FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

10 July 2014

Liberia: 'Weak Passenger Demand' - Delta Explains Why It Quits On Liberia

Monrovia — Delta Airlines Corporate office has finally responded to a FrontPageAfrica inquiry regarding its reported decision to suspend service to Liberia.

In an email response sent to FrontPageAfrica on Thursday, July 10, 2014, the company said a statement explaining its decision had previously been sent to its Country Director, Boo Brewer.

Brewer had referred FrontPageAfrica to Delta Corporate when FPA contacted her Monday after receiving reports that Delta had decided to suspend its service.

The statement reads:

"Due to weak passenger demand, Delta confirms that effective this fall it will suspend its service between Monrovia to New York-JFK via Accra, Ghana. The last eastbound service from New York will be on August 30, 2014 and the last westbound service will depart Monrovia on August 31, 2014. Delta is working to re-accommodate passengers impacted by this decision. Delta is grateful to the Liberian Government for its support since Delta began service in 2010. Delta continues to operate daily nonstop service between Accra, Ghana and New York-JFK."

The government of Liberia issued a statement late Wednesday confirming the report and suggested that it was in the process of engaging Authorities of Delta on the Suspension of Flight to Liberia

The statement from the Ministry of Information reads:

"The Government of Liberia is in high-level consultations with the management of Delta Airlines intended to explore options that will not disrupt the experience and convenience of traveling via Delta. A government delegation comprising Counselor Seward Cooper, Minister of State for Legal and Economic Affairs and Mr. Gyude Moore, Deputy Chief of Office Staff in the Office of the President, is in Atlanta, Georgia, to meet with the management of Delta Airlines, after Delta informed the government of the suspension of its service to Monrovia, effective August 31, 2014, due to weak passenger demand.

It can be recalled that in 2010, Delta Airlines commenced direct flights to New York from Monrovia via Accra, Ghana. While Nigeria and Ghana, two other destinations of Delta Airlines, are netting 10,000,000 and over 2,000,000 passengers per year, respectively, Liberia's highest passenger level was only 205,000, recorded in 2013. Delta has informed the Liberian Government that the last eastbound flight from New York will occur on August 30th, and the last westbound flight from Monrovia will be on August 31st.

Meanwhile, the management of Delta Airlines has thanked the Liberian Government for the support it continues to receive, and has reassured the government that it will continue to explore avenues that are economically feasible for the lifting of the suspension and a resumption of direct flights between Liberia and the United States."

Aviation sources told FrontPageAfrica this week that Delta has been enjoying relatively encouraging load factor on its New York ROB axis. Flight records obtained by FrontPageAfrica shows that from December 2013 to June 2014, Delta recorded a total of 11, 464 arriving passengers to Liberia and 11,082 passengers departing.

Traditionally, aviation sources say airlines are required to serve the Civil Aviation Authority a 90-day notice. Unlike Air France, Delta has not officially communicated with the CAA, sources tell FPA. However, Delta is a member of the Sky team as is Air France. In the case of the French, load factor, and low profit margins were cited. Delta, according to aviation sources, has not had any major problem with the runway.

A highly-placed government source suggested that the pullout could be driven by "political" consideration amid the Ebola epidemic, fear-gripped by the increase in the death toll in Washington." Delta made its first landing on Liberian soil on Sunday, September 5, 2010, after the airline received approval for local boarding and traffic rights for its service between Accra's Kotoko International Airport and Roberts International Airport in Monrovia.

Prior to Delta's arrival, the Federal Aviation Authority of the United States provided through USAID, $3.4 million to upgrade facilities at the Roberts International Airport to internationally acceptable standards, a key condition for the resumption of direct flights from the United States to Liberian. Delta's arrival was instrumented by U.S. billionaire and founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), Robert Johnson, who exerted his influence to facilitate the resumption of direct flights from the United States to Liberia.

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