At 10.45 tonight, a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) will take to the skies on a historic flight to New York whose impact may be felt for years.
This will be the first direct flight connecting the two countries since PanAmerican Airlines, which later went bankrupt, stopped flying to Kenya in 1988.
On this flight will be senior officials led by Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma, Kenya Airways chief executive Sebastian Mikosz and chairman Michael Joseph.
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia who has been at the centre of efforts to get the green light from the US said: “We are very proud of this launch. It has been a journey that we have diligently travelled in to reach here. This milestone will now open massive business opportunities, the tourism sector will boom and time spent on air will be shortened. One will be having dinner in Nairobi and breakfast in New York.”
His Foreign Affairs counterpart said she will be on a “historic mission” on Sunday night.
“It marks a new beginning in Kenya’s aviation industry; one that opens new horizons for Kenya’s trade and investment; one that opens the way for enhanced people to people relations,” said Dr Juma.
Two young Kenyan innovators, Shirlene Nafula and Evans Wadongo, will also be among the 234 passengers after the State gave them tickets.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was earlier expected to be on the flight, will instead symbolically flag it off at JKIA.
At just over 15 hours, this flight will be among the longest in the world, trailing two hours behind the current record, a Singapore to New York flight that clocks 17 hours. It was launched earlier this month.
CNN journalist Richard Quest, who this week has charmed Kenyans with a visit to the country, was on the Singapore flight — and will tonight be on the Dreamliner from Nairobi.
He wrote a live blog for CNN detailing his trans-continental flight, heavily praising it for its superiority in creature comforts.
“This is Singapore airlines, they work harder than just about any other airline to perfect the experience. The flight has run incredibly smoothly. Food and drink available throughout.”
Kenya Airways (KQ) told the Sunday Nation that they anticipate very few complaints given the care they have taken with the flight.
“Customers can expect an enhanced experience on this flight. For instance their food will be off a menu designed and cooked by celebrity Chef Kiran Jethwa of Seven Seafood and Grill, who will also be on board,” said an airline spokesperson.
The airline has, however, remained tight-lipped about who will pilot the aircraft tonight citing security concerns despite earlier speculation pointing to Captain Koki Mutungi.
The airline has revealed that there will be four pilots and 12 flight attendants. The flight is fully booked with 204 passengers in economy and 30 in business class.
The Dreamliner 787-8 is generally a comfortable plane with generous leg room, large windows, more personal space for passengers and quieter than most other planes, reducing the need for earplugs.
The aircraft is also known for its fuel efficiency, carrying just 85 tonnes of fuel one way, an advantage that cannot be underestimated in a long flight as this one. The less the fuel an aircraft needs, the better the profit margins for the airline.