Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s new terminal may be what’s needed to launch a direct Atlanta–Nairobi, Kenya, flight, Raila Odinga, the East African country’s prime minister, told GlobalAtlanta while visiting Atlanta April 26.
Mr. Odinga said a major concern of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration is that arriving and departing passengers to and from Nairobi’s airport must remain separated.
“The new terminal will be able to do that,” he added, “and it is to be completed in four months.”
The Kenyatta airport’s expansion began last year and is expected to handle 9 million passengers a year from the current traffic of more than 6 million passengers.
Delta Air Lines Inc. scheduled a flight from Atlanta to Kenya in 2009, but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the TSA, nixed it June 1, the day before it was to make its inaugural flight.
The flight was scheduled to leave Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, cross the Atlantic and make a stop in Dakar, Senegal, before continuing east across the continent to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.
TSA never issued an official explanation except to indicate “security vulnerabilities in and around Nairobi” as the cause for the abrupt cancellation.
Kenya Airways Ltd., Kenya’s most established airline, is a member of the SkyTeam alliance that includes 14 members in addition to Delta.
Mr. Odinga said that should there be such a flight he would anticipate U.S. investors, tourists, academicians and members of Africa’s diaspora community in the Southeast to use the flight.
Kenyans would enjoy flying directly to Atlanta, he added, because they currently have to make a stop over in Europe, often for as long as a day.
He also indicated it would help Kenyan exporters of coffee, cut flowers, tea, textiles and other items.
Another loosely related impetus for a direct flight is that members of Kenya’s diaspora now have the right to dual citizenship.
They show their attachment in several ways, he said. The diaspora communities reinforce their ties to their homeland through social media and keep Kenyans informed as to what is going on in the U.S. They also send important remittances to their Kenyan family members, he said.
As recently as last week, he added, the Kenya government began to register Kenyans living abroad in an effort to encourage them to maintain their Kenyan citizenship, which has been guaranteed in the country’s new constitution.
Americans also are now able, he said, to become Kenyan citizens without having to give up their U.S. citizenship.