Ghost Runways: The 2.7 Billion shilling Isiolo Airport remains idle two years later

International Arrivals terminal at Isiolo International Airport

“We only report to work, idle around the whole day then go back home.” These were sentiments echoed by an air traffic officer who is stationed at the Airport.

According to information by the Kenya Airport Authority, Isiolo Airport is located on the border of Isiolo, in Isiolo County with half of the runaway extending into Meru County.

It is part of the Uhuru government’s Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor project, built to strengthen trade ties between the Northern region of Kenya and Ethiopia and SouthSudan.

Since its commission in 2017, residents were hopeful that the project would expand their livelihoods as the airport would have increased business around the quiet Isiolo Town and its environs.

With the reopening of the airport scheduled by the end of November, Miraa traders, who were to be the main beneficiaries, have decried factors that may make them not shift their businesses to the new airport.

“The runway at Isiolo airport is short and cannot accommodate our aircraft. The airport needs to operate 24 hours a day like JKIA. We transport our long haul shipment of miraa at 2am for it to arrive in different towns of the Somali market early in the morning,” said Mr Munjuri, Nyambene Miraa Traders Association chairman.

The airport lacks basic aviation facilities such as cargo-handling facilities and aviation lights, and this has made it unviable for airline companies to consider a change in route to avoid the congested Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Earlier this year, Industry, Trade and Cooperatives Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya assured the citizens of Kenya of the governments commitment to provide better facilities such as cargo handling and an extension of the 1.4 Kilometer runway.

“The original idea for Isiolo airport was to decongest Wilson so that airlines transporting miraa specifically operate from Isiolo. The President has directed that this matter be expedited. We expect the airport will be ready by end of February,” Mr Munya said.

No expansion has since been witnessed in the Airport.