Thursday, October 23, 2008

Routes to Our Roots

Yesterday, my favorite US airline, Delta, announced a new weekly flight from their hub in Atlanta to Monrovia, Liberia, with a stop in fabulous Cape Verde. Not sure how much business travel there is between the States and either Cape Verde or Liberia, but I'm definitely hoping this route takes off. Now, Delta hasn't paid me anything to talk about this, but I'm compelled to because I appreciate their expansion efforts into Sub-Saharan Africa since 2007, the only major US airline to do so. Granted, there's eight months of uncertainty between now and the scheduled start date for the flights next summer, and Delta already canceled a planned route from New York to Lagos and postponed another to Nairobi, but I'm sure those are business decisions in the face of economic challenges instead of the airline reneging on its move to offer extensive service between the States and Africa (something not done since the '70s). The company seems to be testing the waters for lucrative destinations on the continent, which means there might be some wishy-washiness, but I'm still excited about the idea of flying nonstop from the cultural capital of Black America to the source of that culture.

Currently, Delta flies daily or several times a week from Atlanta nonstop to Lagos, Nigeria and to Johannesburg, South Africa via Dakar, Senegal. New York-JFK has more offerings, with nonstops to Cairo, Egypt and Accra, Ghana, as well as a flight to Cape Town, South Africa, with a stop in Dakar to allow passengers from the Atlanta flight to board or folks flying in from NYC to switch to the Jo-burg flight. Book here.

In other news, with the approval of a new bilateral aviation agreement between Brazil and the US that has finally opened up direct routes beyond the megacities of Rio and São Paulo, Delta (along with another airline that I shall not name because my experiences with them have been exceedingly horrible each and every time I've been forced onto one of their unpainted, AA-initialed transport tubes from hell) is offering nonstops from Atlanta to Northeast Brazil, historically and culturally the South American equivalent of the American South.

I'm awarding Delta a strong Black Power fist for attempting to connect the folk in the Diaspora via their route network. One-time, Delta!


(Yes, I'm an airline geek.)

4 comments:

lolaakinmade.com said...

Thanks for keeping us posted on this!

kwerekwere said...

you sort of touched on it.

it's all about profit margin, and getting oil services workers to their destinations.

flights to sub-saharan africa are the most lucrative on the planet, in large part due to there are almost never any sales -- no one flies to africa unless they have to [work or family] and prices are set accordingly.

put another way, in the post-9/11 airline industry nosedive, air france made its money back on its losses from north america to europe in TEN MONTHS by merely adding flights on two routes: roissy-douala, and roissy-kinshasa.

i'm more surprised that the flight to monrovia isn't from jfk. i'm guessing they want the liberians in new york and the cabos in boston [to which, as you know, there is a direct flight from cape verde] to fill seats on altanta-bound planes.

i wouldn't call it altruistic until the prices come down to the point that it's just as cheap to fly direct as it is to change in europe; it costs nearly twice as much to get off the plane in dakar than it does to stay on it all the way to/from south africa. this is maddening, because i want to get back to senegal.

something to think about: the world cup is held in the wintertime here, which means that flying here to the two main international airports -- durban is an international airport as well, but "international" means only places starting with m: madagascar, manzini [swaziland], maputo [mozambique], maseru [lesotho], and mauritius -- is going you leave you in all sorts of weather suck. these are almost all overnight flights to get here, which means that you will be landing in a very cold [near-freezing] joburg airport, or a somewhat warmer [around 10C/50F], but rainy, cape town one. in either case, you have to go outside to switch to domestic terminals, although they should be finished with that by the time the world cup starts.

another reason where more airlines aren't flying is the security issues. when you were living in dc, did you ever fly from toronto to national? you are sequestered all the way at the end of the airport with NOTHING and have to be searched and wanded each time you leave the area to even go to the toilet. ugh.

in dakar, for flights to the usa, they actually close down the whole departure lounge for an extra screening. fortunately these flights are usually at 3/4 in the morning or so, so that's the only flight, but with some airports alternating with being nighttime-operating airports or not, it creates an issue. generally the airlines don't want the extra expense of this -- and it's the airlines who are paying the airports to do this -- and i'm sure this is built into the already horrendous ticket price.

flights to africa are extremely profitable. it's generally the logistics which are the problematic bits.

i am feeling the direct flights from atlanta to northeast brazil though. nyc-sao paulo is a longer flight than nyc-dakar or paris; at least if you're going to rio, you don't have to leave the space where they herd you to. i would have preferred a dc-atlanta-salvador flight over an dc-nyc-rio one any day of the week. oh, wait, your map isn't giving atlanta-salvador. [and it doesn't seem to be giving miami-salvador, either. tsk tsk. oh wait, this is about delta.]

all that said, you could cobble together a flight from altanta to dakar via this route, if you have the money and the vacation time: atlanta-fortaleza on delta
fortaleza-sal-dakar on TACV [the cape verdean airline].

fortaleza isn't "that black" as far as northeastern brazil goes [the short version is that it doesn't rain there, and thus didn't require the manpower for agriculture needed in points north and south of there -- today it gets the water for agriculture because a river was diverted], but you can be in recife in an hour and in salvador in two and a half, if you fly on gol, which follows the southwest/greyhound model of flying.

all that said, it's nice to know. nyc-cairo should be the cheapest flight out of the lot, because of the lack of competition, though. i know almost all of those prices require commas. *sigh*

Darius T. Williams said...

I need to work where you work...you do a heck of a lot of traveling.

Fly Brother said...

lola...thank YOU for still stopping by, now that you've decided to curtail your blog reading. i need to shoot you an email.

kwere...dude, you wrote a book, but i loved it! many thanks for the analysis. i've only flown internationally out of dulles maybe three times - the first time i was held at the air france counter because i have a "common name;" no problems the other times. it sounds like flying directly to the states from africa would be a security nightmare for passengers. at least they don't shut down the terminal for us-bound flights in latin america.

as far as brazil, i personally think delta could CLEAN UP on a nonstop from atlanta to salvador, especially considering the immense cultural tourist market in atlanta (osea, negros con plata). that other shitty airline that i shall not name just introduced new nonstops from miami to salvador and belo horizonte. one time for the brief history lesson on fortaleza! lol

darius...i teach school, which gives me lots of vacation time. unfortunately, most teaching gigs don't come with lots of pay.