By Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN | Jun 13, 2011 (eTN) – News is gradually filtering in of yet another power outage at Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi – the region’s premier airport – which was hit on Saturday evening by a blackout lasting several hours and forcing the diversion of arriving flights to Mombasa and as far as Entebbe. Departing flights were also delayed for takeoff when after the initial Kenya Power & Lighting Company (KPLC) power failure, the backup generators failed to start, leaving the entire airport, runways, and all in darkness. The debacle follows earlier such outages when, for instance in Mombasa, some time ago operations were restricted to daylight operations when the lighting conduits for the runway, approach lights, and taxiway perimeter lights had failed for several days. Nairobi had also been hit in the past by outages with backup equipment then failing to operate.
Being the region’s primary airport with about 50 international and local airlines operating out of JKIA, this, according to an aviation source, is simply not acceptable, considering the level of charges the Kenya Aviation Authority (KAA) levies on airlines and the slow process of the airport expansion work, which has, going by the same regular source, “been going on for too long and we see too little progress.”
This correspondent only recently traveled repeatedly via JKIA and was able to see the extensive work going on, and judging by his own recollection, vis-a-vis previous visits to Nairobi, can vouch that work is indeed progressing, steadily but still not fast enough. In particular the main terminal continues to be a beehive of activity most of the day, as “hub and spoke” operations continue throughout. Additionally, the limited space in the terminal’s main section, where arriving and departing passengers still mix, must be addressed fast and comprehensively to ensure Nairobi can become a convenient and comfortable transit airport as it should be and not showing itself the way it has been for too long – congested, overcrowded, and subsequently not inviting at all.