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Delta to offer flights to Nigeria

Posted by By RUSSELL GRANTHAM on 2007/02/23 | Views: 1236 |

Delta to offer flights to Nigeria


Delta Air Lines plans to start nonstop flights later this year to Lagos, Nigeria, boosting its number of African destinations to four and making it the only airline with daily direct service from the United States to the oil-rich nation.

* Airline picks 4th African destination

Delta Air Lines plans to start nonstop flights later this year to Lagos, Nigeria, boosting its number of African destinations to four and making it the only airline with daily direct service from the United States to the oil-rich nation.

Delta said the flights will cut about six hours off the travel time of flights now connecting through Europe. The daily flights are scheduled to begin Dec. 3, pending government approvals.

The move is the latest by Delta to build a wider overseas route system, in part by flying to markets where it sees untapped potential. In another such move, Delta recently announced flights to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

With the new service, Delta will be competing indirectly with another Atlanta area carrier, World Airways. North American Airlines, a subsidiary of the Peachtree City-based charter airline, launched service three days a week from New York to Lagos last year.

"We've been seeing the traffic grow. ... Not having to transfer in Europe has been a big advantage for people," said World Airways spokesman Steve Forsyth. He said the flights are heavily used by both leisure travelers visiting relatives and businesspeople.

Delta hopes to capitalize on Nigeria's growing economic importance. Nigeria is the world's 12th-largest oil producer, while Lagos is one of the largest cities in Africa, with a population of 10 million people.

Even without direct flights, Lagos already ranks as the third-largest African or Middle Eastern market out of Atlanta, after Cairo, Egypt, and Johannesburg, South Africa, said Delta spokeswoman Gina Laughlin.

However, Delta could face more than the usual challenges operating in Nigeria. U.S. and European airlines in the past have had difficulties there.

Forsyth said it's been "challenging" for his company to operate there, but he declined to elaborate.

Delta has made overseas expansion the linchpin of its bankruptcy restructuring, adding about 50 international routes in the past year. In December, Delta added flights from Atlanta to Johannesburg, and from New York to Accra, Ghana. The Atlanta-Johannesburg flight also makes a stop in Dakar, Senegal.

"It is no small feat that in the last year Delta has added more than 20 new international routes from Atlanta and has made this the busiest year ever for international traffic at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport," said Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin in a statement released by Delta.

"I applaud Delta for its continued commitment to increasing Atlanta's international linkages and am pleased to partner with our hometown airline once again as they open a new corridor of commerce between Hartsfield-Jackson and one of our proud sister cities."

Delta said the new flights will be on long-range Boeing 767s featuring television and entertainment at each seat.

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