NAIROBI, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) -- Kenya Airways on Sunday night made its inaugural direct flight from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi to JFK International Airport in New York City.
The maiden flight, which left Nairobi at 11:20 p.m. with 234 passengers on board, is expected to boost U.S. cooperation with the country and Kenya's tourism sector.
Kenyan officials said the opening of the U.S. destination completes an essential piece for Kenya Airways' network, cementing its position as one of the leading African carriers.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, who flagged off the flight in Nairobi, said the inaugural flight to New York is a major milestone for Kenya's aviation sector, especially for the numerous economic opportunities in such sectors as tourism and trade.
A direct air link with the United States will give Kenya increased access to the large U.S. economy, the biggest in the world, as well as the entire North American region, Kenyatta said in a statement.
JKIA is already one of Africa's busiest air transport hubs in Africa, and the launch of direct flights to New York is expected to elevate its importance and cement Nairobi's position as one of Africa's biggest economic movers, he added.
According to the Kenyan carrier, the flight will depart every day from JKIA at about 11:25 p.m. local time, arriving at JFK airport at 6:25 a.m. the following day.
From New York it will depart at about 12:25 p.m. local time and land at JKIA at 10:55 p.m. the following day. Its duration will be 15 hours eastbound and 14 hours westbound, it said.
Kenya Airways already serves at least 40 destinations in Africa alone and also flies to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Kenyatta said the launch of the extra-long haul flight is expected to attract more U.S. corporations into the Kenyan market, to add to the more than 40 that have already set base in Nairobi as their Africa headquarters.
The direct flight will also increase tourist traffic to Kenya with the government projecting that it will bring in more corporate and high-end tourists, he said, noting that the direct flights will also open up Kenya to the rest of the world.
The Kenyan leader has spearheaded government measures, including infrastructure upgrades and security enhancements, to ensure that JKIA meets requirements for direct flights to the United States.