The New Dawn (Monrovia)

16 July 2014

Liberia: Security Fears & Concerns Mount As Delta Departs

There appears to be growing security fears and concerns ahead of the planned departure of the US carrier Delta Airlines.

Delta has announced its planned departure from Liberia citing losses due to low passengers' rate weeks after speculations about one of Europe's air giants Air France departure had dominated the local media here.

The arrival of both world class airlines, Delta and Air France had boosted the country's postwar peace and stability of the international community.

Now, that story may be fast changing ahead of their planned departures, something which has left many here with unanswered questions, even though the government has tried to provide reasons for their departures and manage citizens' anxiety.

On Tuesday, July 15, 2014, members of the Liberian Senate could not hide their worries and concerns over Delta's planned departure as they held a special session to debate the issue.

Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper, who introduced the matter for discussion Tuesday was very expressive when he told his colleagues that it is worrisome and troubling on the departure of such a major flight from Liberia.

Sen. Cooper said the planned departure announced by the US airliner has created a dark cloud over the country internationally and that it also sends a bad signal to the rest of the major airlines that may have been considering a Liberian route.

"Something that's troubling me is the departure announced by Delta Airlines from here. As you are aware we serve as host of the Roberts International Airport- meaning our people are direct beneficiaries of employment," he said.

"Besides, the issue of international bad image it has created already," Sen. Oscar adds, " it also puts my citizens out of jobs. Beware that the Roberts International Airport is in my county, which put the people of Margibi County at an advantage point because they are the first point of contact in terms of employment and the departure is affecting my people greatly." he said.

However, he thinks that the intervention of his colleague could help, adding that if nothing is done the unemployment will continue to grow and also bigger airlines will not want to venture here.

Although the matter was sent into the Senate's committee room to be looked at, but there is no time frame attach-that is when the committee should report to Plenary, the largest decision making body. Last month, the management of Delta Airlines announced plans of their departure, placing on low passengers demand.

Due to low passenger demand, Delta confirms that effective this fall it will suspend its service between Monrovia and 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. Although Delta, has, for some time, indicated its business was expanding with this particular African route, it is clear that weak passenger demand and high fuel prices have severely impacted profitability on this route. The latest decision to pull out of Liberia now leaves Delta with only two direct international flights to Africa from Atlanta via JFK - New York to Lagos and Johannesburg.

Reports from Monrovia say the Government of Liberia is now scrambling to contain the decision of Delta and has dispatched senior Administration officials to the United States to try to convince the airline to reconsider its decision. No other America airline has yet indicated willingness to step into the route vacuum now left by Delta's exit.

International passengers with destination to Liberia will now have to use the European based Brussels Airlines, which still flies to Monrovia for connecting flight.

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