The fire which devastated Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and in particular the international arrivals and immigration terminal on the 7th August, has served as a catalyst for renovations and improvements for the whole airport. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the new airport will be bigger and much better to cope with the increasing volume of traffic.

JKIA is a major regional hub which serves more than 16,000 passengers daily. The cause of the fire is still unknown but the fact that the reaction time by the fire service was slow and there was a lack of water and hydrants contributed massively to the conflagration.

Fire at Nairobi Airport

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What has been a major positive is the way the airport company and airlines have collaborated in order to lessen the impact to the user. International Arrivals are now set up within the ground floor parking area of Terminal 4, the new terminal that should be fully up and running by the end of this year. There has been a general increase in staff numbers and many passengers have commented that the process seems more efficient than before. When Terminal 4 is opened, the present terminal buildings 1, 2 and 3 will be extensively modernized and refurbished while the burned down arrival section will be demolished and completely rebuilt.

The general caveats for travellers are the much the same as before. Try as much as to avoid the taxi touts which seem to have mushroomed and always take extra time to arrive at the airport. Nairobi traffic is world class.

Cargo services seem to be little impacted and are generally running smoothly.

Before the fire, there was an existing project entitled “The Greenfield Project” which included a second runway and a new mega terminal which was to catapult JKIA into the 21st century. This project has now been accelerated and the plan is to have all this infrastructure finished within the next 3 years.

Nairobi cannot afford to  stand on its laurels as the regional economic and transport hub. Neighbouring but slightly less well geographically placed Addis Ababa and Ethiopian Airlines is coveting this regional role. However, this can only be a good thing as competition does focus the mind and resources and there are positive signs that Nairobi is rising to the challenge.

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Nairobi Rebuilds Airport by Nicolas Edwards

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