Ambassador Godec’s Remarks at Kenya Airways’ Announcement on U.S. Direct Flights

Ambassador Godec’s Remarks at

Kenya Airways’ Announcement on U.S. Direct Flights

January 11, 2018

 

Cabinet Secretary for Transport James Macharia;

Kenya Airways Chairman Michael Joseph;

Kenya Airways CEO Sebastian Mikosz;

Distinguished guests;

Mabibi na mabwana! Hamjambo! Habari za joini?

 

Allow me to begin by wishing everyone a very prosperous and happy 2018.

As we begin this New Year, a year that, I hope, will bring wonderful things to Kenya, this evening’s Kenya Airways announcement makes a great start.  Direct flights between Kenya and the United States have long been goal for both our countries.  Tonight, we take another big step toward achieving it.

The United States and Kenya, of course, enjoy a long, close, and growing bilateral partnership.  For more than 50 years, we have worked together in so many areas… security, healthcare, education, agriculture, trade and investment, and much more.  Hand in hand, we’ve improved the lives of Kenyans and Americans.  Our relations are government to government, business to business, NGO to NGO, university to university.  And, they are people to people.

In beginning ticket sales today for a Nairobi-New York flight, Kenya Airways is making a powerful commitment to helping deepen all of these relationships.  Direct flights between the United States and Kenya will bring our countries closer together, decrease travel time, and increase convenience for the growing number of Kenyans who want to visit the United States, and the growing number of Americans who are choosing Kenya as a destination.  I was particularly pleased, not long ago, to see that the United States is now the top source of tourists to Kenya.  Direct flights are sure to further boost the number of tourist visiting both our countries.

But this is about more than tourism.  Direct flights will also deepen our business, trade, and investment ties.  Direct flights will allow perishable products to be transported more rapidly – think cut flowers, fresh fruit, and vegetables.  Direct flights will make Kenya a more attractive place for business conferences, and direct flights will make it easier for American and Kenyan business leaders to conclude mutually beneficial deals.  Direct flights will also make life simpler for Kenyan students choosing to study in the United States and for Americans who want to attend Kenyan schools.  And, direct flights will make international meetings, sporting events, and much more, easier to hold in Kenya.  There are so many ways in which direct flights will benefit all our citizens.  And, I am doubly pleased because Kenya Airways will run this flight on a Boeing airplane.

Given the advantages of direct flights, both our governments have made them a top priority.  Nevertheless, it is also no secret that there have been challenges to overcome.  We’ve been working hard to do so.

And, together, we’ve made good progress.  In the last year, we achieved some important milestones.  First, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approved Category One status for the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.  Second, the U.S. Department of Transportation granted Kenya Airways economic authority to begin service to the United States.

These are important, positive steps.  Nevertheless, while Kenya has come far in meeting safety standards with the Category One status, further work remains to ensure direct flights meet U.S. and international security standards.  We look forward to the Kenya Airports Authority implementing recommendations from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration that are necessary to achieving Last Point of Departure status, which is required for flights directly from international destinations to U.S. airports.  We hope this will happen soon, but it will require continued commitment.

All of us here tonight have reason to celebrate Kenya Airways’ announcement, and to look forward to the planned first flight on October 28.  Congratulations Kenya Airways for another big step in turning our hope for direct flights into a reality in 2018.  The flights will bring Kenyans and Americans closer together.  And that is a goal worth striving for.

I look forward to the first direct flight… and hope to see many of you on it!

Pamoja tusonge mbele!

Asanteni sana.