Kenya Airways should step up so that it can join the elite club of airlines that have direct flights to Washington and New York.
There are still a few hurdles in the way and if they are overcome, Nairobi will have cemented its place as the gateway to East Africa.
Direct flights between the US and Africa are rare. In Africa, slightly more than a handful of countries — including our neighbour Ethiopia, Egypt, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Morocco and Cape Verde — have direct flights to this destination.
Joining these ranks goes beyond prestige. It also widens the scope for more trade, especially on the back of the renewal of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which opens up a lucrative market for Kenya to expand its horticultural, leather and textile exports.
Although the airline has noted that it will tread with caution given that Kenya Airways burnt its fingers by expanding too fast through Project Mawingu, this should not geld KQ’s risk appetite completely.
Nonetheless, the airline will have to ensure that it has adequate passenger traffic to and from the US.
To prepare for this, the country must begin to launch more aggressive marketing campaigns to bring in more tourists from the US. Between January and October last year, 82,363 visitors toured the country from the US, surpassing 80,821 tourist arrivals from Britain. Clearly the potential for more passenger traffic exists. KQ must exploit this opportunity.