The Boeing 787 Dreamliner Aircraft christened “Magical Kenya” touched down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 9.07 a.m. - nearly an hour and a half ahead of schedule.
The flight left New York City at 8pm Kenyan time on a much shorter flight that took approximately 12 hours to Nairobi - down from earlier estimated flight duration of 14 hours from New York City to Nairobi.
The flight, which had 234 passengers on board, has now made history by being the first direct, non-stop flight from East Africa to the United States of America (USA).
Making his keynote address soon after welcoming the maiden flight, Deputy President William Ruto hailed the flight as an historic milestone for tourism, trade and investment between Kenya and the USA.
Deputy President Ruto said, “Kenya Airways’ direct flight to the U.S. is an important milestone for Kenya as tourism destination considering that the U.S. is currently Kenya’s leading tourism source market with a market share of 12% of arrivals to Kenya. The direct flight will save travelers at least 7 hours of flying time, and thus provide a shorter, quicker and more affordable connection for tourists and business travelers coming to Kenya. This will substantially boost Kenya’s global profile as a tourism destination.”
The Deputy President further noted that the flight has elevated Kenya - and more specifically Nairobi’s profile as a hub destination that is capable of receiving visitors from all over the world.
“Kenya’s safari experience is one of the world’s most spectacular wildlife experiences and has put Kenya both on the global map and on many American travelers’ bucket lists. As more North Americans look to Africa as their next big vacation destination, Kenya now has an opportunity to expand further into the United States’ market and capture market share away from other destinations in Africa.”, said Deputy President Ruto.
The Deputy President also called upon the Kenya Airport Authority to improve the customer experience for travelers coming to Kenya, saying the government will continue is investment in modernizing and expanding JKIA’s capacity.
Kenya’s journey towards direct flights to the U.S. begun in earnest in April 2017 when Kenya was granted Category 1 status. Kenya Airways subsequently received approvals by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration that certified its systems and procedures as safe to conduct direct flights to the U.S.
In August this year, Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport was finally approved to be a Last Point of Departure (LPD) to the U.S.
Commenting on the significance of the national carrier’s direct flight to the US, Kenya Tourism Board Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Betty Radier has said, “With the introduction of KQ’s direct flight to the US, KTB expects the number of tourist arrivals from the US to grow significantly. This is especially considering that KQ’s direct flight to USA will inspire consideration and purchase of Magical Kenya offers amongst the targeted consumers in the US market.”
She added that the KQ direct flight to the USA will provide the impetus needed to spur innovation in packaging all the unique and authentic travel experiences that Kenya has to offer.
Among the products that KTB is pushing in the US market include Wildlife Safari, Culture and Heritage, Adventure, and Special Occasions.