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Could Nairobi’s JKIA security upgrade enable direct U.S. flights?

A security upgrade at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) could potentially convince US authorities to allow direct commercial flights to Kenya. The US government has not approved direct flights in recent times citing security concerns with regards to Nairobi.

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The JKIA security project is intended to secure critical areas at the airport and will include multiple surveillance and access control technologies.

The airport security project is to be implemented by an Israeli company, Magal Security Systems, at a cost of US$6.4 million (Shs540 million). The project is expected to be complete in mid 2015.

Magal Security Systems is partly owned by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Israel’s largest aerospace and defence company.

Magal has over 40 years experience in high security sectors including airports, seaports, nuclear energy installations, oil and gas facilities, border crossings, prisons and other critical infrastructure.

“Over the past two years, we have successfully delivered a number of security projects for critical national assets in Kenya,” says Eitan Livneh, President and CEO of Magal. “We are proud to be employed by this prestigious national customer and remain committed to supplying the latest technology with the highest standards of execution.”

The JKIA airport security project takes place as Kenya faces terrorist attacks from Al Qaeda-linked groups such as Al Shabaab. There have been no major incidents at the country’s airports but minor devices have detonated at JKIA and Dadaab in recent times. There have also been concerns about drug trafficking and illegal immigration.

Improved security at JKIA could convince the United States government to allow direct commercial flights from Kenya. In 2009, Delta Airlines was about to begin services between the city of Atlanta and Nairobi but the US government refused to approve the flights. The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) said Kenya has to meet certain security standards before direct US flights are allowed.

Kenya Airways also has long term plans for flights between Nairobi and US cities.

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