Delta dampens talk of direct US-Kenya flights

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DeltaDelta Airlines said on Monday it has no “near-term” plans to begin direct flights between the United States and Kenya.

London-based Delta spokeswoman Olivia Cullis made the confirmation in response to DailyNation’s query about the recent suggestion by Transport Secretary Michael Kamau that the carrier could begin flying to Kenya as early as next year.

“Delta continues to evaluate market opportunities around the world, but we do not have any plans to start service to Kenya in the near-term,” Ms Cullis said.

Mr Kamau predicted in an interview last week that “definitely Delta will be the airline to start.”

“We are working with them and regulators more closely this time around to secure all the requirements,” he added.

US aviation authorities continue to express concerns about the safety of air travel in Kenya.

POSSIBLE ATTACK

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a warning in 2009, which remains in effect, of a possible attack using man-portable air defense systems.

The FAA noted that this type of anti-aircraft weapon was used in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy an Israeli plane taking off from Mombasa in 2002.

Last month, the FAA warned US flight operators that aircraft taking off from or landing at Mandera Airstrip could be fired upon by Ethiopian forces if a plane crosses into Ethiopian air space.

The United States has been working with Kenya for more than 10 years to improve security at Jomo Kenyatta International and Wilson airports in Nairobi and at Moi International Airport in Mombasa.

Equipment such as baggage x-ray machines, walk-through metal detectors and explosive trace detectors have been provided through the US’ Safe Skies for Africa programme.

Five years ago, Delta was on the verge of initiating direct flights between Atlanta and Nairobi with a stopover in Senegal.

But the US Department of Homeland Security ordered Delta not to start the service the day before an inaugural flight was scheduled to depart.

Delta did recently announce an “enhanced partnership” with Kenya Airways.

Under the plan due to be launched September 1, the Kenyan carrier will offer connecting flights to Monrovia, Liberia, for passengers using Delta’s non-stop service between Accra, Ghana, and New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport.

-nation.co.ke

A Delta airlines' aircraft takes off from the Ronald Reagan National airport as the sun rises in Washington, DC. PHOTO | AFP

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