Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. will file applications shortly to codeshare with its partner, Italy-based Alitalia, to additional destinations in Africa, said Leo Mullin, Delta CEO and chairman, during a presentation last week at the PanAfrican-Caribbean Conference on Air Transportation.

            The new offerings will build upon Delta’s codeshare with South African Airways, a relationship established in 1999, that provides direct flight service from Atlanta to Johannesburg, South Africa, he said.

            “With more than 10% of the world’s population and vast reserves of natural resources, Africa represents a market no global carrier, indeed no global corporation, should ignore,” said Mr. Mullin, adding that Delta remains committed to serving both Africa and the Caribbean, despite the current difficulties in the airline industry.

Between February 2000 and February 2001, for example, the number of Delta codeshare passengers ticketed for travel between the United States and Africa tripled from 31,000 to 95,000, he said.

However, he cautioned that, as in any developing market, Delta’s limited resources dictate that “we walk before we run.”

Codeshare agreements and alliances, which allow carriers to share risks and leverage resources, offer the best path for Delta currently in fostering continued development of routes from the U.S. to Africa and the Caribbean, he explained.

“We would very much like to serve Africa directly,” he said, but could give no timetable as to when precisely that will happen.

Delta also serves 19 African cities through its Air France codeshare relationship and four cities in North Africa in cooperation with Royal Air Maroc, Mr. Mullin added.

The company, he said, has achieved similar success with its Air Jamaica codeshares, a partnership established in 1998 that has seen 10% growth in passengers traveling to various Caribbean destinations each year since 1999.

            Mr. Mullin also said that the rejuvenation of the lagging airline industry will partially rely on the return of “hassle-free” travel, bringing an end to inconvenience and delays prompted by new security measures.

            He views the most promising tool to be a computerized “trusted passenger” system that would use software to profile passengers for potential threats.  Mr. Mullin said the system would not engage in racial profiling, a phenomenon he called “an abomination to us all.”

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