Q&A: Just getting started

604

What’s the Delta approach to Africa?

Africa has seen consistent growth of service over recent years, and it has huge potential. In just over four years Delta has grown its footprint in Africa from no operated services to Africa, to serving six destinations in five countries, with 48 flight departures per week. We have already carried 2.25 million passengers between Africa and the United States and this only strengthens the commercial and tourism links between these two continents.

There are also strong cargo opportunities throughout the region with same-day, wide-body shipments possible to destinations throughout the United States and beyond, via our hubs in Atlanta and JFK (New York) – something that no other airline can offer. Our services are also saving our customers a substantial amount of time in each direction when compared with routes via Europe. This is very appealing for customers travelling to the United States. Vastly improved technology, stronger, consolidated global airlines and accelerating economic growth across Africa are all helping, as we increase our services on the African continent.

How would you describe the Nigerian aviation market?

Nigeria is a very important market for Delta and is a key market in our international network. Delta prides itself on its local presence and we employ over 25 people on the sales representation side. Delta also has a dedicated Nigerian team to oversee airport operations and we have carried nearly half a million passengers between Nigeria and the United States since service began in December 2007. We currently operate nine weekly flights to the U.S and connect customers from two Nigerian cities, Lagos and Abuja, to more than 150 business and leisure destinations throughout the U.S., including key destinations such as Washington, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta and New York.

Competition is growing in Nigeria and Ghana with the entry of United Airlines into the market and plans for its sister airline Continental to start operations in Nigeria later this year. Are the Nigerian and Ghanaian pies big enough for United, Continental and Delta? 
 
Certainly, there is growing competitor presence across some key western African markets and we welcome that competition as healthy for the industry and beneficial for the customer. At Delta, we have continued to make strides to improve our schedule timings to optimise our position in African markets. In Accra, we have adjusted our departures so that we now have a daily service either to Atlanta or JFK, as well as adjusted the JFK schedule to a competitive night-time departure, which is preferred in the local market.

We have up-gauged our aircraft to an A330 aircraft, popular with our Nigerian and Ghanaian customers, between Accra and Atlanta and Lagos and Atlanta. In Monrovia, Delta has added a third weekly frequency, while in Nigeria we are restoring a second Abuja frequency in July, as well as returning service to our JFK gateway. Alongside these changes, we are also focused on exploring relationships with local carriers which will support our footprint in the African market and greatly benefit customers. One excellent example of this is Delta’s code-share agreement with Air Nigeria. Initially, Air Nigeria will place its code on Delta-operated services from Nigeria to the United States, and we are planning to start reciprocal frequent flyer agreement later in the year.  

What distinguishes Delta from its competitors?

Delta is focused on building a better experience for our customers, from the time a customer books a flight to the time a customer arrives at their destination. We have invested more than $2Billion to improve the customer experience both in the air and on the ground. We’ve made some significant progress and already this summer we have introduced a premium economy section – ‘Economy Comfort’ – on all our long-haul international flights, including all flights from Africa. The new seats feature up to four additional inches of legroom and 50% more recline thanDelta’s standard international Economy class seats. Providing our African customers with the right menu is also a key priority. We’ve adjusted our onboard food to include dishes with African flavours and ingredients, and we will soon be introducing a new mid-flight snack, which also reflects the tastes of our African customers.