Lufthansa duckies attend Discover Global Markets conference.

How is it that a flock of rubber duckies got loose at the U.S. Commerce’s sub-Saharan Africa forum Nov. 5-6?

The ducklings landed on tables across the main conference hall of the Atlanta Marriott Buckhead Hotel for the well-attended event that drew ambassadors from Washington, local officials including U.S. Sena. Johnny Isakson and Andrew Young, the former mayor, U.S. representative and ambassador to the United Nations.

While panelists discussed a wide range of serious topics, the ducklings kept their peace, though they couldn’t keep from occasionally smiling and drawing quizzical looks from the attendees, who were weighing in their minds the benefits and risks of doing business in Africa.

The source of these intruders, according to a Global Atlanta investigation, was none other than the Lufthansa Group, the umbrella organization for 500 subsidiaries and associated companies including Lufthansa German Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines NV/SA and Swiss International Air Lines Ltd.

Lufthansa German Airlines’ passengers probably already have seen the duckies that often enjoy “First Class” accommodations.

Lufthansa’s District Sales Manager Marc Koesling, who is based in Atlanta, said that the duckies first were created to amuse passengers who boarded their flights from the First Class Terminal at the Frankfurt, Germany, airport when it opened in 2004.

The First Class Terminal does justice to its namesake. Available private bathrooms offer not only showers in spacious shower rooms, but also the option to take a bath in a bathtub complete with a yellow rubber duckie.

“We created the Lufthansa branded rubber ducks as a little piece of entertainment for our passengers while taking a bath,” he said. “We soon came to realize that our customers like them so much that they were constantly taken as souvenirs.”

Over time, he added, they have become desired collectibles with annual editions created in different outfits and may be found on eBay.

Unbeknownst to them, the duckies did draw attention to the desire of many of the attendees for more Atlanta-Africa flights.

Conference attendees told Global Atlanta that they wished there were flights from Atlanta to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, and Nairobi, Kenya.

Meanwhile, Mr. Koesling said that the Lufthansa Group has one of the strongest networks to the African continent with all of its members providing 216 weekly flights serving 34 destinations in 26 of Africa’s 54 countries.

This winter, Brussels Airlines has increased frequencies to Douala and Yaounde, Cameroon; LuandaAngola; Bujumbura, Burundi; Nairobi and Kigali, Rwanda.

Lufthansa, he added, currently flies to 13 destinations in Africa from its hubs in Frankfurt and Munich.

The Sub-Saharan Africa conference was one in a series of Discover Global Markets forums put on by the U.S. Commercial Service, the export arm of the Commerce Department. Upcoming forums are to be held in Minneapolis, Minn., concerning healthcare and life sciences and sustainable solutions in Silicon Valley, Feb. 9-11.

Mr Koesling may be reached by email