Kenya Airways branded as KQ on the African continent and the national carrier of Kenya is currently modernizing its aircraft and upgrading the airport terminals in collaboration with the government of Kenya with the aim of boosting trade and connecting Africans with the world.
On a recent tour of the Jomo Kenyatta Airport which has fast awakened from its raging fire disaster which gutted it on August 7 causing a temporary shutdown of operations, the Airport Manager, Edward Kobuthi told journalists from five African countries where KQ flies that the airport is functioning and encouraged passengers not to fear in coming to Nairobi.
Mr. Kobuthi described Nairobi as a great hub in East Africa and a gateway in the African continent where a significant portion of passengers who travel within Africa and beyond pass through Nairobi confirming that last year KQ carried 3.6 million passengers and intends to carry 4.1 million passengers this year noting that growth is by expansion.
He explained how the government of Kenya is contributing and counting on the interdiction of direct flights to boost trade among Africans adding that currently the airport is on the verge of modernizing and expanding the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to significantly boost its capacity to handle more travelers.
He said the regional hub has been in the business of connecting Africa to the rest of the world and vise versa and that a new state-of-the-art terminal is being constructed as part of the 2030 vision of Kenya which will be delinked from the current airport and build from scratch.
The Airport Manager told journalists that the new terminal will be the largest single terminal in Africa built on four levels to handle up to 20 million passengers annually while KQ plans to introduce the first ever Boeing 777-300 extended range, the first carrier in East Africa to fly the largest twin jet in the world.
As to the renovation and the extent of the fire disaster, Mr. Kobuthi said the impact cannot be quantified because the incident was unexpected therefore the renovation work has no fixed cost and is now greeted as a major renovation process which is intended to bring comfort to passengers as well as ensure their safety on KQ flights and those who use the terminals.
He said 30 percent of regular flights operated normally and all domestic operations kicked off on a 100 percent basis with about 20 flights operating on the same day while the domestic terminal cargo area was set up as a minute terminal with 70 percent of normal frequency operating by the end of first week resuming 90 percent of the airport and aircraft normal operations.
Mr. Kobuthi said in coordination with the airport authority, the aircraft management was able to get facilities in place to usher passengers through the airport on transit and that even though operations in August was slightly down but the airport is able to handle more passengers.
“There have been doubts by people in different markets on whether Nairobi is able to sustain and of course after the fire, things have not been hundred percent but importantly, changes have progressed and we have managed to restore the airport and look forward to our future plans. Today there are no tents but it was because of the damage we had to use tents,” he said.
He disclosed that the Africa Exit Bank is providing some US$1.9 billion funding to KQ. The airline which believes in expanding trade and investment is currently flying in 45 destinations in Africa and will be the first to offer wi-fi internet access on board its aircraft soon and upon the completion of the work, the airport will be offering hotel services as well.
The Chief Operation Officer for KQ, Mbuvi Ngunze also told journalists that despite the incident, the airport now has a screening machine to screen baggage upon arrival and that took them just two weeks. He explained how on August 7, 2013 at about 5:00 a.m. fire gutted the arrival terminals of the JKIA but the national carrier, KQ still operated and rescued passengers going to and from Mombasa as well as diverting flights. The COO of Kenya Airways assured passengers that things have greatly normalized and safety has been guaranteed.