Delta Air Lines is adding flights to South Africa, Senegal and Ecuador as it continues to expand overseas as part of its recovery plan.
Delta said Thursday it plans to start flying from Atlanta to Johannesburg, South Africa, and Dakar, Senegal, in western Africa, in December, pending government approvals.
Delta also announced that it got approval for service to a seventh South American country, with daily flights to Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador, starting June 8.
The African flights will put Delta's red and blue widget on that continent for the first time --- although the move was forced by a partner airline's likely decision to cut its South African flights out of Atlanta.
Delta since 2000 has offered seats on South African Airways flights from Atlanta and New York to Johannesburg through a code-share alliance, in which each carrier can sell tickets on the other carrier's flights. SAA is defecting to United Airlines' Star Alliance in April and is expected to ditch both its Atlanta flights and the Delta partnership later this year.
Delta executives and others at Thursday's announcement at the Carter Center painted the development as an opportunity.
"It's been one of [SAA's] most profitable routes in the world," said former U.N. ambassador Andrew Young, a one-time Delta director who helped broker the alliance with SAA.
Delta Chief Operating Officer Jim Whitehurst said flying the route with Delta jets will let Delta control a market that draws 130,000 passengers a year. "The power of our [traffic] feed in Atlanta drives that profitability, so why shouldn't we want 100 percent of that?" he said.
Delta is betting that new foreign routes with little discount competition can help boost annual revenue by $1 billion.
Senegal has long been a destination for tourists from France and Germany, but has increasingly drawn African-Americans wishing to visit the site of Goree Island, once a depot for slaves being sent to the Americas. Quito is Ecuador's capital, Guayaquil its largest city.
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