Miscellaneous Ramblings by Tony Clegg-Butt

Posted on June 7th, 2011
Categories: News

Which international airport that you’ve travelled through recently allows arriving and departing passengers to mix freely without security checks. The correct answer is that none do, that is with the exception of Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). I’m not saying it’s the only one, but it is the only one I can think of – and it’s my international airport.

Yours too, no doubt.

When you read with alarming regularity in the dailies that another drug mule has been arrested at JKIA you might twig why our international airport is now the drug smugglers nirvana. Arrive from X, transfer hand baggage to mule Y and onto destination Z. Scary stuff.  A word to the wise, don’t engage strangers in conversation and watch your bags with eagle eyes, because I’m sure one-day an innocent traveller is going to be duped into assisting these desperate souls.

Talking of our local international aerodrome (an old but lovely word) the rightly acclaimed ‘Crossroads of Africa’. If my memory serves me correctly talk of rehabilitation has been going on for more than 25-years. From a passengers point-of-view not very much has been done to make our lot a happier one. The air-conditioning still doesn’t work, the seats are still broken, the digital departures board is still broken, the loo’s are still dreadful, the air bridges most often are not working, the duty-free shops a farce. I could go on but I fear I might bore you.  I’m sure the spin-doctors from the airport authority could run rings around me telling what has been done.  But the proof of the pudding is in the eating – I’ve been there, done it and didn’t like the taste or for that matter the t-shirt.

I know a new terminal and multi story car parking facility have broken ground – there are new and improved parking for aeroplanes (there he goes again) and there were, when last seen fancy people movers, so a walk across the tarmac in pouring rain was a thing of the past.

Given all of the above it is no real surprise that JKIA has been voted across the Internet world as the ‘World’s Worst Airport’.

Does it really deserve this salubrious title? From captains of industry in Kenya to international passengers who make their feelings known by various Internet blogs the answer is an unqualified YES.

As a patriot this upsets me no end. From official records I find that work started in 2005 with an expected spend of US$ 100 million of which the World Bank was to supply 10% of the funds. Strangely I always thought the World Bank was picking up the tab for the whole rehab – given this new information I now understand why work, wherever it is, has proceeded at a snails pace.

Hakuna pesa!

To try and find out more and to balance this lopsided critique and to get a better perspective, other than that of a frequent traveller, I visit the Kenya Airport Authority website.  I want to know more about all this expansion. I learn very little. I see an article on the new Terminal 4, click the icon and go hurtling into cyber-space to end up where I started from – no article as advertised. Disappointed I look at the ‘live’ arrivals and departures board – flights are not shown in chronological order – why?

I note flights in the departures screen with notations ‘arrived’ I also note strangely that a good number of Fly540 are cancelled. Why is that?

I leave none the wiser.

JKIA was designed when it opened in 1973 for a maximum of 2.5 million passengers per year. Today it conservatively handles 6.5 million passengers a year. Three years down the road when the new terminal is ready and the much-promised rehab of terminals 1, 2 and 3 are complete the annual count is expected to be in excess of 9 million.

Makes one consider a holiday at home, don’t you think?

Bon voyage.



Short-sighted technology prediction of the month:

“The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty–a fad.”

— President of the Michigan Savings Bank, speaking to Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham. Rackham ignored the advice, invested $5000 in Ford stock, and sold it later for $12.5 million.

African Proverb

When a needle falls into a deep well, many people will look into the well, but few will be ready to go down after it.

Click here to read June’s issue of  Travel News