18 July 2014

Liberia: Filling Delta Void - How Can Liberia Cope With U.S. Airline Departure?

Photo: Sites of Liberia
Delta Airlines flight arriving at Robert Field in Monrovia

Monrovia — Liberia airline industry has been hardly hit in recent time with the departure of two world class and leading airlines. First Air France pulled out of the country, citing low profits and Delta Airline is also at the verge of departing after confirming that it is pulling out of the country.

Until the pronouncement of its departure, Delta Airline an American owned air transport provider operations in Liberia have been a major boost to travelers, mainly its direct flight from Monrovia to the United States of America. Before Delta's commencement of direct flights to and from Monrovia, Liberians travelling to the United States had to go through the burden of connecting flights and staying longer period on travels.

The arrival of Delta when the airline made its first landing on Liberian soil on Sunday, September 5, 2010 was greeted with great relief by travelers who no longer had to transit or connect flights before reaching final destination.

Liberian government officials and other citizens and foreigner who travel in good numbers regularly to the United States also greeted Delta's arrival with happiness, but in early July, Delta announced that it was pulling out of Liberia, citing weak passengers demand amid other reports that fear of the deadly outbreak and political reasons could also impact the decision.

In response to an FPA inquiry about the departure of the airline recently, Delta stated "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."

Who fills Delta's void?

With Delta now set to leave the country, lingering on the minds of many Liberians and other travelers alike is how the county is going to cope with the departure of the airline. On the heels of Delta's Departure, Liberia has seen the emergence of other airlines including Gambia Bird and the traditional Kenya Airways, which has maintained Liberia as a constant destination for its flights for several years.

According to some Liberians who have travelled with the newcomer Gambia Bird including market women who commute between Monrovia-Accra and other African countries, the airline, commonly call G-Bird has newest fleet and has come at the right time on the west coast. One passenger who flew with G- Bird recently said the crew onboard the airline are mainly Germans - pilots well experienced and services available on the flight are super including, food, etc.

"There will be no difference as G-Bird makes six flights per week to Liberia. It has become a source of convenience for us market women between Robertsfield and Accra and other places", said one Market woman. Accordingly, Gambia Bird connects passengers to dozen of West African capitals offering affordable prices, thereby making it convenient for market women and other travelers.

Founded by the German carrier Germania in October 2012 Gambia Bird operates flights from Banjul International Airport to African ECOWAS cities with an Airbus A319 fleet. In addition, the airline operates from Banjul and Freetown to London and Barcelona.

The carrier started operations on 22 October 2012 (2012-10-22) with an Airbus A319 leased from Germania that flew the Banjul-Dakar sector Accra, Conakry, Freetown and Monrovia were added to the route network shortly afterwards; on 24 October 2012 (2012-10-24), Gambia Bird operated its first service to London Gatwick. Flights to Barcelona were introduced on 28 October. A second A319 joined the fleet in November 2012 (2012-11).

Traditional KQ still around

Besides Gambia Bird, Kenya Airways (KQ) a member of the Sky Team is a long time airline known for flying across Africa with good history of providing services to several African countries and is noted for providing essentially reliable and superb in-flight services amid the food quality. From Airport data, KQ makes three weekly flights to Robertsfield with a newly acquired fleet of aircraft and offers several links to Asia, Europe and Latin America. Kenya Airways have over the years been known for providing services on board the aircraft that are world-class in style and matches those of Air Emirates and other international airlines.

It is widely considered as one of the leading Sub-Saharan operators; as of January 2013, the carrier was ranked fourth among the top ten ones that operate in Africa by seat capacity, behind South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Egypt Air. The airline became a full member of SkyTeam in June 2010 (2010-06), and is also a member of the African Airlines Association since 1977.

Also British Airways, arguably a formidable force that has an impeccable safety track-record and can get passengers to North America the same day Airbus 777 is still operating flights to Liberia. With Delta parking off, Liberians are likely to stick to the likes of Brussels, G. Birad, KQ and others that have particularly been here for many years connecting travelers to various destinations across the globe.

Other airlines including Royal Air Maroc, and Asky Airlines continue to provide up to the minute valuable service to Liberia and in the absence of Delta, Liberians could still be better off on Gambia Bird, Kenya Airways, British Airway than ever amid an improvement in flight services".

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