Kenya. We are also strategically positioned as a gateway to East and Central Africa and the whole of Africa and so serious people thinking about the region would look to Kenya.
Q: Apart from you, who else will be in this inaugural flight?
A; The Director General of the United Nations Offices in Nairobi, CNN news Anchor Richard Quest, Ourselves, other people whose titles I may not give you. We will be a sizeable number of us from the country and across the region. We will have ambassadors from other countries flagging off together with the president, because we represent more than ourselves because of the regional integration agenda.

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