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Delta in East Africa: Taking Off Without a Flight

Despite the fact that the U.S. government scuttled its planned flight to Nairobi, Kenya, in 2009, Delta Air Lines Inc.'s sales have taken off in East Africa.

Even without the direct flight, Delta kept its office open in the Kenyan capital to sell tickets on KLM flights through Europe and on its own nonstop routes from Dubai and South Africa to the U.S., said Bobby Bryan, Delta's commercial manager for East and West Africa.

Delta stands ready to launch the Kenya flight when the U.S. Transportation Security Administration deems the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport safe for arriving U.S. airlines, Mr. Bryan said, noting that he hasn't been informed of any change in the situation.

In the meantime, Delta is expanding sales in the region, recently opening an office in Kampala, Uganda, and planning another in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, said Mr. Bryan, who is based in Lagos, Nigeria.

"By having three offices there, we're very much committed to East Africa," he told GlobalAtlanta by phone while visiting Las Vegas for Delta's annual sales conference.

In the last month, Atlanta has played host to Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and Vice President Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka on separate occasions.

Visiting Atlanta just a few weeks before its new international terminal opened May 16, Mr. Odinga said a new terminal being built at the Nairobi airport could fix the problem currently shutting out U.S. airlines.

A major TSA concern is keeping arriving passengers and departing passengers separate, which the new facility will accomplish when it opens in August, Mr. Odinga said.

The Kenyatta airport’s expansion began last year and is expected to enable the airport to handle 9 million passengers annually, up from 6 million.

Beyond Kenya, Delta is betting on Africa for rapid growth in the coming years, even as traffic to Europe cools.

"I can tell you that aviation in Africa, there's no question it's growing and it's going to keep growing," Mr. Bryan said.

Delta flew its 2 millionth passenger between the U.S. and Africa last year. It maintains flights to Ghana, Liberia, Senegal, South Africa and Nigeria.

Mr. Bryan said Delta also hopes to eventually start a flight to Luanda, Angola, from Atlanta.

The service to the oil-rich country on Africa's southwestern coast was slated to begin Jan. 20, 2011, but was put off due to weak consumer demand.

Atlanta Business
25-May-2012

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