Monrovia, Liberia, Now Delta’s 7th African Destination Phil Bolton Atlanta – 09.14.10
Delta is the first American airline to fly to Liberia in 20 years. Delta’s Perry Cantarutti is optimistic about Africa Robert Johnson, positive about Liberia’s future Cynthia Nash, Liberia’s honorary consul based in Atlanta. Delta Air Lines Inc. launched the first direct flight between Liberia and the United States in 20 years from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Sept. 4.
Positive about Liberia’s future, Cynthia Nash, Liberia’s Honorary Consul General, worked closely with Her Excellency Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, Archie Williams, Director General Aviation for the Republic of Liberia and Delta Air Lines corporate partners, Alfreda Turner, Scarlet Pressley-Brown and William Settle to help spur Delta Air Lines direct flights to Liberia. Robert Johnson, of RLJ Companies was instrumental in cementing the deal and provided leadership with TSA and Congress to help ensure Delta services to Liberia. Delta Air Lines made their maiden voyage with Cynthia Nash, Robert Johnson and others from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to Roberts International Airport in Monrovia, Liberia. The flight landed on September 5, 2010 at Roberts International Airport near Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, to be greeted by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and other dignitaries.
Before the outbreak of civil war in 1989, major airlines such as Pan American World Airways flew between Liberia and the U.S. Pan Am was the last American carrier to provide service to Liberia. Its last flight left Roberts field in 1990.
Liberia suffered from years of fighting starting with a 1989 coup led by warlord Charles Taylor, who now faces war crimes while on trial at The Hague in the Netherlands.
The country also was removed from tourist guidebooks for West Africa as being too dangerous for leisure travel.
But with the government of Ms. Johnson Sirleaf, a Harvard University graduate and former World Bank economist, foreign visitors and investors have taken a renewed interest.
Among them is Robert L. Johnson, chairman of The RLJ Cos., who was aboard the inaugural flight. Mr. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, is the first African American to control a company on the New York Stock Exchange.
Mr. Johnson has business and development projects in Liberia including the nation’s first four-star oceanfront hotel, which opened last year.
In an initiative with the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp., Mr Johnson has created the Liberia Enterprise Development Finance Co., a $30 million initiative, which makes loans between $25,000 and $1 million to small- and medium-sized businesses.
In remarks during the departure ceremonies held at Hartsfield-Jackson, Mr. Johnson traced the close bonds between Liberia and the United States, and recalled that the U.S. Air Force had used Roberts field as a base of operations during World War II.
Cynthia Nash, Liberia’s honorary consul based in Atlanta, also made the trip. In her formal remarks, she traced the emigration of freed slaves from Georgia and elsewhere in the South who settled in Liberia in the 19th century.
Perry Cantarutti, Delta’s senior vice president of Europe, Middle East and Africa, said that Delta remains committed to expanding its presence in fast-growing African markets.
The Liberia flight marks the airline’s seventh to Africa including flights to Accra, Ghana; Abuja, Nigeria; Cairo, Egypt; Dakar, Senegal; Johannesburg, South Africa and Lagos, Nigeria.
Passengers included many Liberians who appreciated the flight for shortening the time that it will take to fly there now that long waits will no longer be necessary in Europe for the final leg of the voyage. The flight does stop in Accra before continuing to Monrovia.
Ms. Johnson Sirleaf’s son, Abdamah, also was among the passengers headed for a visit. An emergency room doctor, Dr. Sirleaf was accompanied by David Knight, another doctor who has been doing volunteer work in Liberia.
Dr. Sirleaf told GlobalAtlanta that he thinks the direct flight would benefit Liberia’s economic development and encouraged Americans to visit.