By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, ETN Africa Correspondent
The announcement yesterday by Kenya’s cabinet secretary for transport Michael Kamau, that the opening of the much needed Terminal 4 and the launch of the new temporary terminal will be delayed by several months, likely until August this year, has caused consternation among the aviation fraternity, which has been monitoring work on Terminal 4 closely.
Following the catastrophic fire at JKIA in August last year, caused by defective electrical wiring, government made and thereafter continued to make a number of promises that the new Terminal 4 would be ready by early 2014, widely interpreted and understood by Quarter 1, and that an additional temporary terminal with an annual capacity of 2.5 million passengers would be installed by the same time.
The delay is now seen as a major embarrassment for the Kenyan government and constitutes a major challenge for airlines operating in and out of JKIA, not the least Kenya Airways which is expecting their first B787-8 Dreamliner in early April and is launching their own LCC on April 1.
“Kamau’s announcement, not entirely unexpected by us who work at the airport, is a major climb-down by our government. They must learn not to make promises they cannot deliver. Kamau publicly assured the president when Kenya Airways launched their B777-300ER that all was going on schedule and now this. After a year of the Jubilee government perhaps it is time to sack a few of those fellows who mouth off and cannot deliver,” commented a regular Nairobi based aviation source when the setback was made public yesterday afternoon.
It is understood that it is mainly the lack of equipment for baggage handling, passenger processing and air bridges on which aircraft can dock, which is holding back the completion of the new terminal, exposing a deficit in the logistics chain to procure all such vital equipment in good time. From another source it was in fact learned that some of the equipment missing to open Terminal 4 has not even been tendered by now, leaving open the possibility of yet longer delays should the chosen suppliers not be able to deliver and install such complex technology “off the shelf.”
National airline Kenya Airways which is aiming to triple their fleet by 2022 and double their destinations, fundamentally depends on having added infrastructure put in place, which includes Terminal 4 and the Temporary Terminal, while Project Greenfield is unfolding towards the construction of a second runway and a new mega terminal which should raise airport capacity to 25 million passengers per annum.
Other airlines keen to fly to Nairobi have in the past also cited capacity bottlenecks and held back on launching flights until such time that new facilities are in place and the destruction of the entire arrival complex in the August 2013 fire has only made the situation worse as all arrivals now have to be channeled through a temporary facility in the parking garage for Terminal 4, where makeshift facilities are hard pressed to process arriving passengers.