Interesting Notes About Delta’s Service in Africa

Delta recently sent around a PDF file internally talking about the airline’s Africa service, and a Delta employee sent it over to me. I thought it was a really interesting look at how African markets require doing things a bit differently. Today, Delta serves Dakar (Senegal), Accra (Ghana), Monrovia (Liberia), Lagos (Nigeria), and Johannesburg (South Africa). I’ve uploaded the PDF here so you can read it, but here are some highlights.

  • Africa is a hugely challenging market with high startup costs. For example, Delta built dedicated gates in Accra with KLM for their flights. In Monrovia, they actually built a new terminal with Air France. Among the amenities… air conditioning. Sounds like we’re talking very basic facilities. Then again, the Delta customers who have to fly through this thing will be pretty jealous…
  • Delta JFK Terminal 3 Worldport

  • Delta set up a “Delta Energy Desk” dedicated reservations line just for the energy market in Ghana. I asked Delta spokesperson Olivia Cullis why that was, and she said that Delta people in Ghana thought it would be helpful since that is a big up-and-coming market that can use special attention. So far, they’re happy with what it has done for the airline.
  • About 90 percent of the people who fly Delta to Africa are of African descent, though of course many are coming from the US.
  • The airline had to tweak meals to have a local flavor. For example, flight attendants serve more fruit juice and less soda. They also have rice instead of pasta.
  • Delta created “Protocol” service for BusinessElite travelers coming out of Accra and Lagos. This clearly seems like it’s an effort to get Delta’s best customers through the sometimes challenging (to say the least) airport environments in those places.
  • Delta is developing a GPS approach for Monrovia to make things safer and more reliable there.

It’s a quick read but it’s worth a look to see what Delta has done to try to make Africa work. Again, you can read the Winning in Africa pamphlet from Delta here.

23 Responses to Interesting Notes About Delta’s Service in Africa

  1. Wait a second, that map on the Delta pamphlet shows 2 different lines from New York both going to Accra.

  2. Olamide says:

    My Dad has been flying back home to Nigeria both on delta and klm for the last 30 years. They really have been doing a nice job on that route for a long time. If I am not mistaken is the Lagos Atlanta route delta’s most profitable?

    • CF says:

      Olamide – I don’t know specifics about route profitability, but I would think that Lagos probably has very high revenue in the front cabin, somewhat offset by higher operating costs.

  3. Bravenav says:

    It’s interesting to compare Delta’s Africa service now with Pan Am’s 30 years ago. With the exception of Pan Am’s Nairobi (and Delta tried to do that), they’re very similar.

  4. Takes you back to the olden days when airlines went some where and had to build the airport. PanAm/TWA setting up stations in places most Americans never heard of.

  5. Trent880 says:

    Doesn’t sounds like there’s much to win in the medium term from this presentation. When you compare all the things DL has tried in Africa to what it still consistently serves, it’s even more clear it’s by no means a hole in one.

  6. Interesting article, i wonder how that affect DA in the long run!

  7. Tim says:

    “The African market is getting tougher and customer service is
    how we can set ourselves apart from other airlines.” Unbelievable! Wouldn’t it be something to see if Delta (and other US carriers) actually applied this same maxim to their domestic networks…using customer service to win business! What a concept!

  8. CF – What is the Skyteam network like in Africa? Do they gain much traffic from that, or is this all basically O/D in Africa?

    • CF says:

      Nick – I don’t think there’s much overlap with SkyTeam in this part of Africa. SkyTeam’s strength is in Nairobi with Kenya Airways. That being said, there is a little bit that can connect. People can go from west Africa to Nairobi on Kenya Airways, so that does create an opportunity. And here’s a good trivia question… Kenya and Delta have one competing route (that I know of). It’s Monrovia to Accra.

  9. MJB says:

    Thanks for posting. Africa is challenging and risky market, and I admire DL for investing in it and developing it. However, this seems like the type of package that you put together when a region is under-performing. The focus on “Challenges” reads like a list of profitability excuses. Maybe I’m wrong, but if the markets were working well, why would you produce something like this? I would bet that there are a lot of internal discussions going on at DL about the “strategic value” of Africa and that (for now), management believes that it is still worth keeping, even if it is losing money.

    • CF says:

      MJB – It’s a good point. If things were running perfectly, you probably wouldn’t put the effort into something like this. But I think there was a belief that a lot of people at Delta didn’t really know much about the Africa operation so they thought it was worth putting together to talk about it.

  10. I flew DEN-ATL-ACC-ROB and return a year ago in premium economy. The flights were fine, but the Delta office in Monrovia was a disaster. My return was cancelled the day of departure – it was announced on the radio, so about 200 passengers showed up at the Delta office. There was one girl on a laptop trying to rebook people – she really didn’t know what she was doing. Luckily I had purchased Cranky Concierge service for this trip and it all worked out in the end.

    Suggestion for Delta: improve the competence of those working in the reservation office and get a local telephone number for reservations. (My cell phone bill was about $300 to deal with this issue.)

  11. yo says:

    We need to restart USAfrica Airlines, with new MD-11’s, it can’t lose!

  12. mantaray says:

    I’d be curious to know why no US airlines are flying in/out of Luanda, considering the energy market there. I figured someone would be flying a Houston-Luanda route by now. I’ve been wondering why that hasn’t taken place – whether it’s that the demand is too low, or the cost is too high, or the gov’t is too hard to work with… just interesting, knowing how many energy companies have been doing business there. I’m sure it’s a combo of all three issues… Right now TAP must be cleaning up.

    • Darkwater says:

      I had thought that there were dedicated, regularly scheduled charters from Houston to Luanda run by the energy companies, but that was a few years ago, at least.

  13. rohit says:

    I grew up in Accra, Ghana and although I now live in outside of Ghana, I still visit the place every so often. Kotoka International Airport (ACC) is one my favourites. It’s the simplicity of it that I like. It’s far less developed and stocked with shops than say an ORD or one of the big American airports, but it has its own charm. I’ve also seen the Delta aircraft parked there.

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