Direct flights between the USA and Africa have always been few and far between and even further and fewer until Delta tried to jump on the Great African Expansion
in 2006. However, even now six years later, the entire continent of Africa is greatly under severed by direct flights from North America.
Today only a handful of flights directly link the two continents. United Airlines serves Accra from Dulles and Lagos from Houston (recently launched in November, 2011) and Delta offers direct flights to Accra, Lagos, and Johannesburg directly from Atlanta; Accra and Dakar via NYC-JFK, and one-stop connections to Abuja, Monrovia, and future connections to Malabo via Accra. No other US airlines serve Africa and only a handful of African Airlines serve the US from Africa, such as Ethiopian airways, South African, and Arik Air.
Despite Delta’s attempt at the “great African Expansion” in 2006, many flights have failed to materialize between the two continents. Recognizing that there was a large gap in the market and that European airlines were quickly adding flights to Africa, Delta announced flights to Luanda, Angola; Malabo, Equatorial Guinea; Abuja, Nigeria; Nairobi, Kenya; and Monrovia, Liberia, in 2006. The majority of which failed to get approval from the DOT. At the time of announcing the great African expansion, Delta already had flights to Johannesburg, South Africa; Dakar, Senegal; Accra, Ghana; Lagos, Nigeria; and Cairo–all places delta still serves today with the exception of Cairo which ended in 2011 due
to the Arab Spring. Furthermore Delta has also ended service to other destinations that were short lived in the Delta network–such as Cape Town and Luanda. Yet, the majority of
destinations in the great African expansion failed not due to Delta’s due diligent, but due to objections from the TSA! Despite all this, Airlines have continued to grow in Africa, but the USA airlines are a snail-pace behind European airlines.
Today Delta has nearly 80 weekly departures to Africa and United has less than 12. This is FAR behind the European giants; such as the Lufthansa group who in 2010 had 222 weekly flights to 33 cities in Africa! Yet again, Europe is much closer to Africa than the USA; therefore smaller planes can be used with smaller payloads and less fuel. This gap and
disparity is growing because today United quietly announced they would be ending DULLES-ACCRA service, with their last flight departing Accra bound back for the United States on July 3, 2012. The removal of this flight will end United’s thrice weekly service aboard a B767-300 from the Ghana-US marketing leaving a void of almost 22,400 seats a year! United also recently ended IAD-LOS stating they were shifting their traffic to their direct flight from IAH-LOS.
As Africa has always been a difficult market Airlines from the US will continue to see periods of both growth and demise. Today oil prices continue to rise and more flights to Africa may be on the chopping block. Either way, Today Ghana and United Airlines are the losers. Despite the pullout, this is a clear win for Delta who will continue to serve
Ghana via both ATL and JFK.