Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) today announced new service between Atlanta and Monrovia, Liberia, expanding the airline’s position as the leading U.S. carrier operating flights to Africa.
The new service, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 4, will connect Delta’s hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Roberts International Airport in Monrovia with a stop in Accra, Ghana. The flight will be operated on 215-seat Boeing 767-300ER aircraft, equipped with 34 BusinessElite seats and 181 seats in Economy.
Delta has received approval from the Liberian Civil Aviation Authority, and preliminary approval from the U.S. government, to sell seats for the new flight for the planned launch in September. Final U.S. government approvals are expected before the flight begins.
“As the No. 1 U.S. carrier serving Africa, Delta remains committed to expanding our presence into fast-growing African markets,” said Perry Cantarutti, Delta’s senior vice president of Europe, Middle East and Africa. “Our new service between our Atlanta hub and Monrovia will provide convenient connections between Liberia and cities across the United States.”
Delta had previously intended to begin service to Monrovia in June 2009, but was delayed while Roberts International Airport implemented measures to ensure its compliance with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization. Delta has worked closely with the United States and Liberian governments while the airport facilities in Monrovia were properly equipped and prepared for the new service.
“The government is enthusiastic about the prospect of Delta providing a direct flight between Monrovia and the United States, which would be the first such service in many years,” said Liberia President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. “The government is working earnestly to ensure that all the necessary requirements are met so that the flights will commence as scheduled.”
Added U.S. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security: “I have been pleased to work with Delta and the Office of Global Strategies at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to ensure that security continues to be a priority on all international aviation partnerships. As Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, I support TSA’s international aviation security programs. Facilitating commerce without compromising security remains a reasonable approach. Today, we are one step closer to offering direct service flights from the United States to Liberia – strengthening our partnership with Africa.”
Delta, which has operated in Africa since 2006, has announced its intention to serve up to 10 African destinations from the United States, with aircraft ready to begin service pending U.S. and foreign government approvals.
Bob Johnson, founder and chairman of The RLJ Companies, which owns significant development projects in Liberia, said: “A few years ago while attending the Clinton Global Initiative and after hearing President Sirleaf appeal to the American private sector for support, I made a commitment to mobilize $30 million for Liberia. In June 2009, we opened the RLJ Kendeja Resort & Villas, a 78-room villa style hotel. I applaud Delta Air Lines for making the commitment to provide direct air service to Liberia which will provide economic growth opportunities to Liberia from a variety of business sectors around the world.”
Delta also is preparing to begin new year-round service between Atlanta and Accra. This service, announced in 2009, will begin on June 1 with three weekly flights, expanding to four weekly flights on June 14, and complement existing five-times weekly service between New York-JFK and Accra.
On June 2, Delta will also begin nonstop seasonal service between New York-JFK and Abjua, Nigeria, and in June and July will add two additional weekly nonstop flights between Atlanta and Johannesburg to support travel to and from the 2010 World Cup.
This summer, Delta will operate flights to seven African destinations. In addition to Monrovia, Delta will offer service to Accra, Ghana; Abuja, Nigeria; Cairo, Egypt; Dakar, Senegal; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Lagos, Nigeria. Delta also intends to serve Malabo, Equatorial Guinea; Nairobi, Kenya; and Luanda, Angola once government approvals are received.
As the first carrier serving Africa nonstop from the United States, Delta has grown from 22 weekly departures to and from Africa in July 2007 to nearly 80 planned for July 2010, saving customers a significant amount of time on flights. Customers traveling between Atlanta and Johannesburg, for example, save an average of six hours each direction compared with connecting in Europe.