Tuesday, June 18, 2024

JKIA stuck with one runway as Rwanda, Ethiopia building new mega airports

For many years, Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport was the hub of continental and international air travel in the Eastern Africa region. This glory has faded over the last few years as countries in the region which once looked at Kenya with admiration for her aviation prowess take over with new mega airports projects and increased passenger numbers.

Take Ethiopia. Today, Ethiopia not only ranks as the country with the largest airline in Africa, but it is also building a mega airport to accommodate the millions of passengers who are using its international airport at Bore, Addis Ababa.

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For instance, Ethiopian Airlines has announced that it is expecting its passenger numbers to increase by 30 per cent in the full year ending June 2024.

In the previous year ended June 2023, passengers flying Ethiopian Airlines annually stood at 13.9 million passengers. This places its current expectations at above 18 million passengers.


A visit to the Bore International Airport reveals that the sheer dominance of the Ethiopian fleet. The airline is currently flying to 135 international passenger and cargo destinations, including 63 African cities. On top of the belly hold capacity, Ethiopian Cargo & Logistics Services covers 67 dedicated Freighter services deploying 17 freighter aircraft.

To match the demand, the Ethiopian Airlines Group is planning a new airport that will be capable of serving 100 million passengers annually. The new airport will be located in Bishoftu, some 40 kilometres outside of Addis Ababa. It is expected to be linked to the city by a planned passenger rail system.

Passengers flying Ethiopian Airlines every year to hit 18 million by June

The new airport will be constructed in three phases at a total estimated cost of $4 billion. The first phase, which is expected to be completed by 2028, will include two terminals. French engineering and design company Groupe ADP developed the master plan and site selection.

Ethiopia is not alone. Take Rwanda. The country’s national carrier RwandAir had partnered with Qatar Airways and together, they are setting up a new international airport in the Bugesera region. In the new airport, Qatar Airways will be the majority shareholder with a 60 per cent stake. This international airport is expected to open sometime between 2027 and 2028.

In the original plan, the airport, when complete was to be expected to have the capacity to handle 14 million visitors annually. At the time, this was double the current capacity that is handled by the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). At the same time, the new facility will boast a 130,000-square-meter main terminal building.

In Kenya, though, things have not been very rosy for the JKIA. Over the recent couple of months, the airport has experienced embarrassing leaky roofs and power outages. But what is even more alarming is that the airport has been using one runway for years now, with no clear plans to build a second one.

This is single runway cast the nation in a shameful light in the morning hours of April 17, 2023 when a Singapore Airlines B747 cargo plan developed problems while on the runaway. The plane’s engines are reported to have caught fire, which caused eleven tyres to burst. This meant that the plane could not be towed from the runaway.

This forced the KAA to re-route planes that were schedule to land at JKIA since there was no other runway that could be used. Planes that were scheduled to depart were delayed. This happened because since construction, the JKIA has been relying solely on one runaway.

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