Delta Air Lines Inc.’s recently announced daily nonstop flight between Atlanta and Lagos, Nigeria, has the potential to be one of the airline’s most profitable international routes and will encourage business, said Augustine Esogbue, chairman of the Lagos-Atlanta Sister City Cities Committee since its inception in 1974.
The 11-hour flight to the Nigerian capital is to open Dec. 3.
“This will be one of the most profitable international routes for Delta because Nigerians travel in large numbers,” Dr. Esogbue said during a press conference to announce the new route on Feb. 23.
“Nigeria is central to African politics and commerce,” the Georgia Institute of Technology professor said seriously, so “getting there is truly a great business venture.”
“I am thankful I have lived to see this,” he added, noting that former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson had pushed for a direct flight between Atlanta and Lagos during his terms in office.
The strong connections between the two cities will lend to the new flight’s success, Dr. Esogbue said. Mr. Jackson was successful in encouraging the opening of a Nigerian Consulate General in Atlanta, and his sister even married a man from Lagos.
Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, who worked in Nigeria as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the late 1970s, also remains connected to the country through his Atlanta-based business consulting firm, Goodworks International LLC.
Additionally, Mayor Shirley Franklin brought a Nigerian art exhibit from Lagos to the High Museum of Art when she was Atlanta’s commissioner for cultural affairs under Mr. Jackson, Dr. Esogbue said.
Delta External Affairs Vice President Doug Blissit told GlobalAtlanta that those relationships, plus a significant Nigerian population here of some 10,000 and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s role as a connecting point for the region, bode well for the flight’s success.
“There are very few U.S. flights to Nigeria, so people have to transfer around, which means they lose three to six hours getting there and back,” Mr. Blissit said.
He added that Delta expects the nonstop flight to draw “strong, business-intensive traffic.”
The success of Delta’s first flights to Africa also indicate the potential popularity of the Lagos flight, Mr. Blissit said. He noted that the airline’s nonstop flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg, South Africa, which launched in December, was 80 percent full for the month of January. Delta’s New York to Accra, Ghana, flight has also done well since it began Dec. 11, he said.
The Lagos flight will enhance business relations and tourism between Atlanta and Lagos, said Ms. Franklin, noting that the two cities had a $57 million trade relationship in 2005.
She added that Lagos is a commercial center of Africa and one of the world’s largest cities, with its populations expected to reach 20 million by 2010.
The new Nigerian consul general in Atlanta, Chudi Okafor, is expected to be officially installed this month.
The Delta flight to Lagos will use Boeing 767-300ER aircraft and is scheduled to depart Atlanta at 4:25 p.m. and arrive in Lagos at 9:25 a.m. the next day. It will leave Lagos at 11:25 a.m. and arrive in Atlanta at 6:20 p.m. All times are local.
Delta added more than 20 new international routes in 2006 and currently serves 72 international destinations in 45 countries out of Atlanta for a total of 304 destinations in 52 countries.
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