The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) is finalising works on the two-kilometre Manda Airport runway, following the completion and commissioning of Lamu’s new Manda Airport terminal building. The new facility, built at a cost of over Sh160 million, will see passengers rise. “After construction, the newly-expanded airport will see a rapid rise in passenger numbers and aircraft movements, which last year stood at nearly 36,500 passengers and about 3,500 landings and takeoffs combined,” said Lamu Airport Manager Mohamed Lipi, adding that they will complete the runaway by next month. “These numbers are expected to double over the next few years.”
Manda Airport, which falls under the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia transport axis (Lapsset), which involves a new, deep-sea port, an oil pipeline, a highway and a railway which will link Lamu with South Sudan’s capital Juba and Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, when complete.
“A longer runway in Malindi could allow for flights from Europe for instance, but would serve as an alternative to Mombasa in case the runway there is blocked,’’ Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Coast Branch Executive Officer Sam Ikwaye said.
Pundits say besides the regular scheduled flights from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport by airlines like Safarilink, other major airlines are lining up for a slice of the tourists and holiday makers who throng to the Island, owing to its historical tourist attractions. Mr Lipi said Kenya Airways subsidiary Jambojet has confirmed its intentions to fly into Lamu, alongside Malindi and Diani in its latest local route expansions.
Tourism stakeholders, almost closed business last year when the Government imposed a blanket dusk to dawn curfew in Lamu County, following massacre of people by gunmen in Mpeketoni, 40km from Lamu island. Also along the Kenya coast, a new terminal building was commissioned last year in Malindi, but a long-anticipated runway extension is still in the planning phase.
Lamu and Malindi are key tourist towns that need to be accessed by air. This eases travel for tourists and visitors from upcountry. “The new port will see a lot of property development coming into play.
Considering the rate at which such estates and condominiums are built now at the north coast of Mombasa, you can imagine that the area around Lamu will also see similar projects,” noted Ikwaye.
“They can be residential, for tourism or both. Some years back, people thought Kenya was joking about building a new port and creating a new traffic axis. They will soon know better,” said Ikwaye Meanwhile, KAA has received the Best Cargo Airport in Africa award for the second consecutive time in row. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) first won the award in 2011 when it participated in the survey for the first time, while in 2013 JKIA was the runner up.