Miami International paves way for African airlines to add direct routes
By Paola Iuspa
County aviation officials are actively courting African airlines to add flights from Miami International Airport and create direct routes to Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.
Miguel Southwell, Miami-Dade Aviation Department assistant director in charge of business development, two weeks ago went to Nairobi, where he said he shared statistics and a business plan with Kenya Airways. The African airline officials, he said, are interested in creating direct flights to link eastern Africa to Miami.
Currently passengers from MIA must change planes in Europe to go to Nairobi. Mr. Southwell said he is to address aviation officials in Nigeria April 7-8 and in South Africa April 10-11.
The business plan presented to Kenya Airways was prepared by SH&E Inc., consultants the aviation department hired to weigh demand for new routes and conduct feasibility studies. SH&E is also working on similar proposals for Nigerian and South African airlines.
The aviation department signed a $620,000, three-year contract with SH&E to identify 26 potential international routes, including those to Africa, and six low-fare domestic carriers, Mr. Southwell said.
"They will help us develop 10 new international routes during the first year, eight during the second year and eight during the third year," he said. "They would also help us identify two low-fare carriers for each of the three years."
"In Kenya, Mr. Southwell gave an excellent presentation with statistics" and reading material for Kenyan officials to analyze, said Dorothy Baker,
Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. Her chamber organized the mission, which was focused on the aviation and education industries.
The Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the chamber's counterpart in Nairobi, welcomed the group's idea of connecting aviation officials and helped set up industry meetings, she said. About 16 Miami-Dade entrepreneurs went on the trip, which took nine hours from Miami to Amsterdam, where they waited three hours and changed planes, and almost eight hours from there to Nairobi, Ms. Baker said.
Mr. Southwell told Kenyan officials that direct flights to Miami would help foster trade, cargo and tourism opportunities between the destinations. The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, also represented, backed his statement by saying it would invite Miami and Kenyan travel agents to visit and get acquainted with both regions to be able to sell travel packages to both locations, said Karen Jackson, bureau vice president of operation.
"The bureau formed a partnership with Miami-Dade Aviation Department and is working on several things," she said. "Our goal is to increase air travel traffic into Miami."
Mr. Southwell said he was impressed in Nairobi by his warm reception, especially for a pro-business environment and "sense of renewal" that reigned during the mission.
"They packed the house," Ms. Baker said. "They were hungry for knowledge."
The African nation three months ago elected president Mwai Kibaki, the leader of the National Rainbow Coalition, which defeated the Kenya African National Union party after 40 years of rule.
"Kenya Airway officials promised to analyze the information I gave them," Mr. Southwell said.
If the airline decides to fly to Miami, it could take 18 months to three years to develop the route. The line would need to acquire at least two planes and invest about $500 million, Mr. Southwell said.
Kenya aviation officials, he said, could use the business plan he shared with them to secure financing.