With Category One status for the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport granted by the United States, there will be faster movement of goods and people between the two countries, according to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport James Macharia

Mr. Macharia said delays will also be eliminated. The delays are especially harmful to horticultural producers from Kenya whose products are highly perishable.  The new status  will allow direct flights between Kenya and the US, bringing to an end the long search for express connection between the two countries.


The Category One status is based on a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assessment of the safety oversight provided by Kenya Civil Aviation Authority. The status rating also shows Kenya’s compliance with International Civil Aviation Organisation(ICAO) standards.

This means that airline operators, both in Kenya and US, which have long desired to operate directly to or from the US, will now be allowed to carry on their operations.

“Getting [the] Category One status for us is a major milestone in the growth and development of civil aviation in Kenya, East Africa and rest of Africa,”  Macharia said.

In Africa, only Morocco, Cape Verde, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and South Africa have direct flights to the US.

Overnight flights

Airline operators from Kenya have had to layover, mainly in Europe, before they can access the US airspace.

The direct flights, however, will only begin after certain processes —including technical compliance and commercial arrangements — are met.

To attain and maintain the top rating, a country must demonstrate compliance with the safety standards as adopted and contained in ICAO documents — a United Nations specialised agency for aviation that establishes international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance.

Kenya has been implementing a number of recommendations given by the US government to enhance security, among them separation of passenger arrival and departure terminals, clearing the flight path and fencing off the airport.